October 22, 2020
Home  »  Website  »  International  » Interviews  »  'There Is No Looking Back Now'

'There Is No Looking Back Now'

The former foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are upbeat and optimistic on the results of the Cricket Diplomacy.

Google + Linkedin Whatsapp
Follow Outlook India On News
'There Is No Looking Back Now'

The full transcript of the BBC Hindi special programme Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with former foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, Shashank and Niaz Naik respectively, on Would Cricket Diplomacy Yield Positive Results?

Nagendar Sharma: Do you think Cricket diplomacy between the two neighbours would help in building an environment of friendship?

Shashank: I think the process of normalisation has started. In other parts of the world, if we look at Europe, when any head of a state wishes to travel to any other country to watch a Football or Cricket match, he just informs his counterpart expressing his desire and can dash straightaway -- protocol and other procedures do not create major problems. The present visit of Pakistan President has brought about a new dimension in South Asia, as normalisation of mindsets in this region has started.

Niaz Naik: This is a very crucial time, and I feel the environment could not have been better. I agree with this that without much fuss on protocols and ceremonies, the meetings have taken place in a meaningful manner, and the visit would certainly see concrete progress in talks.

BBC listener from Pakistan : Both sides are trying to paint a positive picture, buses are being run, Cricket matches are being played, but, on real issues, both nations are sticking to their stands and are unwilling to change. General Musharraf says Kashmir is the core issue, while Dr Manmohan Singh has talked about eliminating terrorism. Where is this soap opera headed to?

Niaz Naik: I do not agree with this. I am stressing on the point that the environment is good. At the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, both Dr Singh and President Musharraf have said clearly that time has come to discuss all issues, including that of Kashmir, therefore the message is clear, a political understanding is there on both sides to improve relations.

Shashank: Change takes time, and when the issue is complicated it cannot be resolved or the change in stance cannot be immediate. What is required is patience, if you talk too much about change in stated positions, it would prove counter-productive and the change may not be possible. In the present context, the composite dialogue between the two governments has to continue and Kashmiri people on both sides are eager to meet their relatives on either side, so more modes of transport and more Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) is the need of the hour.

BBC listener from Haryana: India in a way opened its borders to welcome Pakistani Cricket fans, also invited President Musharraf to see a match, but on the other hand Pakistan refused visas to those who wanted to attend the World Punjabi Conference in Pakistan, and even Shubha Mudgal and her troupe have been refused visas, who is sincere in this process?

Niaz Naik: I have been a High Commissioner myself, and I can tell you that staff in the High Commissions of both countries need to be upgraded urgently. I am talking of the consular staff, which work on visas. Thousands of people have been lining up outside High Commissions of both countries; what we want is that visa applications be cleared within two-three days. There might have been some technicalities in the visa applications you have mentioned. The environment is witnessing a positive change and both nations would have to trust each other.

Shashank: There can be no equivalence in President Musharraf coming to India and Shubha Mudgal being denied a visa, it does not mean that the entire process becomes meaningless. President Musharraf’s coming to India has provided a powerful impetus to this process. Mr Naik has rightly pointed out about the consular staff, and efforts are being made in this direction, decisions have been taken and are being implemented consistently.A change in mindset is gradually taking place, this cultural exchange and similar people-to-people contacts would pick up, let us not rush things.

BBC listener from Jaipur: My question to Mr Niaz Naik is that despite India having accorded the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan, it has not been reciprocated by Pakistan. How would trade move forward? And Mr Shashank, please tell us since India rules out redrawing of borders with Pakistan, isn’t there a deadlock on the issue?

Niaz Naik: During the last SAARC summit all seven nations had agreed on a framework agreement on free trade area under SAFTA. In this agreement all seven nations have agreed for free movement on non-discriminatory basis. The Dhaka summit, which has been postponed a bit, but should be taking place soon, and I see concrete progress there in trade area. All seven nations should abide by the bilateral agreements under SAFTA framework agreement for free trade on non-discriminatory basis. We should remember that WTO regulations also come into play here, the rules of origin and sensitive list have to be adhered to. So all seven nations should sign bilateral agreements, but mainly India and Pakistan. I would like to make it clear that unofficial trade between India and Pakistan via third countries is seven to eight times more than the official trade. Now both governments have recognised this, and they understand that without a proper trade regime and easy facilitation, both nations would continue to suffer.

Shashank: Trade between India and Pakistan cannot increase merely with MFN status. More trade routes would have to be opened. Transit routes from and to countries like Afghanistan, Iran etc. would have to be allowed. Such talks are on these days, and when the SAFTA agreement is implemented, which is to come into force by January 2006, things would become better.

Now on the question of redrawing borders, if we look at Kashmir merely as a territorial issue, there is bound to be a deadlock very soon. The process of composite dialogue should continue and more CBMs for particularly Kashmir and other parts concerning India and Pakistan would have to be implemented. With this twin approach, some possibilities which cannot be seen at the moment would become a reality in near future, and if we were to discuss those possibilities today, it would prove to be counter-productive.

BBC listener from Maharashtra: Sir all major agreements between India and Pakistan have proved to be failures. Is there a guarantee of success of General Musharraf’s present visit to India or would India continue facing terrorism, which, in Pakistan is called freedom struggle ?

Niaz Naik: It is a fact that past history between the two countries is not very encouraging, but at the same time it is not necessary that the past would continue to haunt the future. I am stressing that there is a new environment today. There is a new awareness in the political leadership, whether it was the previous BJP government or the present Congress-led government, all of them have realised the importance of dialogue process.

In my understanding, the bus visit of Mr Vajpayee to Lahore was a defining moment, and the governments now are taking that forward. The good thing is the confidence between the two nations has reached a level, where General Musharraf was willing to travel on an informal visit.

Sitting in Islamabad, I could only watch what has been happening in Delhi on television, and I can tell you from my experience that the body language of leaders on both sides suggests that things are changing. There is certainly a very good Chemistry between Gen Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh.

As Mr Shashank has rightly pointed out that come year 2006 and both neighbours should be able to remove the trade irritants, as the new world order in WTO regime, in the globalised world, demands India and Pakistan work together, which would happen with people’s pressure and industry captains.

Shashank: The environment today opens many possibilities for the future of both India and Pakistan. It is totally up to us, whether we want to utilise the positive atmosphere or waste it. Major countries of the world are watching with bated breath to see when India and Pakistan become good friends and provide a direction to South Asia.

President Musharraf has taken a very courageous step by publicly declaring that his government would not allow some elements to vitiate the atmosphere -- it is the same elements whom his regime had supported in the past, but now he is clearly saying that he would not allow any such activities.

BBC listener from Bihar: Both of you are trying to paint a rosy picture today, but let us not forget that both countries have fought three wars over Kashmir and many times wars have been averted due to international mediation. With both sides clear that none would concede an inch on their respective stands on Kashmir, what is the basis of your hope?

Niaz Naik: What you have said is absolutely right, the track record of the past points exactly to what you are saying. The solution to Kashmir issue can be longlasting only if it is mutually acceptable to both India and Pakistan, with of course honouring the aspirations of Kashmiri people also. Without such a solution, the danger of peace process getting derailed is there. Having said this, I would like to emphasis that this time, both sides appeared willing to discuss the available options.

The meetings which have taken place in Delhi give hope that it is a sign of changing times, these options cannot be implemented immediately, but with continuous efforts both sides can reach to a compromise, a conciliation is possible without anyone being a loser.

Nagendar Sharma: Mr Shashank, how do you view the speeches and statements of Gen Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh. Both sides have not conceded anything on Kashmir, have things really moved forward?

Shashank: With President Musharraf coming to India, there has been a lot of hue and cry among the groups and sections which have stakes linked with Kashmir issue. It has been once again said there should be no sellout of Kashmiri interests and similar things. Therefore Gen Musharraf has to maintain the primacy of Kashmir issue, and then move forward. It is not an easy mathematics when we talk of Kashmir, and there is no mathematical formula to solve the Kashmir issue, it has to be seen what political and diplomatic possibilities exist, while also keeping in mind the problems of people of Kashmir.

Nagendar Sharma: Both of you appear very optimistic, but while talking of even CBMs, even small issues like Baglihar project have struck a roadblock.

Shashank: Mr Niaz Naik is an old optimist, I am relatively a new optimist, and my optimism really grew when I visited Pakistan last year during the SAARC summit and saw both heads of government sincere in carrying forward the peace process. So far as the Baglihar project is concerned, it is a case of mutual trust and nothing else. Out technical experts saw everything and Pakistan was assured that their water supply would continue uninterrupted, even in the dry season. Somehow the impression that side was they are not being given correct information, and they have been insisting on reducing the height of the dam. Anyway, they decided to approach the World Bank experts.Let me also say that there is a feeling in the people of Jammu and Kashmir that Pakistan may be speaking loudly about their rights, but when it comes to its basic issues like water, Pakistan would give primacy to that. We say even if there is still some shortcoming in CBMs, it would be removed in the coming days.

Niaz Naik: What is being called internationalisation of Baglihar project is because there were some hurdles and difficulties. Remember water is such an issue which is not confined to only India and Pakistan. About 20-25 years back, Dr Henry Kissinger had said the next major dispute or war in the world would be because of water resources. The way things have progressed during Gen Musharraf’s Delhi visit, I am hopeful that Baglihar could even return to the bilateral table once again, as the World Bank has not even appointed neutral observers so far. I say this is a rare chance for both the countries, a golden chance, and if we waste this one, both countries would not get another such chance for many years to come.

BBC listener from NOIDA: When Gen Musharraf has been invited by Indian government, why is he provoking separatist groups like Hurriyat against India and that too on Indian soil?

Niaz Naik: President Musharraf is not provoking anyone against India. Hurriyat represents different shades of Kashmiri groups some pro-India, and some pro-Pakistan. Gen Musharraf would have told them to patiently wait for the outcome of ongoing composite dialogue with India, and also would have told them that all talks would take care of Kashmiri people. Any group can try to derail and create obstacles in the ongoing process, there should be no doubt in Indian minds on President Musharraf’s meeting with the Hurriyat, there is nothing hidden there. I think the peace process which has taken off very well is now irreversible, its pace may vary, it would be fast at times, and slow at times also, but there is no looking back now.

Shashank: The separatist groups in Kashmir have been unable to read which way the wind is blowing. They were trying to go against the tide. When the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus was announced, initially, majority of them opposed it, but when they saw a positive response on both sides of the border, then they demanded that groups like Hurriyat be allowed to travel in the first journey. Finally, when the bus took off, and people turned out in thousands to welcome this move, some of the groups welcomed it, a minority voice tried to oppose it. Therefore we have no objection to our guest meeting any group.

For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine
Next Story >>
Google + Linkedin Whatsapp

The Latest Issue

Outlook Videos