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 endlessly.
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 ground.
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 that.
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 Pakistan.
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 Union.
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 for that.
(The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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