By K.N. Pandita
In a sense, bilateral dialogue between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on Wednesday in New Delhi was off the beaten track. What we have been used to expect or deduce from such meetings in past decades stands belied this time. Pakistan adopted more realistic posture in comparison to the tradition she has inherited from decades of Army controlled policy towards India.
Hina said she enjoyed the confidence of the civilian government and the Army of Pakistan. This is noteworthy. Why did the Pak Army have to bow to the wishes of the civilian government, which in turn, put Washington’s advisory in place? Of late, Pakistan Army and ISI have taken a beating from Washington for their covert terror links. Krishna-Qureshi meeting of July 2010 convinced Washington that pragmatism in Pak-Afghan and Indo-Pak relations could not be inducted and made result-oriented with a Pakistani foreign minister carrying the agenda of the Army, the ISI and the religions extremists’ organizations at home.
Hina’s guarded words at the joint address to the media are a clear indication that a new direction needs to be given to bilateral relations. Obviously, the deck cannot be cleared in one go. A lot of spade work needs to be done to come to a level where the two countries will be impelled by mutual trust convergence. Consequently, the beginning has to be modest, like trade and travel, more relaxed visa regime, upgraded CBMs, and more humanistic approach to prisoners etc. In the past, whenever a Pakistani delegation was scheduled to meet its counterpart in India, it began the visit with Kashmir tantrum. That vitiated the entire atmosphere of building mutual trust. This has not been the case with Hina. All that she said was that the process of dialogue should go on uninterrupted. She did not speak of Pakistan’s jugular vein. A pragmatic foreign minister of Pakistan needs no advisory to convince her that what her country could not get out of three wars and a proxy war with India could not be extracted by any bilateral dialogue howsoever cordial and smooth. With this realism in place, all that is possible to do is to cooperate with India in easing the hardships of the people in both sides of the divided state. Some of the ways of easing the hardships could be identified on both sides and implemented through mutual cooperation. This perception seems to be the guiding element for Hina to invite Kashmir separatist leaders for exchange of ideas on the eve of her arrival in New Delhi. Obviously, she will have asked them to give her the roadmap of their demand for freedom. This roadmap, if at all presented to her, will be reacted to by Pakistan almost along the same lines as New Delhi would. In other words, the two countries will find convergence on their reaction to the demand of “azaadi” of the separatists of Kashmir. The separatist delegation will also need to ask the Pakistani foreign minister about the status of Gilgit and Baltistan where China has got a firm foothold now in one way or the other affecting the whole spectrum of strategies in the region.
If Pakistan realizes the threat of jihadis to her very survival and the role of Army in crediting the jihadis with the sobriquet of first line of defence against India, this could become a catalyst to a change in Indo-Pak bilateral relations, which Hina has put more simply by saying that the new generation in India and Pakistan should think differently than what their ancestors thought. As far the Pakistani jihadis who have become more vocal of late, it is hoped that Geelani government will do all it can to contain them while Indian security forces will deal with them as they deserve. This should not affect the flow of new CBMs between the two countries.