Pak-India Dialogue: The Third Party Window
There is no force so powerful as an idea whose time has come – Victor Hugo
Notwithstanding the fact that Simla Agreement makes no concession to India on the issue of Kashmir nor compromises Pakistan’s Kashmir stance based on UN resolutions, the Indian obsessive insistence on ‘bilateralism’ has become a major stumbling block in achieving a breakthrough in a host of bilateral issues that need to be resolved immediately. Indian moribund insistence is not only beginning to have ramifications that are giving a fillip to the wave of terrorism engulfing Pakistan and Afghanistan but is also exponentially increasing the possibility of another terror strike in India , which through the Indian stonewalling tactics has not only become a question of if but when. The evolving scenarios are forbidding; a reason that is making the ‘bilateral’ conundrum an attitude of the past. Not to India’s liking, but the idea of a third party intervention to open up the Indo Pak logjam is gaining strength. Voices of reason emerging from two podiums – from Beijing and Washington respectively, within a short span of a week’s time in November is the obvious writing on the wall for India to read, digest and contemplate.
The joint statement in the wake of talks between President Obama and President Hu Jintao in Beijing delivered a much sobering message to Indian establishment basking in the balmy glow of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal just months ago. The sentence that rattled India was; “both sides support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan.” It was a major blow for India to hear US asking China to play the role of the Regional power that India has begun to arrogate upon itself, demanding a power status that equaled China if not surpassed it. The ‘insult’ of being hyphenated with Pakistan, a link that India thought it had broken for good, provided no cold comfort to a chagrined India.
The statement also implied that since the Indo – Pak relations were incapable of sustaining a dialogue in a bilateral context these required a fillip from a third party. For India the clock had turned back to 1998 when a US – China joint statement by Mr. Clinton and President Jiang Zemin had asked the two countries to “resolve peacefully the difficult and long standing differences between them, including the issue of Kashmir”. Barely restrained from calling for a third party intervention the statement had offered assistance towards resumption of dialogue between the two countries. The Indian response to the message from Beijing, repeated after eleven years, was patently knee jerk; saying that it was “committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through a peaceful bilateral dialogue… A third country role cannot be envisaged nor is it necessary.” The over worn caveat followed; “We also believe that a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan can take place only in an environment free from terror,” said the spokesperson.
More trauma lay in store for the posse of shaken and confused Indian foreign policy pundits who began to call the statement from Beijing a faux pas; an insult that would be remedied and compensated for by the US President during the impending visit of Manmohan Singh to Washington. No such comfort lay in store. The developments were to bring home the shocking reality that halcyon days of the Bush administration era had given way to an acknowledgement by the new US administration that the Indian ploy of projecting itself as a victim of terror emanating from Pakistan was finally over. The terror card that India had so cleverly implied following the 9/11 to drive the pace of dialogue with Pakistan finally seemed to have lost currency.
The Indian expectations from the joint communiqué issued following the Obama – Manmohan Summit came glaringly unstuck. The Indian Premier at the beginning of his odyssey had made it obvious as to what he expected from the US. Endorsement of India as a victim-of-terror- from-Pakistan stance that precluded any diplomatic engagement was high on the agenda. Manmohan started the US visit with a fusillade, calling upon the US to pressurize Pakistan for the act of terrorism occurring on Indian soil. “We have been the victims of Pakistan aided abetted and inspired terrorism for nearly twenty five years… It is a tragedy that Pakistan has come to the point of using terror as an instrument of state policy. We would like US to use all its influence with Pakistan to desist from that path,” Singh said in the interview. The backdrop appeared impeccable; Indian delegation expecting to draw propaganda mileage out of the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks that fell on 26 Nov 2008, bringing the then sputtering Composite Dialog between India and Pakistan to a grinding halt.
Alas that was not to be. Indians found little support from their American hosts towards embroiling Pakistan in the terror controversy. The sense of dismay was palpable. An editorial in the Indian Express complained; “Mr. Obama has tended to use Pakistan as the fulcrum of South Asia and sees India as one knotty strand in the Afghanistan Tangle”, it said.
The Indian strategy to link acts of terrorism in India to dialogue with Pakistan, which it adamantly insists to confine in the bilateral context, seems to have run its course. It is becoming manifest that India is stone-walling Kashmir Issue with the hope that it will some how become dormant and will perpetuate the status quo on the Line of Control (erstwhile Ceasefire Line), a design that remains at the core of Indian policy on Kashmir. Its machinations for raking trouble in Afghanistan in pursuits of objectives that are diametrically opposed to US has become the source of spiraling instability and chaos contributing to a sharp rise in the US//NATO casualties. The perception that India has only compounded manageable issues into intractable problems through its intransigence to engage with Pakistan has gained ground, paving way for a third party involvement. Indian insistence that it can untangle the myriads issues with Pakistan, dictating its own terms of endearment seems to have lost relevance. India needs to bite the bullet; the idea of the third party involvement to resolve longstanding issues between the nuclear armed rivals has finally arrived.