India-Pakistan détente: the components

By K.N. Pandita,

Recent foreign minister level Indo-Pak meeting is somewhat noteworthy. In terms of trust it may not be extraordinary. However it was devoid of usual rancour.

The noteworthy change is that Pakistani side did not exude its usual rhetoric on Kashmir. But that does not mean there is any significant change In Pakistan’s Kashmir policy.

Speaking about a young female as its new foreign minister, Pakistani Prime Minister said he wanted to present the soft face of Pakistan to the Indians. 

Krishna-Qureshi spat of 2010 was seen by Washington as a hindrance to its overall strategy in South Asian region. The hindrance lay in Pakistan fielding a foreign minister with strong hate-India psychosis.

Washington is treading cautiously on Pakistan Army-ISI turf. It is in no mood to give space to a military coup. But the wings of Army-ISI combine need to be trimmed. This has been made clear to the two top men.

Conversely, the elected government is provided with maneuverability. First of all, it must deal with home-bred Theo-fascists who receive covert patronage from Army-ISI nexus. ISI is conniving at infiltration of jihadis in the rank and file of armed forces. Mehran airbase attack is an eye opener.

But Washington is also apprehensive of a backlash from combined armed jihadi groups and the conservative elements in armed forces working in tandem.

Partial reduction of US military aid is a mild reprimand but the door has been left open for its revocation under some conditions. As ISI chief travelled all the way to Washington to do some damage controlling exercise, he had to agree to the return of a good number of CIA sleuths to Pakistan to carry on their important mission.

De-escalation of tension between India and Pakistan is part of American strategy in South Asia.  Hitherto the Indian desk at Pak foreign ministry has been manned by Army-ISI combine. New Delhi had for long desired that a dialogue could progress only if on Pakistani side, it was entirely the affair of her elected government. Washington worked on the theory, and now as Prime Minister Geelani said, Islamabad has put forward its soft face.

Meaningful and positive progress in Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir can be possible only if Islamabad government succeeds in keeping the Army-ISI factor in the backyard.  But to expect Pakistan to wash its hands off Kashmir is not that simple.

Therefore the entire Indo-Pak détente depends on how deftly Islamabad civilian government manages to contain or convince the Army that a revised vision and approach to Indo-Pak relationship is the need of the hour. This could be a long process and that is why the Pakistan foreign minister wants it an uninterrupted and uninterruptible process. That is true.

Obviously this has to be a multi-cornered initiative and the meeting between the separatists of Kashmir and the Pak foreign minister in New Delhi fits in the scheme of things.

US–Pak interaction, Pak civilian government–Army interaction, India-Pak interaction, India–Kashmir separatist interaction and Kashmir separatist–Pakistan interaction are the components of this strategy. There could be more layers to it.

Indian Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the question of redrawing the boundary lines in J&K does not arise.  Internal problem in Kashmir is essentially the problem of good governance. For addressing this problem a comprehensive exercise of on spot study and recommendation process has been in progress. Some of the recommendations are already on the threshold of implementation. Panchayati Raj is one among these. Reduction of unemployment through the induction of mega Indian Corporate in industrialization programme is also underway. Return and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons proposed under composite twin-city formula is gaining official attention and public approval by degrees.

But Islamabad will have to spell out how it would work towards empowerment of the people in Gilgit and Baltistan, ensure their ethnic, demographic and cultural identities, and provide assurance about non-violation of the international border.

One crucial question which the Hurriyatis of Kashmir Valley will have to clarify to both the countries is their demand of “aazaadi”. The objections to this demand are almost identical between India and Pakistan. With China casting greedy eyes on the territories beyond her western border (apart from southern border) the entire security strategy of Central and South Asia comes under focus. As such, the concept of “azaadi” so dear to Kashmir separatists will not evoke favourable response either from the US or the European powers including Russia. We hope this aspect has not escaped the attention of either the Kashmir separatist delegation or the Pakistani foreign minister during their meeting in New Delhi.

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