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Body language of Pakistan-India peace talks!

For some years a politically prompted theme had been circulating amongst Indian academicians and strategists that India should abandon bilateral talks with Pakistan for a decade or so, hoping that by then Pakistan would be so weakened that it would accept to talk to India on Indian terms. This fantasy echoing Nehru era wishful fallacy ‘that newly created Pakistan would not survive long and Jinnah would approach Nehru with his knees bent for its re-merger with greater India’ appears to have gone to the head of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His national Security Adviser Ajit Dival is still suffering the hangover of his police assignment. Emerging Modi-Doval doctrine is to impose a new bilateral regime whereby Pakistan should forget about Kashmir, water and talk about terrorism, and that too as interpreted by India. Indian external affairs minister Mrs Sushma Swaraj has a vast experience of sabotaging Pakistan-India peace process. She was instrumental in scuttling Agra Summit 14–16 July 2001, while she was Union Cabinet Minister for Information and Broadcasting.
The United States has recorded its disappointment over the cancellation of scheduled talks between the national security advisers (NSAs) of Pakistan and India. “We are disappointed the talks will not happen this weekend and encourage India and Pakistan to resume formal dialogue soon,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said. India’s intransigence is to blame for the cancellation of the meeting between Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. “Pakistan reiterates the scheduled NSA talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office announced. This is likely to impact the follow-up talks at Director General Military Operations and Heads of Border Security tiers.
As talks between the National Security Advisers approached a deadlock, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon the two sides “to return to dialogue” in the interest of their people and exercise maximum restraint. The UN chief “would urge both sides to keep the best interests of the civilians in mind and whatever would ensure their safety is paramount,” Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Eri Kaneko told PTI. While stating so, UNSG certainly had in mind the loss of civilian lives due to frequent Indian violations of Line of Control (LoC).
India had virtually cancelled the first ever official talks between the National Security Advisers scheduled by inserting non-starters in its propositions; though onus of not attending shall squarely rest on Pakistan. On 17 August last year, India had unilaterally cancelled the talks between the two Foreign Secretaries scheduled for 25 August 2014, in Islamabad. The reason for this regretful second cancellation is the same: Why did Pakistan High Commission invite 3 or 4 leaders from the Indian Occupied Kashmir to a reception organized in New Delhi on 23 August to enable Pakistani NSA interact with a cross section of Indian political and business leaders. Due to space ceded by Pakistan to India at Ufa, now Pakistan shall be blamed for disrupting the process.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz said on August 22 that he was saddened that the Indo-Pak security adviser level talks had been virtually cancelled and added he is ‘still willing to visit New Delhi without preconditions’. “We had agreed to discuss all outstanding issues and Kashmir is definitely a part of it.”
Addressing a press conference hours after Sartaj Aziz’s press conference, Sushma Swaraj, admitted that though the ‘resolution of all outstanding issues’ was preamble to the Ufa agreement, India had made it clear on August 18 that the scheduled meeting between national security advisers will only discuss issues related to terrorism. The Indian foreign minister said that outstanding issues including Kashmir are part of the composite dialogue between the two countries, but the composite dialogue has not yet resumed. Referring to the invitation, extended to Hurriyat leaders by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, Swaraj said India has always maintained that there will be no third-party in Indo-Pak talks. “Hurriyat cannot be a party,” she added. “Terror and talks not possible but talks on terror desirable,” she retorted. Swaraj attempted to dictate “If you’re willing to come, we welcome you, but come to talk on terror as agreed in Ufa… Pakistan has time till tonight to give an assurance the talks will only be on terror. If Pakistan does not agree, the talks will not happen…and no third party is included in the talks between the two countries”.

Main purpose of the NSA level meeting was to reduce tensions on the LoC and restore trust by addressing each other’s concerns regarding terrorist activities. Even more ironic was Indian alibi that Pakistan was trying to distort the agenda agreed at Ufa and was imposing “new conditions” for the talks. The three point agenda proposed by Pakistan was in line with the Ufa statement. The first point called for discussion on all issues related to terrorism; the second point pertained to reviewing progress on actual decisions made at Ufa i.e. prompt release of fishermen, better arrangements for religious tourism, and activation of mechanisms for restoring peace across the LoC and the Working Boundary; and the third point was to explore the modalities for discussions on all other outstanding issues including Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen etc.
India is reluctant to recognize the significance of the most important sentence in the Ufa Statement: “India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues”. Kashmir is very much present in this sentence because everyone knows that the most important outstanding issue between the two countries is the future of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.
The statement of the Official Spokesperson of the Indian External Affairs Ministry: “The people of both countries can legitimately ask today what is the force that compels Pakistan to disregard the agreements reached by two elected leaders and sabotage their implementation” is a wishful narrative that wants everyone to believe that only Pakistan’s military establishment is pushing the agenda towards the Kashmir issue. In Pakistan not only the political leadership but the entire nation is fully committed to provide political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris struggling for their right of self-determination.
A major theme being played up in the Indian media is that Pakistan was apprehensive of the dossier Mr. Doval had prepared for presentation during the NSA talks and was therefore looking for an exit. Whereas Pakistan’s NSA had planned to carry three dossiers on RAW’s involvement in promoting terrorism in Pakistan. These will now be handed over to Mr. Doval in New York next month, if he accompanies Modi for the UN General Assembly. After handing over these dossiers to Mr. Doval, these may also be shared them with the UN Secretary General.
India has a history of eroding the agreements through contentious interpretations, hiding behind technicalities and resorting to evasive tactics. Despite this, India has neither been able to alter the international opinion nor has it been able to impact the legal status of any dispute. In the Simla Agreement India mischievously replaced the term cease fire line with line of control and made this as basis of declaring UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) irrelevant. Moreover, the expression of desire to resolve all issues bilaterally, in Simla Agreement, was blown out of context and proportion to radiate a message that the UN resolution on Kashmir had become redundant. Net results is UNMOGIP continues to have its offices in India and Pakistan and Kashmir’s disputed status is acknowledged by the UN every year during its ministerial session as well as on other occasions. One major point of worry for every UNSG since 1948 has been the flashpoint status of Kashmir. Likewise, India is doing what it could to erode Indus Water Treaty by diverting water from Pakistan’s rivers, notwithstanding the awards by various international arbitrations against such Indian actions. India committed an aggression in 1984 when it conducted Operation Meghdoot and occupied previously unoccupied and un-demarcated Siachen glacier; India occupied more than 1,000 square miles (3,000 km2) of territory because this cowardly military operations in Azad Kashmir.
India also takes active steps to subvert all non-military strategic projects, aimed at welfare of Pakistani people like dams and rail/road links. It had spent heavily to deprive Pakistan of its trade mark rights related to rice export. It also makes it a point to meddle when Pakistan negotiates bilateral and multilateral treaties with other countries or institutions. It has also invested heavily to keep Karachi boiling. Trails of ethno-sectarian unrest in most of the urban centres of Pakistan also lead towards India.
Unfortunately Pakistan’s political leadership has consistently been ceding space to India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is known for his misplaced obsession to have good relations with India, without realizing that it takes two to tango. This led to a one sided joint statement at Ufa. It appeared as if that statement was drafted by Indian ministry of external affairs, and that Pakistan foreign office was either sleeping or went along under pressure from its Prime Minister. It was first time in the history that Kashmir was missing from the statement and Indian stance on Pakistan’s culpability in terrorist activities was tacitly acknowledged. The public backlash on Ufa fiasco was phenomenal, India projected as if Pakistan has given-up its stance of Kashmir, even then no heads rolled or no one had the decency to accept the responsibility for the faux pas and quit—it was indeed shameful for Sartaj Aziz and his boys to have agreed to the text of Ufa joint statement. And now it was equally foolhardy that before the NSA level meeting, India would cede space which it had gained via Ufa joint statement.
As first fallout of this statement the onus of calling off the bilateral dialogue has shifted from India to Pakistan. Form high moral pedestal of Lahore declaration Pakistan fell to the shame gathering level of Ufa statement. Talks are about the art of the possible and the creation of diplomatic space where none existed before, and not foreclosing own open windows before the talks could even begin. On Pakistan’s part, Ufa joint statement was a diplomatic surrender of worst kind, and it would be difficult and time consuming to come out of the pit to which Islamabad volunteered to fall. Beside Sartaj Aziz’s press conference on Aug 22, it will take a whole range of concerted effort by his team to radiate an impression that India policy is being managed professionally.
Though India did not formally call off the NSA-level talks but Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on August 21 that unilateral imposition of new conditions and “distortion of the agreed agenda cannot be the basis for going forward”. First, the government-run Indian News Agency PTI reported calling off talks with Pakistan, but immediately toned down its rhetoric, saying the talks had become “unlikely” after recent developments. Expressing disappointment on the Indian attitude, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman said “we are deeply disappointed at the statement of the Spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, putting forth pre-conditions for official talks to take place with Pakistan at the level of the National Security Advisors”.
The Pakistan High Commissioner’s invitation to the Kashmiri Hurriyat leadership to a reception in honour of the Adviser on 23 August, was very much in keeping with the practice and tradition of the past many years. Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established practice. After all, the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders are genuine stakeholders in efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute
Tension between the two countries have increased alarmingly as a result of frequent violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary, in the past months. India has violated the LoC 6 times during the last three weeks and over 100 time during the current year. The need of the hour is for the two countries to engage in sincere and serious dialogue to immediately reduce tensions and to undertake the task of normalization of relations, with sincerity and seriousness.
For the NSA talks, Pakistan had proposed a comprehensive agenda, which included discussion on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, as well as terrorism related matters, and other issues such as religious tourism, release of fishermen and peace and tranquillity on the LoC. However, the Indian side’s desire to restrict the agenda to terrorism related issues only, amounts to a negation of the decisions taken by the two Prime Ministers. It is not Pakistan that has placed any condition for the talks. In fact, Pakistan has always demonstrated its belief in the dialogue process and is prepared to engage in meaningful talks with India, to resolve all outstanding issues that have bedevilled relations between the two countries, for the past many decades. Pakistan has rightly refused to cancel a meeting with Kashmiri leadership in Delhi and has insisted that Kashmir will be a part of its agenda for the talks.
India is not gaining any either from this approach other than escaping from the route of negotiations table. Indeed Modi Government has trapped itself in its newly framed straitjacket policy to keep Hurriyat leaders out of the long- standing issue of Jammu and Kashmir, making it difficult for the three stake-holders in the dispute to move forward for peace in South Asia. Addressing a press conference, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarap said that India has always maintained there are only two stakeholders in our relationship not three. Nearly a dozen UNSC resolutions acknowledge the Kashmiri people as party to conflict, it is these persons who are to eventually vote in a UN supervised plebiscite to decide their political destiny. Pakistani leadership has, since decades, interacted with the Kashmir/Hurriyat leadership during their visits to India and Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established past practice. The Hurriyat leaders are true representatives of the Kashmiri people of the Indian occupied Kashmir. Pakistan regards them as genuine stakeholders in the efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute.
Pakistan has rightly taken a position to follow multi-lateral route for presenting its dossiers on Indian involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan should India shut the bilateral window on flimsy pretexts. Dialogue between India and Pakistan has never been an easy ride. Most of the agreements of strategic dimension could only come about with formal or behind the scene intervention, facilitation and or prompting of a third party. Pakistan need to revisit its policy of dying for dialogue with India, calculations indicate that there is not much that Pakistan is likely to gain from this futile approach.

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  1. Indian media reports said that the team had told the Pakistan government the attack had been “staged” by India. Mr Basit told foreign journalists on Thursday that his country would like to have a comprehensive dialogue with Delhi to resolve their outstanding issues and were willing to wait if India isn’t ready.

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