Indo-Pak reconciliation roadmap

By K.N. Pandita

Indo-Pak Foreign Ministerial meet in Islamabad was meant to review the progress of on-going bilateral dialogue.  Satisfied that it proceeded in the right direction, the two ministers have raised hopes of more concrete results flowing from the exercise in due course of time. This marks the success of the meeting.

Critics and sceptics at home will call it another exercise in futility. Past history of infertility of such dialogues has been the source of their pessimism. Moreover, they find stark contradiction between what is said in the conference room and what is actually happening on the ground.  Will the deep freeze melt? 

But improbability is no catchword in international relations or bilateral diplomacy. They have the desk book formulae and they have not.

It is clear that despite Pakistan’s abetment of armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 and other acts of subversion including 26/11 event, New Delhi did not intend to discard dialogue process with Pakistan at various levels and over a variety of subjects germane to rapprochement.

In the context of pragmatic handling of Indo-Pak Armageddon, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cannot be accused of week-kneed policy. No sensible and responsible state seeks estrangement with its neighbours. One that does seek can hardly enjoy the fruits of peace.

Is a wind of change blowing in the corridors of power in Islamabad to give new direction to its traditional policy of hostility towards India? What are the indications?

The answer to this question is to be looked for in what the Pakistani Foreign Minister said to an Indian media person who had interviewed her a day before Krishna landed in Islamabad. “The commitment of the leadership of this country is to move the India-Pakistan relationship beyond a relationship dictated by the disputes.”

In simpler terms it means that relationship has to move simultaneously along two tiers; area of disputes and the area of trans-disputes. Our disputes are endemic and the process of resolving them through dialogue will take its natural course which cannot be time bound.

Six decade-long history of Indo-Pak relationship remained hostage to the domination and control of Army in Pakistan. Since civilian regimes owed their existence to the intervention of the Army, and Army, in turn, owes its existence to “crush India” fits of temper, no Indo-Pak dialogue could make any headway. Pak army set the agenda for its civilian government during the interregnums.  If an elected government tried to break the jinx, as in the case of Benazir-Rajiv interaction, Army lost no time in playing the spoiler.

With drastic change in regional security scenario, emergence of Theo-fascist forces on global level challenging established democracies and democratic ideology, a grim situation developed in Pakistan. The decision of collaborating with the US in “fighting terror” had crucial ramifications. It dragged Pakistan Army into enormously conflicting conundrum – to be or not to be – against Theo-fascist forces. The deal had the potential of cutting on both sides.

Now almost a decade of fighting against religious extremists, Pak Army’s own baby, it has, much to its consternation, found chinks in its pro-active role. Armed clashes with jihadis have also exposed the vulnerability of Pakistan’s defence structure. All the three defence wings had their share of humiliation at the hands of home-grown Theo-fascists. Pakistani people have lost trust in Army’s capability of ensuring country’s internal and external security, particularly after the liquidation of Osama and his legions of crusaders.

Many saner elements in Pakistan see rapprochement with India as the way out of present morass. The civilian regime in Islamabad would exercise the option but it needed to ensure that the Army wore the boots not bigger than the size.

In this delicate situation Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has show remarkable quality of statesmanship. Atmosphere created at Thimpu Summit provided space for new approach to Indo-Pak relationship.  Both sides wanted to clinch it.

It was of vital importance that India understood the constraints of Pakistan in abandoning it traditional anti-India hostility and adopting new and pragmatic approach to bilateral dialogue. The civilian government in Islamabad needed time and methodology in putting the wagon on new rails. Not deterred by sporadic and isolated events of terrorist attacks causing hurdles in the path of reconciliation, civilian government in Islamabad knew that it could reckon with PM Manmohan Singh’s matured statesmanship. There could be conspiracies and terrorist related atrocities like 26/11 to derail efforts of reconstructing relationship between the two countries. To Islamabad’s satisfaction, India did not fail to respond to two–tier diplomacy.

Three wars plus proxy war did not help Pakistan Army grab Kashmir. Eastern Pakistan was lost in the process. Abetting of fundamentalist-terrorist calumny against India boomeranged and today Pakistan society is paying from its nose. 26/11 exposed Pakistan to the world which is now convinced that it is the epicentre of international terror.

The civilian government in Islamabad deftly watches the once powerful and aggressively dominating GHQ meet with its nemesis. This is the rare opportunity which the Pakistan Foreign Minister hinted at in an interview to an Indian journalist.

Issues falling within the ambit of Tier I, are already identified; Siachin, Sir Creek, Tulbul, Wullar Barrage, J&K, etc. But what lies beyond these and supposed to be the content for Tier II approach is post-conflict resolution scenario. Of paramount interest will be the mechanism of containment of Theo-fascism. Expansion of trade relations and extended cultural relations could supplement convergence and cooperation on regional issues – Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran and the Middle East countries. An important facet of post-conflict reconstruction programme would be cooperation in harnessing energy resources within and outside the sub-continent, accessibility and technical input.

Pakistani leadership believes that progress along the two Tiers would naturally create conditions where Pakistani Army need not assign to itself the role of ombudsman.  Friendly India would immensely support her bid for stabilization of democratic dispensation.

Any person with humanistic vision and eagerness to see the two Asian countries chalking out a roadmap for reconciliation and collaboration will appreciate the astute statesmanship on both sides trying to pull the sub-continent out of the quagmire of hostility and hatred.

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