Understandable caution was the keynote of the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan at New Delhi on April 8, 2012. At the invitation of our Prime Minister, Mr Zardari had stopped over briefly in New Delhi for talks followed by lunch with Dr Manmohan Singh while on his way to Ajmer Sharif for prayers.
Being a Sindhi, Mr Zardari will have difficulty in ensuring that any initiative that he might take for better relations with India will have the endorsement of the Punjabi-dominated Army. While he has been able to consolidate his position as the President and fend off possible challenges from the Army to the Pakistan People's Party led government in the centre, he cannot yet be confident that the Army will totally back any initiative that he might take for a qualitative improvement in Pakistan's relations with India.
In India's point of view, a qualitative improvement in the bilateral relations will be possible only if Pakistan gives up its policy of using terrorism as a weapon against India for its strategic objective of changing the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir and takes action against the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) for its involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai.
Since the policy of using terrorism and the LET against India was initiated by the Army and the LET acts under the sponsorship of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Mr Zardari, despite all his goodwill for India, will not be in a position to satisfy the Indian demands on the terrorism issue.
Dr Manmohan Singh has been equally cautious because he realises that he will not be able to sell any agreement to the Indian public opinion unless Pakistan gives satisfaction to India on the question of terrorism. Any toning down of past Indian demands on terrorism will not be acceptable to Indian public opinion.
Thus, what we face is an Indian public mindset influenced by the terrorism issue that is as rigid as the Pakistani Army mindset influenced by the Kashmir question. The two rigid mindsets will make it difficult for the two leaders to find a workable way forward despite whatever determination they may have to find a solution to the traditional issues of contention.
Any exercise to find a solution to the two substantive issues between the two countries-- Kashmir and terrorism-- is bound to hit barriers that will hinder forward movement. That is why the suggestions made from time to time to focus on other issues which will promote goodwill even while trying for ways of solving these difficult issues
Trade is one such issue. We have successfully used trade as a confidence and goodwill building measure between India and China. Despite the lack of progress in finding a solution to our border dispute with China, we have succeeded in creating a steadily expanding comfort level between the two countries by focusing on trade and other contacts even while trying for a border solution.
It is gratifying that Pakistan, which was resistant to the idea of delinking trade from the Kashmir issue, is now inclined not tot make trade a hostage to the Kashmir issue. We have to think of other ways too of building goodwill and creating a greater comfort level that could ultimately facilitate a solution to the substantive issues.
The present lack of the necessary goodwill and comfort level between India and Pakistan is due to the paucity of contacts at various levels--people to people, political leaders to political leaders , Members of Parliament to MsP, Army to Army, Police to Police etc. Such contacts at the personal and institutional levels will go a long way in removing misperceptions and suspicions and creating a benign mindset shorn of the traditional rigidities.
Bilateral exchanges of visits with the objective not of finding a solution to the disputes in one go, but of creating greater goodwill and comfort level will go a long way in creating the necessary willingness to look for constructive ways of finding a solution to issues such as Kashmir and Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism. It is keeping that in view that I have been advocating for over a year now a goodwill visit by our Prime Minister to Pakistan--even if it be for a few hours only-- without any prematurely ambitious objective of solving the differences over Kashmir and terrorism. It is for the same reason that I have been a strong advocate of other networks of contacts--particularly military to military.
The visit of Mr Zardari was neither a success nor a failure if we look at it from the point of view of finding a solution to the contentious issues. The two leaders have been over-cautious in their approaches and reiterated at least in public the traditional stands on various issues.
Despite the continuing rigidities, the visit has contributed to a a little more relaxed perception of each other. It is important to build on this. For this purpose, I reiterate my past suggestion for an informal visit by the Prime Minister to Islamabad without linking it to any solution to any of the contentious issues. I notice that political and public opinion in India has not reacted negatively to the initiative taken by the Prime Minister for converting a pilgrimage by the Pakistani President into a soft political visit too. It is gratifying that there are no indications of any negative reaction from the Pakistan Army too to this exercise in creating goodwill and mutual comfort.
We should not allow this benign mood in the two countries to dissipate due to continuing over-caution. Let the Prime Minister go to Pakistan as quickly as he can to build on this mood without setting for himself any difficult and presently unachievable objective. At the same time, I would urge the Prime Minister once again to give serious thought to the question of initiating military to military contacts between the two countries.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies
"it is time for an informal visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Islamabad without linking it to any solution to any of the contentious issues."
Manmohan Singh is very good in keeping contentions issues at arm's length.
BTW, I have never understood the urge to "resolve" issues between India and Pak. Every such urge has resulted in India making concessions while getting nothing in return.
What is wrong with the status quo? The only wrong I see is PoK. If we can get that back, fine. Since that is not going to happen any time soon, why bother with the rest?
Everytime we have pushed for a "solution", the problem has gotten only worse. It is time to cry halt and do nothing.
People to People contact has become Terrroist to terroist contact. Indo- Pak Friendship never existed or will exist in Future.Dr BR Ambedkar declared it long back.Between any peace talks or Cease Fire Time Paksiatn went on improving military power even at the expens eof its development and welfare of the people. AA Zardari's visit ha sno significance.This Fellow has no minimum vocie in Paksiatn.H ehas no people's good will like Benazir Bhutto.even.THis UPA Government has compromised with both internal and external securiities.India must always be ready for a War.
"Any toning down of past Indian demands on terrorism will not be acceptable to Indian public opinion."
This is based on the assumption that Indian public do care about these things. I have not seen any evidence to substantiate this assumption.
Just curious. Where is the candle light crowd these days? Every India-Pak meeting used to send this crowd into orgasms. I understand Kuldip Nayyar is not well and may be excused. What about the rest-including Vinod Mehta and co?
Mr. Raman, What is this talk of 'Rigid mindset' about terrorism?Terrorism perpeterated by Pak is a monstrous problem being faced by Indian everyday.It is a bitter truth.What is there to talk to Pak except TERRORISM.
By the way please shed your 'Rigid mindset" about your Roti,Kapda & Makaan,You will know the reality within one day.
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