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On Not Talking To Pakistan: Commentariat

On Not Talking To Pakistan: Commentariat

Siddharth Varadarajan, writing in NDTV.com reminds us that the Hurriyat leaders meeting Pakistanis is nothing new: PM's Pakistan Outreach Ends in Predictable Whimper:

On April 16, 2005, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran had this to say when reporters asked him whether the government had any problem with Pervez Musharraf meeting the Hurriyat leaders in Delhi before he met the Prime Minister: "Pakistani leaders come, they meet any Hurriyat leaders ... we are a democratic country, we have no problem with these kind of meetings."

Nor was this some sort soft-underbellied approach initiated by the Congress. On the eve of the Agra summit between Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the National Democratic Alliance and General Musharraf, for example, the Hurriyat leaders attended a reception hosted by the Pakistani High Commissioner for his visiting President...

What makes the Indian decision even more problematic is that New Delhi is fully aware of the domestic criticism Nawaz Sharif faced after his May 26-27 visit to India. Sharif was pilloried for not raising the issue of Kashmir in public and for not meeting the Hurriyat... 

By reacting the way it has, the Modi government has inadvertently strengthened the hands of Pakistan's military and the political ecosystem it supports. Prime Minister Modi might well have also set a bar for future dialogue that is too high and also completely irrelevant. It is too high because it is hard to imagine any leader in Islamabad publicly declaring that Pakistan will henceforth never meet the Hurriyat; and it is irrelevant because such meetings do absolutely nothing to alter the political, territorial or military status quo in Jammu and Kashmir.

Read the full article at NDTV

R Jagannathan in the Firstpost:

So should we talk to Pakistan’s government or not? My answer is yes. We should keep talking but without expecting them to lead anywhere. The purpose of talking is not to solve anything, but to tell the world that we are talking, and also to make our points strongly. The suspended round of foreign secretary-level talks, for example, could have been used to narrow the talks down to the Hurriyat issue, or to terrorism. If they don’t want to talk, let them call it off. The second purpose of talking is to make sure they understand our own no-nonsense approach. Too often, they interpret our decision to talk as a sign of weakness. Maybe we should use talk to appear stronger so that they don’t mistake our intentions.

Read the full article at Firstpost

In Scroll, Shivam Vij, while offering Five reasons why Modi’s snub to Pakistan over Kashmiri separatists is a terrible idea, has a useful practical insight:

Perhaps the real reason why Modi cancelled the talks was that Nawaz Sharif is domestically rather weak, so there is little to be gained from conducting discussions with him. If this were the case, Modi should have chosen the increasing number of ceasefire violations on the Line of Control as the excuse for cancelling the talks. That would have deflected the blame to Pakistan. Using the Hurriyat as the excuse, Modi has brought the focus on the issue that India wants to keep away from the limelight: Kashmir. This plays into the hands of Kashmiri separatists and the Pakistani right-wing.

Vij concludes by pointing out:

At a high-powered national security meet in Islamabad on August 9, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told a gathering that included the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence chief, "We don't have good relations with any of our neighbours except China. For development, progress and economic growth, Pakistan needs to have friendly and cordial relations with all its neighbours, especially India and Afghanistan." He added, "You cannot progress in isolation."

It’s the kind of plain-speaking the Pakistani army does not like from civilian prime ministers. Saying what Nawaz Sharif did there, he took a risk. He had also taken a risk coming to Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony despite hard-line elements in Pakistan opposing it. Returning to Pakistan without having said a public word about Kashmir in New Delhi earned Sharif even more criticism.

Modi’s needless cancellation of his government’s first dialogue with Pakistan, over an irrelevant meeting with an inconsequential Kashmiri separatist leader, is likely to weaken the peace lobby in Pakistan, making it difficult for them to argue with those Pakistanis who want permanent hostility with India. The anti-India lobby in Pakistan will now present India as the one which does not want to hold dialogue and resolve issues.

Read the full piece at Scroll

M K Bhadrakumar in rediff: The real reason why India scuttled Pakistan talks:

Consider the following. There is every indication that the BJP will make a strong pitch to form the next government in Srinagar following the forthcoming state assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir in October.

The chances are that the BJP will succeed in this project.

Now, with a BJP government in both Delhi and Srinagar, how long can Modi delay the implementation of the RSS-driven pledge to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution?

Unlike the other two RSS demands -- a common civil code and a temple in Ayodhya -- this one is entirely 'do-able' if the BJP succeeds in forming the government in Srinagar.

Nay, the RSS will insist on it and as a good pracharak Modi will have no option but to comply. Looking back, Modi's Leh speech last week was a harbinger of the shape of things to come.

And, herein hangs the tale of the scuttled foreign secretary level talks. Both Delhi and Islamabad are anticipating gathering storms on the horizon. Modi's inaugural bash already looks a distant dream, as ancient passions take over.

Times of India editorialises: Talks called off: New Delhi cancels earlier script on Pakistan, but it must develop a new script

With Sharif hemmed in his room to negotiate is limited and it’s unlikely the foreign secretary-level talks, even if held, would have achieved much. Nevertheless it’s imperative that New Delhi keeps channels of communication open with Islamabad. Else its hardliners will comprehensively dominate policy vis-à-vis India and its peace constituency diminish further.

How can New Delhi square this seemingly impossible circle? It makes sense for New Delhi to open direct lines of communication with the Pakistani army that anyway determines Islamabad’s India policy. Given that under Pervez Musharraf the two countries had almost concluded a Kashmir deal, talking to Rawalpindi GHQ will yield better dividends for India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown, twice, that he can deviate from the tried and tested script with regard to Pakistan. He must do it a third time.

Read the full piece at the TOI

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20 Aug 2014, 11:31:54 PM | Buzz

Sandipan Deb in the Mint: Let’s face some hard truths about Pakistan:

We should stop bothering ourselves about the internal matters of Pakistan—the politics and the power struggles—except for areas that concern us directly, like the terrorist infrastructure. Sharif is no spring chicken, and it is not India’s responsibility in any way to help him solve his problems. We should see Pakistan as a whole, a single entity to be dealt with, keeping our national interest in mind, under the accepted rules and processes of international diplomacy.

And so what if earlier Indian governments permitted separatist Hurriyat leaders to meet Pakistani officials, and even travel to Pakistan? Surely, India is free to change its policy and lay down new terms of engagement?


20 Aug 2014, 09:48:58 PM | Buzz

K.P. Nayar in the Telegraph: Real target: Kashmir special status ‘Mission 44’ sinks talks:

What the Pakistanis did not take into account was the mood in the ruling party. With the euphoria of victory in Udhampur — to cite one example — where a little known medical doctor, Jitendra Singh of the BJP, defeated the long-serving state leader and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad by 60,000 votes, adrenalin is running high in the party.

Singh, now a key player because of his position as a minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, said within minutes of his taking charge of the new office that the process of abrogating Article 370 had already begun.

...Singh’s assertion about Article 370, the eviction of the UN Monitoring Group for India and Pakistan from their decades-old government property, Modi’s Leh speech and the precipitation of a situation where bilateral talks are in suspense clearly have a pattern which has to be seen in conjunction with the BJP manifesto.

In 1998, no one took the portion of the BJP manifesto about the nuclear option seriously until Atal Bihari Vajpayee tested the bomb and took everyone by surprise. The developments on Pakistan may turn out to be another such surprise on Article 370.

If the BJP’s game plan is followed through, it will be as much of a diplomatic challenge as the Pokhran II nuclear tests. Since Kashmir is still on the files of the UN, the Security Council is certain to become seized of any changes to Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

There is no guarantee that the US will swing in support of India since its critical interests in Afghanistan can only be protected by Pakistan. There is speculation that the latest incidence of Chinese border incursions may be a message to India not to rile Beijing’s all-weather friends in Islamabad.

20 Aug 2014, 08:46:38 PM | Buzz

Mani Shankar Aiyar in the Indian Express: Being a bully

The parallel being drawn in some quarters with India snubbing Pakistan by talking to Baloch separatists is as misbegotten as it is misplaced, for Balochistan is not an issue between India and Pakistan. We have neither had nor sustain any claims on Balochistan. On Kashmir, the Pakistanis do — and that has been acknowledged by India, even if India is (rightly) adamant that there can be no compromise on its sovereignty over the whole of J&K, as a result of the Instrument of Accession and Article I of the J&K constitution.

20 Aug 2014, 08:23:13 PM | Buzz

Mani Shankar Aiyar in the Indian Express: Being a bully

The Pakistan desk of the ministry of external affairs knows full well that Nawaz Sharif was attacked on his return to Pakistan from New Delhi for his failure to meet with the Hurriyat, as his predecessors had done. This became such a big issue that when I was in Pakistan days later (in the august company of Ved Pratap Vaidik), both formally and informally, this was stressed. Thus, the consequences of warning High Commissioner Abdul Basit against maintaining his scheduled meeting with the “separatists” should have been clear to the meanest intelligence in the MEA. If the meeting with the Hurriyat leaders were called off, the howls of protest in Pakistan would have drowned all attempts at dialogue. There was nothing to be gained from making an issue of such a trivial matter.

I say “trivial” because nothing earth-shattering, either for us or the Pakistanis, has resulted from earlier meetings of the Hurriyat with the Pakistanis, including visits of Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan that we ourselves had permitted. From a Pakistani point of view, meeting the Hurriyat is an excellent way of selling to the Pakistani public the explanation that “Kashmiri” wishes are not being ignored or bypassed in the dialogue process. From the Indian point of view, the “separatists”, who are Indian citizens, whatever their view, are of such significance as to have warranted our “interlocutors” talking to them. What harm, then, can come of Geelani et al letting off steam in Pakistan House — the same steam they let off on a daily basis in the Valley?

20 Aug 2014, 10:28:49 AM | Buzz

Anita Joshua in the Hindu: Separatists talks with Pakistan: Some bitter truths

There have been interactions where the Kashmiri separatists gave the Pakistanis — inside and outside the government — an earful; driving home some bitter truths

that veteran advocate of secession Syed Ali Shah Geelani did some plain-speaking when he met former Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar during her visit to New Delhi in the summer of 2011.

Mr. Geelani told Ms. Khar that the self-determination exercise which Kashmiris have been demanding should also include areas under “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir” and thereby put it at par with what Islamabad refers to as “Indian Held Kashmir”.

20 Aug 2014, 10:23:46 AM | Buzz

Srinath Raghvan in the Hindu: The foreign policy report card

The government may be rightly miffed at Pakistan for meeting the Hurriyat leaders despite being warned of India’s displeasure. But it is not clear why a redline should have been drawn on this issue. At a time when the civilian government in Pakistan is on the back foot, New Delhi’s digging in of its heels will only comfort the military.

20 Aug 2014, 10:22:40 AM | Buzz

The Hindu editorialises: Over-reaction to an irritant

...to have cancelled the talks shows a shockingly inadequate grasp of history, and is short-sighted. India has called off engagement with Pakistan many times in the recent past for far more serious reasons, only to realise after each hiatus that there is no other alternative. The immediate question now is if the talks between Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif will take place as planned on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The government has done itself no favours, as the decision is bound to add to the popularity of the separatist leaders in the Valley.... it could prove to be a political setback for Mr. Sharif, who is already under siege. ... elements in the Pakistani security and political establishment that believe their Prime Minister is too soft towards India. The Modi government could only have further weakened Mr. Sharif’s position. That, in the long run, undermines the prospect of normalising India-Pakistan relations, more than the Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders.

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