November 23, 2017

Terrorism, Kashmir and Indo-Pakistan Relations

Indian and Pakistani diplomats reflect on suspicions touching paranoia, especially over questions such as terrorism, in New Delhi and Islamabad. Maleeha Lodhi warns Pakistan that goodwill alone cannot substitute strategy and relegating Kashmir to the backburner risks long-term instability in the region while Satyabrata Pal insists that gradualism does not work and that lasting peace can only come by resolving outstanding disputes over Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek.

Posted on 06/2/14
By Dr Maleeha Lodhi | Via The News International

 

Finalizing India’s offers on Siachen and Sir Creek should be part of the agenda for the first 100 days that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for. Picture shows soldiers climbing Siachen. (Photo via The Hindu)

Finalizing India’s offers on Siachen and Sir Creek should be part of the agenda for the first 100 days that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for. Picture shows soldiers climbing Siachen. (Photo via The Hindu)

A Pakistani View

There has been much official and media hype about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit to Delhi. It is important to dispassionately review what happened and what didn’t in order to carefully evaluate what should be the way forward. The prime minister’s decision to attend Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony was a step in the right direction. In accepting the invitation, his visit aimed to break the ice between the two countries, ease tensions and assess the possibilities for a reset of ties.

 

An Indian View

By Satyabrata Pal

Via The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi thinks out of the box. He showed this in inviting his counterparts from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to his swearing-in. In his meetings with them, however, going by what was reported, he toed the standard line, which, on issues new to him, was both understandable and prudent. As he moves forward, though, he should review received wisdom on our neighbors, above all on Pakistan. If the Foreign Secretaries meet only to talk about talks, they will simply mark time.

 

We want satisfaction on terrorism before we talk on other issues, though Nawaz Sharif has made clear that Pakistan wants a dialogue that is comprehensive, even if not “composite”. There is a huge irony in this, because in the sincerest form of flattery, Pakistan has embraced our traditional position and we have appropriated theirs. For over two decades after 1971, we urged Pakistan to discuss all issues with us, while it refused without satisfaction on Kashmir. We argued that it was absurd to reduce relations between neighbors to a single issue, no matter how important, and took it as a triumph when Pakistan eventually agreed to what we dubbed the “composite dialogue”.

 

Bizarrely, we have now disowned what we conceived and Pakistan has adopted the foundling, but as we reduce ourselves to a single issue — terrorism — we give Pakistan the excuse to revert to its own one-child policy — Kashmir. Settlement on Kashmir For over a decade now, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has used terrorism against India for two entirely different purposes. The first is to derail any initiative that might lead to the peace that they dread; the attack on our Embassy in Kabul in 2008, on Mumbai later that year, on the Consulate in Herat before Mr. Sharif flew in for the inauguration, were all launched to make it hard for any Indian government to reach out to Pakistan.

 

The second is to derail India’s growth by targeting the cities and centres that fuel it because an economically strong India would be militarily more powerful, increasing the asymmetry with Pakistan. Therefore, a settlement of Kashmir will not necessarily mean the end of terrorism. In fact, if Mr. Modi takes India back to pre-2009 rates of growth, terror, driven by envy, will return unless Pakistan’s civilian government gets and is given the strength to stop it. Nothing will boost its standing more than an honorable settlement on Kashmir. Such a settlement would bring the prolonged misery of the Kashmiris to an end, and is therefore as much in our interest. Assuming that it will take a couple of years for our growth to resume, there is a window of opportunity now to move forward.

 

It is also a window that might close, for other reasons, around the same time. From later this year, as the U.S. abandons Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army will use all its energies to get its proxies into Kabul. Over the next two years, hordes of young Pakistanis will be sent off to fight a jihad there. It is unlikely that the regime in Kabul can hold out after the last U.S. troops leave in 2016. From 2016, battle-hardened Pakistani jihadis will be in surplus to requirements in Afghanistan, and will start returning home, where neither the government nor the Army will want them, fearing that they will be the next targets. Their ISI handlers will have every incentive to send them eastwards, as they did after the Taliban takeover in the 1990s. Terrorism from Pakistan will spurt again, with the potential to disrupt relations, unless the two governments already have in place understandings that will give the government in Islamabad every incentive, and the leverage, to rein the ISI in.

 

We should therefore try to resolve problems now, starting with Kashmir, on which there is nothing left to negotiate. Over several years, very skilful interlocutors in the back channel have negotiated an agreement that represents the maximum that either country can concede. Both Prime Ministers have inherited a draft which their opponents cannot object to or undermine. In Pakistan, Mr. Sharif can point out that the draft was negotiated entirely under the supervision of General Musharraf; the Corps Commanders and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, then DG (ISI), were briefed on the broad outlines and concurred. Since the Pakistan Army claims to be the custodian of Pakistan’s security, this cannot be an agreement that in any way harms its interests. Mr. Modi has the same safety net.

 

This is a draft negotiated entirely by the last regime. Sanjaya Baru writes in his book that on the nuclear agreement, Dr .Manmohan Singh told former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he had simply completed what his predecessor had started. On Kashmir, Mr. Modi can say as much to Dr. Singh. The Congress can hardly disown its own Prime Minister’s handiwork, while other parties have no reason to be disruptive. A historic agreement can and should be sealed. The Prime Minister will be counselled that it is best to move slowly, plucking the low-hanging fruit first. This is unwise.

 

Gradualism does not work with Pakistan, because those who fear peace stymie it. Every tentative step will have a hurdle placed before it, usually of bodies killed by terrorists, and we will stop. The only way to defeat this easy subversion is to clear away the problems between us in one fell swoop. This means that we should settle Siachen and Sir Creek as well. On both, settlements are feasible, and in our interest. On Siachen, our army now claims a strategic advantage in staying on the Saltoro Ridge, since it is a salient between Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the Shaksgam Valley, which Pakistan ceded to China. In this day and age, there are enough means to monitor the large-scale movement of troops over difficult terrain which would be essential if Pakistan tried to reoccupy the glacier or the ridge.

 

Human, economic benefits Sir Creek is even more easily settled, since we now have agreed maps, jointly drawn up. Political decisions are needed on the concessions each side is prepared to make on the final alignment, which will in turn determine the shape of the maritime boundary. Settling that would bring us two important benefits, one human, the other economic: firstly, our fishermen, all from Prime Minister Modi’s State, who stray over a notional boundary, would have a clear idea of what is off bounds; the numbers rotting away in Pakistani jails would plummet.

 

The economic gain would be that with the maritime boundary settled, the claim we have lodged with the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf would be much more easily accepted. Pakistan does not have the financial or technological means to explore the shelf and the seabed, but we do. Finalizing India’s offers on Siachen and Sir Creek should be part of the agenda for the first 100 days that Prime Minister Modi has asked for. On Kashmir, it is entirely his call. If these three issues are resolved, as they can easily be, Pakistan will have no excuse to drag its feet on any other bilateral issue. The Pakistan Army’s refuseniks will still oppose peace, but will find it increasingly hard to get its citizens to believe that India is an enemy, against which terror can be let loose.

 

Satyabrata Pal is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan. This article first appeared in The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper.

Even if the invitation to Saarc leaders was designed to turn Modi’s inauguration into a legitimacy-building exercise for a leader with a controversial past, it presented Mr Sharif an opportunity to establish early contact with the man who will rule India for the next five years.

 

The encounter between the two took place in a cordial environment and produced positive optics – at least until the Indian foreign secretary’s post-meeting briefing in which she cast this as dominated by India’s ‘terrorism’ agenda.

 

For all the expectations raised by the 50-minute bilateral meeting, here is what didn’t happen.

 

• No resumption of dialogue between the two countries was announced. The only modest outcome was for the foreign secretaries to “remain in touch and explore how to move forward”. This implied more ‘talks about talks’, but with no timeframe set for this.

 

• There was no re-commitment to the broad-based peace process, known for years as the “composite” dialogue. Instead, the Pakistani side gratuitously indicated during the visit that it was not “hung up” on that structure.

 

• No effort was made to articulate and reflect Pakistan’s priorities and concerns in the prime minister’s only public pronouncement after his meeting with Modi. This, despite the fact that the statement followed the Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh’s briefing, in which she laid out India’s ‘terror’ demands, which should have been a reality check for the Pakistani side.

 

• The Pakistani delegation did not try to correct Singh’s characterization of the meeting as centered on terror, allowing the Indian side to set the narrative with no Pakistani counterpoise to this.

• Kashmir was not mentioned in the prime ministerial statement. Nor was it raised in the delegation level talks. Officials, however, claim Mr Sharif raised this in the one-on-one with his counterpart.

• In an unfortunate break with tradition, there was no meeting between Kashmiri leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and the prime minister or any member of his delegation.

 

Much of the above was indirectly acknowledged by the adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, in a press conference after the visit. A disingenuous explanation was offered of why the Pakistani side failed to raise substantive issues. This, Aziz said, was a ‘ceremonial trip” during which discussions on substantive issues, including Kashmir, were not on the agenda.

 

He failed to explain why, when confronted with substantive issues from the other side Pakistan’s delegation demurred from raising its core issues. At the very least this speaks of poor and unprofessional handling of a well-intentioned visit.

 

Aziz did not mention that even on trade, Delhi conveyed willingness to restart the process from the September 2012 talks and not January-February 2014, when commerce minister Khurram Dastgir had negotiated improved terms with Delhi, which then agreed to open its market to more items of Pakistan’s export interest in a shortened timeframe. This implied hardening of the Modi government’s position on the issue.

 

More significant was Aziz’s pronouncement that Pakistan was open to restructuring of the “composite” dialogue. This reiterated what the Pakistani delegation had earlier conveyed to journalists in Delhi about the willingness to pursue a “new architecture” for talks.

 

To so cavalierly abandon Pakistan’s longstanding position – without any sense of what might replace this structure or what India would agree to – is beyond comprehension. For Pakistan, the broad-gauge talks framework, encompassing an eight-point agenda, has been an issue of substance not process, because this structure reflected all the concerns and disputes of importance to Islamabad.

 

In fact, this comprehensive structure for talks, drawn up in 1997, remained in play for almost a decade and a half despite disruptions and fits and starts because it reflected the concerns and priorities of both countries. The most recent disruption was in January 2013, when India suspended formal talks after tensions flared up on the Line of Control in Kashmir.

 

A similar diplomatic hiatus followed in the wake of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. But in 2011 India had a change of heart and returned to the “composite” dialogue, in all but name. Two full rounds of the resumed post-Mumbai talks followed. The third barely began when the dialogue was called off in January 2013. It did not subsequently resume. India agreed only to meetings ‘outside’ that framework, as for example on trade.

 

Between 2008 and 2011, and more recently, Indian officials often said the ‘composite’ process had run its course. They also tried to narrow the scope of the dialogue to the two Ts – terror and trade – in an effort to sideline long-standing disputes and issues of importance to Pakistan.

 

But even a weak Pakistan People’s Party-led government was able to resist and hold the line on the broad-based dialogue, managing to persuade Delhi to revive the process. Ironically, a ‘strong’ PML-N government (of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) is now signaling its readiness to give up on that process. Its foreign policy team has failed to explain why it deems this process to be “redundant”.

 

The risks of abandoning a well-established multi-tiered process and recasting the terms of the future dialogue are obvious. India might seek to narrow the bandwidth of talks by cherry picking issues of its priority – as it has tried to do in the recent past and as its foreign secretary’s remarks also suggest. Getting Modi’s government, intent on pursuing a “muscular” foreign policy, to include contentious issues important for Pakistan in a reconfigured structure could prove to be difficult.

 

The greatest risk lies in a ‘new architecture’ that might relegate Kashmir to the back channel and take it out of the formal peace process. This will erode its international and bilateral status as a dispute and send an unmistakably negative signal to the Kashmiris, at a time when BJP ministers are calling to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under article 370 of their constitution.

 

For all these reasons it would be a diplomatic blunder to reopen the terms of an agreed framework for dialogue that survived over the years in the face of so many challenges and difficulties.

 

Islamabad now needs to take its time to think through its diplomatic strategy. As no date has been set for the two foreign secretaries to engage, this provides an opportunity to carefully evaluate the options and calibrate the next move after a realistic appraisal of Modi’s foreign policy, once this has been spelt out.

 

Pakistan must avoid being lured into accepting a selective or conditional approach to engagement because of an eagerness to engage Modi. As the history of Pakistan-India relations attests, focusing on a partial or single-track agenda and casting aside contentious issues will not build a sustainable basis for normalization.

 

Islamabad should also guard against any attempt by Delhi to use the revival of full-fledged talks as some kind of ‘reward’ in exchange for prior concessions from Pakistan, as it has sometimes tried to do in the past.

 

While the two countries should strive to build on areas of convergence such as trade, the dialogue process should aim to give permanence and stability to normalization, by narrowing areas of contention and addressing disputes.

 

Trade relations will advance only if accompanied by efforts to deal with the fraught strategic environment that prevails. Economic engines are insufficient to power a peace process if the sources of instability remain in place.

 

The government should stop pretending that goodwill alone can substitute for strategy. It should acknowledge that enduring peace requires reciprocity and cannot be built by one side alone. Nor will appeasement or abandonment of Pakistan’s principled positions bring peace.
The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK. This article first appeared in The News International, a leading newspaper of Pakistan.

 

Related article:

A Disaster in Waiting in the Himalayas


Filled under: India, Pakistan

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