Views from Delhi: Getting the Talk Atmospherics Right

Talks between India and Pakistan suffer from certain inbuilt defects. India’s desire to up the ante for talks stems from a combination of international and domestic pressures. In contrast, Pakistan has far fewer stakes in the outcomes.

Posted on 08/27/15
By M.K. Narayanan | Via The Hindu
Narendra Modi shares emotive conversation with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Photo via Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares emotive conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. (Photo via Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office)

In the meeting in Ufa, Russia, between the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers, Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, held on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation conclave in July 2015, the leaders agreed to, among other things, talks being held in New Delhi between the National Security Advisers (NSA) of India and Pakistan, which was “billed” as the most important takeaway. However, no one in India — possibly no one in Pakistan as well — should mourn the demise of talks that were not held in the end. Strident rhetoric emanating from both capitals, which was further embellished by the media in both countries, had threatened to convert the talks into a “theatre of the absurd”. Hence, it was almost providential that Pakistan called off the talks.


When Hamid Gul Offered India Peace

By A. K Verma

Via The Hindu

Former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Gen. Hamid Gul, who died recently, has been described in the Indian media as a monster, the originator and perpetrator of terrorism against India. Yet, there is another side to his personality which needs to be disclosed.

In early 1988, Pakistan President, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, expressed concern that the Pakistan Army, by consuming almost 48 per cent of the nation’s budget, was unfairly depriving citizens of funds which could raise their standards of living. He was particularly concerned about the expenditure on the operations in Siachen and was convinced that an agreement with India was possible to cut down on these expenses.

Gen. Zia was anxious for a meeting between the Intelligence Chiefs of the two countries to explore possibilities and approached the then Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan to speak to the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and facilitate a move forward. Intelligence chiefs’ meet Prince Hassan conveyed the proposal to Gandhi, who promptly agreed. The two Intelligence Chiefs then met at Amman under the aegis of Prince Hassan. What could be done was broadly discussed. They met again at Geneva after political endorsement of their confabulations at Amman from their Chiefs.

The Foreign Offices and other elements of government on both sides were kept out of the loop though it must be assumed that Gen. Zia would not have embarked on this initiative without sounding out his Corps Commanders. The final agreement between the two Intelligence Chiefs envisaged: a) withdrawal of the Pakistani forces to the west to the ground level of the Saltoro mountains; b) giving up of Pakistani claims to territory from NJ9842 to the Karakoram pass; c) the Line of Control to run North from NJ9842 along the western ground level of Saltoro exactly North till the Chinese border; and d) reduction of Pakistani troop strength by two divisions with some corresponding adjustments on the Indian side.

In confirmation of this understanding, Gen. Hamid Gul sent a GHQ Survey of Pakistan map where the new line of LoC north of NJ9842 and the western foot of Saltoro was clearly demarcated. After the receipt of this map, steps were undertaken on the Indian side to convert the covert operation to an overt process. First, the Director of Military Intelligence was asked whether a new Line of Control on the western foothills of Saltoro would be agreeable to the Army to bring about a solution to the Siachen question.

He was skeptical of the Pakistani military accepting such a line but said that an effort could be made. Thereafter, the proposal was made into a Government of India proposition with the Ministry of Defense also giving their assent. No one was, of course, told about the ground work done earlier by the Intelligence Chiefs of the two countries. The two Chiefs had also agreed to remain in close contact with each other over the public telephone, using code words and names.

One rewarding development of this relationship was that Gen. Hamid Gul decided, on his own, to return the four Sikh soldiers who had defected to Pakistan, angered over the Army assault on the Golden Temple. Over the telephone, he conveyed to his Indian counterpart that four soldiers would be released in a specific geographical area on a certain date.

Click here to read the complete article at The Hindu.

(A.K. Verma is former Secretary of India’s secret service the Research and Analysis Wing.)

Talks between India and Pakistan suffer from certain inbuilt defects. India, far more than Pakistan, has always been keen to engage in direct talks with the latter. Pakistan prefers instead to talk to the rest of the world, if only to accuse India of perfidy, especially when it comes to Kashmir.

Pressures and outcomes

India’s desire to periodically up the ante for talks stems from a combination of international and domestic pressures to which India succumbs from time to time. Much of the international pressure comes from lobbies in the West, including the United States. The domestic peace offensive tends to be equally persuasive in pushing the envelope regarding holding talks. Pakistan has far fewer stakes, or for that matter qualms, about the outcomes where talks are concerned. Hence, it has far greater latitude in this regard, including of sabotaging talks if and when they are held. Pakistan’s real problem is that it is the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Army that determine when to talk, and even on how to marshal arguments, often with little regard to the truth.


Of late, there has also been an unfortunate trend of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan holding bilateral meetings on the sidelines of global meets or events — whether they relate to issues that are of economic and strategic importance or on any other aspect. This is accompanied by pressures for significant outcomes, irrespective of whether the times are propitious for such talks or the regional and geo-political situation lends itself to holding such talks. Preparations tend to be a casualty in these circumstances and, inevitably, such meetings result in less than favorable outcomes. Prime Ministerial meetings in recent years — Lahore (1999), Agra (2001) and Islamabad (2004), during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time; Havana (2006) and Sharm el-Sheikh (2009), during Dr. Manmohan Singh’s time; and now Ufa (Narendra Modi), are best remembered for what they failed to achieve than for their results.

The reasons are fairly obvious. Operating under the glare of international observers and the world media, pressures are generated to come up with path-breaking initiatives. These result in ignoring reality and real concerns which can only be circumvented through careful and detailed groundwork, including preparation of position papers and the like. Without this, possibilities of forward movement are indeed limited and more likely doomed. Nevertheless, attempts do, and will continue. Intrinsic to this is an element of grandstanding that leaders indulge in — an essential concomitant of summit-level diplomacy.

With the announcement of the NSA-level talks, without due preparations being made, it might have been anticipated that it contained the seeds of its own failure. Furthermore, statements and agreements reached between the heads of government require careful vetting so as to leave no scope for differing interpretations, as has arisen in the present instance. This is especially important when the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan meet since only a very small window of opportunity exists.

The timing of the initiative was again rather unfortunate. By its constant shelling across the Line of Control, Pakistan had already demonstrated that it was in no mood for talks. Subsequent to the announcement of NSA-level talks came the terror attacks in India — in Gurdaspur (July 2015) and Udhampur (August 2015) — which only seemed to reinforce Pakistan’s intentions. The Pakistani High Commissioner’s “high jinks” later, and the Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz’s insistence on holding talks with the Hurriyat prior to the NSA-level talks, further confirmed Pakistan’s disinclination for holding talks.


Terror strikes and Kashmir

Hence, India, as the prime mover of the talks, should have taken particular care to deny Pakistan an opportunity or excuse to derail the talks. The very fact that Pakistan agreed to “talk about terror” at the NSA level, which would have given India an opportunity to put on the table factual details of Pakistan’s failure to deal with terrorists on its soil — including not taking action against those responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, such as its mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi — should have alerted India about Pakistan’s possible perfidy.


Presuming that India wanted the NSA-level talks to succeed, then India’s logic of trading charges even before the talks were held — which was carried out through the medium of “leaks” from voluminous dossiers prepared by India to confront Pakistan — was a flawed one. It was also clearly futile to try and pit India’s carefully prepared documents against Pakistan’s “tissue of lies”, as there could be no winners. Rather than confront Pakistan with these facts, India would have done well to put forward ideas and concepts that would try and help narrow the differences and keep the door open for another round of talks at a more propitious moment.


Click here to read complete article at The Hindu.

(M.K. Narayanan is a former National Security Adviser and former Governor of West Bengal.)

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