INDIA PAKISTAN RELATIONS ----
A NEW PARADIGM OF PEACE AND COOPERATION
I may recall that during the visit to Pakistan of President Clinton, on March 25, 2000 in an address to the people of Pakistan, he had said that "this era does not reward people who struggle in vain to redraw borders in blood. It belongs to those with vision to look beyond borders, for partners and commerce and trade."
The US was not sitting idle. It had handed over to Pakistan a paper on 'possible CBMs for South Asia' with USA as possible facilitator to air complaints of cross border terrorism. Secretary of State Collin Powell on October 17, 2002 observed in New Delhi that the problem of terrorism was not limited to Afghanistan and that USA and India were united against terrorism and that included the terrorism that has been directed against India as well. It was becoming clear to us that the US was likely to use our condemnatory statement on terrorism to remind us of the need to match our words with action. Our argument till then that Kashmir freedom struggle is indigenous and that Pakistan extended only political, diplomatic and moral support was not evoking acceptability by US and by many other countries. They in fact had conveyed to us that Pakistan should reduce violence in Indian held Kashmir, the implication being that Pakistan controlled the militants, allowed them training camps in Pakistan and facilitated their infiltration in Indian-held Kashmir. In the emerging scenario, if Pakistan started militant struggle in Kashmir, it would become untenable and could damage the Kashmir cause and create serious problem for Pakistan.
The backdrop of these developments and the gradual reversion of the troops to the para-military mobilization status of December 2001, created the impression of a forward movement in resolving the difficulties between the India and Pakistan while the security environment in South Asia remained fragile and volatile. The Americans were working behind the scenes to promote an easing of the situation, while at the same time, making it clear that the Pakistan's relations with India and tensions over Kashmir is an area of particular concern to them.
Talking points for the meeting prepared by me for the Foreign Minister and handwritten comments may be seen: While recommending a strategy a peace process with India I recall having said this:
- 1. We cannot completely seal LOC (and not say we don't want to do it) In order to give incentive to Kashmiris, hold out some hope that Kashmir issue will be addressed.
- 2. Never ever say LOC will be permanent. Because extremists will aim their guns on the government and will become a rallying point for all Jehadi forces.
In the aftermath of the decision of ceasefire line on the LOC, Prime Minister Vajpayee told the BJP Parliamentary committee on December 23, 2003 that talks with Pakistan would be on the condition that Pakistan ended cross border terrorism, dismantle terrorist infrastructure and training camps on its soil. He at the same time, however, noted that infiltration across LOC had reduced considerably in Kashmir. What he forgot to mention was that there had been no letup in the human rights situation and repression of Kashmiris. Despite increased people to people contacts and agreement to resume over- flights, air service and rail links, the basic dynamics of relation of confrontation, it seemed, remained unchanged.
Pakistan therefore, was being viewed internationally as positive and constructive since we had demonstrated responsibility, flexibility and pragmatism. India interpreted our flexibility as a sign of weakness and insisted on a step by step approach.
It is interesting to note that few days before
It may be of some merit to refer to the background of the issues which have been bedeviled the relations between the two countries and Kashmir had become the nuclear flashpoint after 1998 tests by the two countries. Besides the official channels both under the UN auspices and bilaterally, there have been attempts in the past to resolve the disputes through the track II diplomacy by India and Pakistan. Indian position has progressively hardened and after Nine Eleven, Pakistan has come under pressure to put an end to cross LOC infiltration.
The process initiated with Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit has been the result of considerable behind the scene facilitation by the US which continued to remain actively engaged in the process. The US was instrumental in guiding the two countries towards reengagement and to find a solution of the Kashmir issue. Robert Blackwells repeated assertion that "international terrorism cannot be eliminated unless terrorism in Kashmir comes to halt" was therefore significant.
We of course were not agreeable to the Indian proposal of the advisability of having military to military contacts especially exchange of NDC delegations, since we wanted to wait to create right atmosphere for such exchanges.
During this period, while we maintained a policy of restriction on trade, investment from India in view of the lack of progress on the Kashmir dispute we had also relaxed trade wherever it served our interest. Cooperation with Indian companies and permission to have joint ventures in the IT sector was becoming a part of the conventional wisdom in early 2006. Infact I chaired a meeting at the Foreign Office attended by the Minister for IT and Secretary for IT and other senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Commerce and ISI. There was general agreement that cooperation with the Indian IT sector would benefit the local IT industry and could contribute to the growth of our economy. We were looking at this cooperation to be of a limited exception to the overall policy of restriction on investment from India. In fact justification for opening up for cooperation in the IT sector is stronger than for the other exceptions we may have allowed in trade. Pakistan needs to upgrade its training facilities and enter the expanding multibillion dollars IT market, and could help us to create a space for ourselves in this important sector of business and technology. We made specific proposals in a summary to the Prime Minister for approval of cooperation under a well defined frame work that would safeguard National Security and commercial interest of Pakistan and allow time bound joint ventures and establishment of focal points to provide clearance in this regard. However, we never got the clearance from the Prime Minister's office and the matter rested there.
So we were beginning to draw a mixed picture in which the non resolution of Siachen, water issues, activities of Indian consulate in Afghanistan and the indo - US deal was beginning to be a matter of concern to the government.
In this period the reaction in India to the release of President's book "In the Line of Fire" on September 25 was emotionally intense. The book received wide coverage. The reaction from the BJP was swift and shrill, particularly on his narrative on Kargil and Agra Summit. Prime Minister Vajpayee said that Agra Summit failed because President Musharraf refused to "accept terrorism as the cause of bloodshed in Jammu and Kashmir and insisted that it was the result of the people's battle for freedom."
Former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra said that the account relating to Kargil in the book "is nothing but a tissue of lies", since according to him, the President and the Pakistan Army were the aggressors in Kargil. He added that India retaliated, Pakistan was defeated and Musharraf was forced to go back. General V. P. Malik who was the Indian Chief of Army Staff during Kargil stressed that the author's narrative "on Kargil is factually incorrect and unconvincing and attempt to whitewash a dark chapter of Pakistan Army under his leadership".
He also referred to my forthcoming private visit to India to attend the wedding of the daughter of my friend Mani Shankar Aiyar Indian Minister for Panchayati Raj, during which the Indian foreign Minister hosted a luncheon meeting for me after which two of us addressed the press conference. We announced that substantial talks will be held when Foreign Minister Mukerjee visits Pakistan in January and I would subsequently visit New Delhi. Rapid developments were taking place in those days.
There have been considerable discussions on the ideas proposed by the President for an acceptable settlement. Therefore, a need to emphasis that this opportunity must not be missed, while under scouring our disappointment with the slow implementation of the decisions on travel across the LOC and start of truck service. In fact the delay was on both sides.
Progress had been made on this issue in the form of an agreement for joint survey. Once an agreed map with positions indicating the respective claim was drawn up, political decisions would be needed to address to issues which could be done either by joint management of the sources in the contested areas or agreeing on a boundary acceptable to both sides.