Go Beyond Posturing
By Dr Shireen M Mazari
As the talks proceed between Pakistan
and India, it is becoming increasingly clear that
India is seeing these talks as an end in itself
– with no inclination towards substantive
movement on the conflictual issues. Of course, India
is at pains to keep up the congenial atmospherics
to propagate the "feel-good" sense within
Pakistan, but it is not serious about conflict resolution.
Instead, it simply wants to prolong the talking
Take the case of Baglihar. The Indians had us talking
on the issue year after year and at the end of the
day, after having wasted valuable time, we finally
realized the Indian game plan and had to use the
arbitration provision in the Indus Waters Treaty.
India tried to beguile us into talking some more
bilaterally, but realized we had had enough. On
Kishanganga also, while the Indians recently made
the right noises, nothing has been resolved on the
Moving on to Siachin, we see a similar pattern.
The most recent round of talks, in Islamabad in
May, failed to make any headway. Instead, the two
sides merely agreed to hold more talks. Given that
there is the shape of an agreement in place since
the eighties, what exactly is the Indian intent
on Siachin now? After all, the two sides were almost
reaching an agreement when India backed off in 1989.
So now we are stalemated in what is described as
"frank and constructive discussions"!
On Sir Creek also, nothing much is emerging and
there have been reports of sporadic violent exchanges
between the two countries in this area. Yet we continue
to dialogue with India. So, it seems the Indians
simply want to keep Pakistan talking with nothing
much being decided in these talks. Meanwhile, India
can show the rest of the world that it is moving
"forward" in the detente with Pakistan.
After all, the world is easily fooled with the atmospherics,
as are the civil societies in Pakistan and India.
Sitting in on discussions with my counterparts in
Singapore, it is only too evident that there are
great misperceptions within the context of the present
Pakistan-India peace process and unless Pakistan
puts a more realistic perspective on this, the Indian
"atmospherics" focus will continue to
sell. In fact, it is amazing how little we have
moved on projecting our positions and perspectives
in this very important East Asian city-state. The
Indian viewpoint seems to pervade everywhere but
if one corrects certain basic factual errors and
myths, the audience is receptive. But we have years
of neglect to work on and only with a regular and
sustained engagement can we set the record straight.
As far as the present Pakistan-India dialogue process
is concerned, we ourselves seem to have been swept
away by the carefully constructed atmospherics.
So for the rest of the world, which was nervously
witnessing the stand-offs between the two nuclear
South Asian neighbors, even mere atmospherics can
be beguiling because the world is looking for reassurance.
Of course, a more substantive political CBM that
may come into play on Kashmir is the visit of the
Hurriyat leaders from Indian-Occupied Kashmir to
Pakistan, though Syed Ali Geelani's absence will
have a negative impact on this. But the Indians
have once again stated their parameters on Kashmir
with Manmohan Singh talking of greater autonomy
for Kashmir "if the need arises". Mr.
Advani, on a visit to Pakistan, also referred to
this notion as the means for a Kashmir solution.
This shows the limited substantive movement India
is prepared to make on the core issue of Kashmir.
And even on this count, Indian official statements
are prefaced with the now rather tedious refrain
of "infiltration" across the LoC. Honestly,
with Pakistan having moved substantively on this
count, and India having constructed a three-layered
fence along the LoC, bolstered by 700,000 soldiers,
the infiltrators, if any, must have magic or superhuman
powers to evade these pitfalls!
All in all, the Indian notion of autonomy is part
of the problem in the first place. After all, the
Kashmiris did not choose to join the Indian Union
and they have been rejecting it at every opportunity.
It is the occupation of Kashmir by India that is
the problem, so continuing with this occupation
under the guise of greater autonomy is hardly a
viable solution – no matter how palatable
the new form of occupation may appear to become.
While one is assuming that India is deliberately
focusing on the "feel good" factor through
atmospherics, perhaps one should also examine the
possibility that the Singh government actually cannot
deliver substantively on the conflictual issues.
After all, it is a weak, coalition government and
the Indian military now sees a more powerful role
for India strategically. So Siachin may fall within
the new, more expansionist designs of a nuclear
India. If that is the case, an endless process of
talks is the natural way to play the peace process
without any compromises on the ground. So we should
not be surprised to find the Indians doing exactly
Why are we so ready to play the Indian game? Of
course, one reason is the international community's
pressure to sustain this peace process in South
Asia. As President Musharraf acknowledged, the peace
process is irreversible. However, it can be retarded
or slowed, if there are no moves on the ground relating
to actual conflicts. That is why, whenever one round
of talks relating to the political issues is over
with no breakthrough, India immediately issues some
statement on another conflictual issue to divert
from the latest stalemate. That is why after the
stalemated talks over Siachin, some hopeful statements
came out on the Sir Creek issue but these did not
translate into a ground reality. These issues were
pushed into the background with the development
of the Hurriyat leaders' visit to AJK and possibly
These tactics cannot sustain themselves forever.
At some stage the Indians have to move towards conflict
resolution rather than simple conflict management.
That requires a major psychological shift in the
Indian thinking about Pakistan. For one, they have
to stop trying to establish a one-ness culturally
between them and us because this does not hold true.
While some in Pakistan may have familial affinities
and some others cultural linkages, for many here,
India is as foreign a country as any other –
and perhaps even more so. They also need to stop
pontificating on a farcical moral ground and come
down to the nitty gritty of conflict resolution.
This requires a shift in Indian thinking also because
they have to examine the Kashmir issue beyond their
traditional posturing of autonomy within the Indian
Having taken the Kashmir issue to the UN under Chapter
VI, they accepted it as a dispute between two sovereign
member states of the UN, requiring UN intervention
for peaceful resolution. Had they accepted Kashmir
as an integral part of the Indian Union they would
have taken the issue under Chapter VII naming Pakistan
as the aggressor state. So India conceded that Kashmir
was not a part of the Indian Union. Given India's
newly discovered commitment to the UN, especially
the Security Council, it should at the very least
enforce UNSC resolutions, including those under
Chapter VI. By any count, unless India shifts qualitatively
from its present posturing in the Pakistan-India
peace process, it will stand exposed and the process
will be stalled. And India will have to take responsibility
(The writer is Director General of the Institute
of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)