More than Coincidence
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

With Pakistan having finally sought World Bank intervention on the Baglihar Dam issue through the appointment of a neutral expert under Annexure F of the Indus Waters Treaty, a number of interesting developments have been taking place. Without wanting to sound conspiratorial, one cannot help but marvel at the pattern that emerges from what appear to be mere coincidental events. The pattern suggests a carrot and stick approach (primarily the latter) - designed to put Pakistan under pressure one way or another on sensitive issues.

Also clearly emerging in this pattern is the extensive Indo-US nexus. Beginning with India's responses to Pakistan's request to the World Bank for appointing a neutral expert on the Baglihar Dam, we saw India initially maintaining a hard line posture with a declaration that they would not stop work on the Dam, regardless of the World Bank appointing a neutral expert. However, by the time the World Bank head, James D. Wolfensohn, visited Islamabad earlier this month (February 7), the Indians began showing more flexibility on the issue. One major reason for this was the realization that this time, Pakistan means business. India suggested that the World Bank facilitate a round table discussion by a high-level joint India-Pakistan technical team.

Given the collapse of earlier discussions amongst technical teams from both sides, talking under the World Bank supervision will hardly alter the rigid Indian posture on the issue. So why put forward such a proposal? Clearly it was an attempt to get Pakistan to withdraw its request for the appointment of a neutral expert. There was also talk of India finally agreeing to the Srinagar-Muzafarabad bus service, hopefully without the sticking point of passports and visas - which would not be legal in any case, since these are requirements only across international borders. Even more interesting, the Indians finally showed a willingness to go for the gas pipeline from Iran via Pakistan to India, although they guised this in a format putting the onus on Iran to supply the gas through the onshore pipeline.

This new flexibility again was in the face of Pakistan's decision to go ahead with this project- with a pipeline from Iran to Pakistan - with or without India. The Indians must also have finally realized the costliness of alternatives. All in all, they seem to have also understood that there is a growing feeling in Pakistan that dialogue as merely an end in itself is not worthwhile, especially in the face of Indian obduracy on critical conflictual issues like Kashmir and Baglihar. This does not mean that India has moved away from its traditional stance on these issues. All that has happened is that India is attempting to continue delaying any substantive moves on these issues through a flexible rhetoric. On the ground, work continues on Baglihar and the Kishanganga project.

In the case of the latter, we have the same Baglihar pattern of talks and more talks with no give from the Indian side. Why we have not learned our lessons from Baglihar is not too clear. In anticipation of the arrival of the Indian External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, in Islamabad on February 14, the Indian Foreign Secretary declared, a day earlier, that bilateral ties could take a "positive direction" but that Indian security concerns needed to be addressed. What about Pakistan's security concerns given India's expansive armament acquisition agenda and covert involvement in Balochistan? Of course, on the eve of his departure, Natwar Singh himself again emphasized the need for economic cooperation - with nothing said on Kashmir or Baglihar. It is not simply the shifts in the Indian posturing that should be seen as a pattern.

Linked to what the Indians are doing, is the US media campaign designed to put pressure on Pakistan on the extremely sensitive nuclear issue. Strangely enough, as soon as Pakistan "got tough" on Baglihar, we saw a renewal of the attack on A.Q. Khan and accusations of the Pakistani state being linked to his proliferation activities. Time magazine put forward a cover story on Dr Khan without even a hint that he was simply an actor in a private proliferation network that included a number of German and Dutch individuals and companies. They continue to remain faceless entities not up for scathing caricatures and condemnation in the Western media. The Time story again highlights the fact that the real target of the anti-Khan campaign in the Western media is not Khan as much as Pakistan itself and its nuclear assets. Lest we see this as an isolated story, there was a follow-up in the form of a conjectural story in the UK's Sunday Telegraph (February 13) declaring that Pakistan had "admitted" for the first time that Dr Khan had indeed passed nuclear secrets and equipment to Iranian officials.

The paper stated that a premier intelligence agency of Pakistan had actually disclosed this information to this newspaper. Now why would such an agency in Pakistan disclose sensitive information to a British newspaper? The newspaper goes on to state that the Pakistani "admission" came during private talks in Brussels at the end of January between EU officials and senior ministers from Pakistan and India. It boggles the mind to discover that our senior ministers have become so confessional before their Indian and EU counterparts - the dialogue process notwithstanding. In the process of verifying this rather disturbing story, I found a categorical denial from all official sources, so was the Daily Telegraph being used as part of the pressure build up on Pakistan? Nor is this all. At around the same time, we saw Democrat legislators Tom Lantos and Frank Wolf in the US Congress drafting a bill which would compel the US to check on democracy in Pakistan even as the US and India began discussing nuclear security issues with the IAEA in the first trilateral meeting of its kind between India, the US and the IAEA - with a regional agenda. Strange, again, why Pakistan has not figured in this Regional Radiological Security Partnership (RRSP) program. Patterns are definitely emerging.

Every time Pakistan shows frustration at the impasse on the dialogue as far as substantive issues go and prepares to assert its views, Indians begin playing games, while a host of extraneous issues arise for Pakistan - media campaigns directed against Pakistan and its nuclear program or increasing violence within the country. For the Indians it is enough that some CBMs in the areas of their choice get through but as President Musharraf has stated, CBMs are not enough unless there is movement on Kashmir as well - given that that is the root of South Asia's conflictual milieu. And so far there has been a bizarre silence from India on the proactive out of the box suggestions floated by the Pakistani leadership. In fact, India seems to have mistaken Pakistan's extraordinary flexibility for weakness. This will be a big mistake because Pakistan is now, to quote President Musharraf again, "beyond coercion". There is a major gap in how Pakistan and India approach the dialogue process. For India the dialogue has become an end in itself - to be pursued while economic concessions are gained and an illusion is created for the world of a benign India pursuing peace with its neighbors. For Pakistan the dialogue is a means to an end - the end being conflict resolution. This is the crux of the problem. (The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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