In­dia-Pak­istan talks No for­ward move­ment

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Ran­jeet Ku­mar ]

The on-off In­dia-Pak­istan talks at var­i­ous lev­els in re­cent years af­ter the 26/11 Mum­bai at­tacks have been like tak­ing one step for­ward and then two steps back­wards. The an­nounce­ment of the lat­est For­eign Sec­re­tary level talks (April 26) in New Delhi was a big sur­prise and gen­er­ated a lot of ex­cite­ment but as usual the talks could not move for­ward and re­mained dead­locked.

The In­dian Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs (MEA) had to clar­ify two days later that the For­eign Sec­re­tary level talks were not part of the com­pre­hen­sive bi­lat­eral dia­logue. The spokesman of the MEA Vikas Swarup stated that both ex­changed ideas how to take the re­la­tion­ship for­ward. “It was not a meet­ing to fi­nalise the modal­i­ties of the com­pre­hen­sive bi­lat­eral dia­logue. Ideas were ex­changed on how to take the re­la­tion­ship for­ward in­clud­ing on the log­i­cal fol­low-up to the visit of the Pak­istan Joint In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team and the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the at­tack on the Pathankot air­base. Both sides will re­flect on those ideas. A re­la­tion­ship goes for­ward through such ex­changes and let us re­main hope­ful.”

The Pak­istani For­eign Sec­re­tary was told in clear terms that un­less the Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties show some progress and co­op­er­ate with the In­dian au­thor­i­ties in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Pathankot ter­ror at­tack, no fur­ther dates for the bi­lat­eral dia­logue can be set. This was in re­sponse to the Pak­istani re­quest for early re­vival of the com­pre­hen­sive bi­lat­eral dia­logue. In fact Pathankot has been added to the list of ter­ror at­tacks for which In­dia is seek­ing answers and jus­tice to the dead civil­ians and sol­diers. Ear­lier, the In­dian side was harp­ing on the eight-year-old 26/11 Mum­bai at­tacks, the in­ves­ti­ga­tions of which have moved nowhere. The longer the list of ter­ror at­tacks, the talks process gets more com­pli­cated as the In­dian in­ter­locu­tors can­not con­vince its peo­ple that talks can go on in spite of ji­hadi el­e­ments based in Pak­istan con­tin­u­ing with anti-In­dia op­er­a­tions with im­punity.

When­ever a mean­ing­ful step is taken by both sides to pro­mote dia­logue, some el­e­ments in­im­i­cal to the cor­dial re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan take cer­tain vi­o­lent steps that de­rail the talks process. The For­eign Sec­re­taries of In­dia and Pak­istan were about to meet on Jan­uary 15 this year, but a fort­night prior ji­hadi el­e­ments at­tacked the Pathankot air­base forc­ing the In­dian Govern­ment to can­cel the talks. All ev­i­dences point to­wards the in­volve­ment of Pak­istani ji­hadi group Jaish-e-Mo­ham­mad which has been of­fi­cially ac­cepted by the Pak­istani es­tab­lish­ment also, but not ready to ac­knowl­edge the direct role of its do­mes­ti­cally nur­tured ter­ror groups, who in fact are pa­tro­n­ised by the Pak­istani army.

It is of­ten said that the des­tiny of Pak­istan is guided by three As — Al­lah, Army and Amer­ica. Al­lah and the Army al­ways pre­vail upon the civil­ian lead­er­ship and the so-called demo­crat­i­cally elected lead­ers of Pak­istan al­ways kow­tow to the whims and fan­cies of the army.

But pub­lic pres­sure in Pak­istan forces the army lead­ers to ac­cede to the de­mands of the civil­ian lead­er­ship. How­ever, the civil­ian lead­ers are not able to in­de­pen­dently pur­sue the dia­logue and al­ways re­main un­der the shadow of the army. The April 26 talks were also guided by the army com­man­ders in Rawalpindi, hence from the very be­gin­ning the Pak­istani For­eign Sec­re­tary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry adopted a very ag­gres­sive stance which nat­u­rally re­sulted in tough re­sponse from the In­dian For­eign Sec­re­tary S. Jais­hankar.

In­dia-Pak­istan talks at the se­nior of­fi­cial level or at the min­is­te­rial level al­ways at­tracts in­tense me­dia glare. Hence to avoid me­dia in­ter­fer­ence in the talks this time ev­ery ef­fort was suc­cess­fully made to keep un­der wraps the For­eign Sec­re­tary level talks away from the me­dia lime­light, held on April 26 in New Delhi, to pre­vent it from go­ing down the hill, but the in­tran­si­gent at­ti­tude adopted by the Pak­istani del­e­ga­tion did not al­low the talks to move an inch. The talks were held un­der the guise of the Heart of Asia talks for which the Pak­istani For­eign Sec­re­tary was sched­uled to visit New Delhi. In fact the oc­ca­sion of the con­fer­ence was found as a good ex­cuse to tell the two For­eign Sec­re­taries to meet which would not at­tract much me­dia com­ment on the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the suc­cess or fail­ure of the talks. The talks were marred by ac­cu­sa­tions and counter ac­cu­sa­tions and it ap­peared that the Pak­istani del­e­ga­tion ar­rived in New Delhi with an ag­gres­sive in­tent. Nat­u­rally, the In­dian side re­torted to each of the al­le­ga­tions re­lat­ing to al­leged In­dian in­ter­fer­ence in Pak­istan’s restive re­gion of Baluchis­tan and also in Karachi which has been wit­ness­ing sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence since many decades. Nat­u­rally the Pak­istani me­dia has aptly char­ac­terised the In­dia-Pak Sec­re­tary level talks as fail­ure which could not pro­duce any sig­nif­i­cant re­sult. Though the two For­eign Sec­re­taries were able to break the ice but the at­mos­phere re­mained frosty and the talks failed to make any for­ward move­ment.

Ac­tu­ally, the Pak­istani me­dia de­scribed the talks as fail­ure and they re­ported that the “For­eign Sec­re­tary level talks be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan ‘failed’ to break the stale­mate and did not pro­duce any sig­nif­i­cant mea­sure of for­ward move­ment as the two sides only raised is­sues im­por­tant to them with­out con­ced­ing ground to the other.” The Pak­istani me­dia also said that Pak­istan con­veyed “it’s se­ri­ous con­cerns to In­dia over its spy agency’s in­volve­ment in sub­ver­sive ac­tivi- ties in Baluchis­tan and Karachi as talks be­tween the For­eign Sec­re­taries of the two arch ri­vals in New Delhi failed to break the stale­mate in the bi­lat­eral di­a­logues.”

The Dawn re­ported that the two For­eign Sec­re­taries raised their re­spec­tive pre­ferred top­ics with­out ap­par­ently con­ced­ing much to the other, “Pak­istan’s For­eign Sec­re­tary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, pre­dictably as hap­pens in in­clement diplo­matic weather, raised the is­sues of Jammu and Kash­mir and the cap­ture of an In­dian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in Baluchis­tan.” The Na­tion re­ported that the top diplo­mats of In­dia and Pak­istan held talks af­ter a hia­tus of sev­eral months and both raised is­sues of their own con­cern and made de­mands from the other side on con­tentious is­sues.

It fur­ther said that though both sides called it a con­struc­tive ses­sion where they dis­cussed “all is­sues”, the low-key meet­ing did not pro­duce any sig­nif­i­cant mea­sure of for­ward move­ment. The Pak­istani Urdu news­pa­pers and elec­tronic me­dia also em­pha­sised that the Re­search and Anal­y­sis Wing’s (RAW) al­leged in­volve­ment was the big is­sue in the talks. Other news­pa­pers also high­lighted the spy story.

But Jais­hankar firmly re­but­ted the al­le­ga­tions of In­dia’s in­volve­ment in Baluchis­tan and other ar­eas as­sert­ing that how can a coun­try send its spy to other coun­try with a pass­port with­out visa. The In­dian side raised the de­mands of early con­sular ac­cess to In­dian ci­ti­zen Kulb­hushan Jad­hav but the Pak­istani Sec­re­tary failed to prom­ise such meet­ing. This was the level of mis­trust be­tween the two sides and the lat­est talks have shown that the two sides were talk­ing at each other and not to each other. The In­dian side took so­lace in the fact that “both sides have de­scribed the meet­ing as frank but con­struc­tive.”

Ac­cord­ing to Swarup: “The de­ci­sion to com­mence the com­pre­hen­sive bi­lat­eral dia­logue be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan was taken dur­ing Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Is­lam­abad in De­cem­ber last where it was also agreed that the two For­eign Sec­re­taries would meet to work out the modal­i­ties and sched­ule of the meet­ings un­der the dia­logue, since then the two For­eign Sec­re­taries have been in touch. What hap­pened on April 26 was a meet­ing be­tween the two For­eign Sec­re­taries on the side­lines of the Heart of Asia con­fer­ence. It was not a meet­ing to fi­nalise the CBD.” This char­ac­terises the state of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan for now.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Dr S. Jais­hankar with For­eign Sec­re­tary of Pak­istan Aizaz Chaudhry in New Delhi on April 26, 2016

Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj with Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif of Pak­istan in Is­lam­abad in De­cem­ber 2015

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