By Air Commodore (Retd) Khalid Iqbal

Towards the end of their official tenure, often people tend to say things which they have been opposing while in chair. Conversely, such statements also indicate that the incumbent would soon leave the chair. Three such statements are quite interesting.

  • Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao has articulated some promising things about India-Pakistan relations. She said that perhaps it was wrong on the part of India to stop talking to Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attack; and that Pakistan’s attitude had changed towards terrorism and therefore there were better prospects for an India-Pakistan normalisation.
  • Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed the hope that Pakistan will “leave Kashmir alone”, as it has its own share of internal problems to deal with! Manmohan Singh went on to add that Pakistan hasn’t done enough on the terror front.
  • Dr Singh made derogatory remarks about Bangladesh to the effect that about 25% of its population is under the influence of ISI; it invoked a demarche by Bangladesh. Indian foreign minister had to rush to Bangladesh to save the forthcoming India-Bangladesh summit. Nevertheless, Dr Singh’s tribute to ISI will certainly improve its rating, which is at its lowest after ‘Operation Geronimo!’These remarks, however indicate that ‘Singh is King’ who has probably been asked to pave the way for young Rahul Ghandi.

Through such statement, India imitates American behaviour. Dr Singh’s statement on Kashmir indicates the Indian perception that under current environment, Pakistan cannot do much to change the Indian position on Kashmir. India assumes that Pakistan has been made too weak, internally and externally, to stand in front of India; and that internal disorder would compel Pakistan to focus inward, for quite some time, to avoid an implosion. 

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Indeed India has a major role in bringing Pakistan to the current situation of domestic instability.

Indian political policy making tier is employing its spy networks for destabilizing FATA and Baluchistan. This behaviour indicates India’s opportunist approach towards Pakistan aimed at retaining the handle for derailing the ongoing peace process, when so required.

For Pakistan and Kashmiri people, settlement of Kashmir dispute is of an immediate concern. Indeed, it is the only core issue between India and Pakistan. On the other hand, India does not seek the resolution of Kashmir issue as per the wishes of Kashmiri people as enunciated in several UN resolutions. India understands that, in such a setting, it would lose IHK. Therefore, buying time and supporting a ‘freeze’ suits India.

There is international pressure on both India and Pakistan to start talking; India has all along been urged to abandon its policy of linking all progress in talks to the resolution of Mumbai attack case. Though Ms Rao’s statement has improved the prospects for a better environment for dialogue, it would be a miscalculation to assume any paradigm shift in Indian stance. At this point and time India is enjoying the squeezing that Pakistan is going through and is in no mood to give any breathing space to Pakistan. India has learnt the art of protracted and dead ended dialogue process from Israel. India’s stiff attitude in benign matters like water sharing and Pakistan’s access to EU markets amply demonstrate its obstructive mindset. Talks are for the satisfaction of the international community; actually India has its own agenda to follow.

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Ms Rao is only trying to improve her constituency in Washington, where as Indian ambassador to America she will be required to look at Pakistan more realistically.  On Pakistan-India plane, little will move forward unless Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government can end the perception that things are falling apart in Pakistan.

Jyoti Malhotra’s recent comments about Indian polity’s dysfunction are quite incisive, ‘On the face of it, India’s economy is growing at a respectable 7-8 per cent, especially when you compare it with the US, which is verging on a default, or the UK where growth continues to be a meagre 1.5 per cent. It has moved from being a recipient of western handouts, in the sixties, to handing out cheques to Afghanistan and Africa… India’s self-esteem quotient has come a long way, yet the nagging persists within. There is a strong sense that all is not right with the republic… The Congress-led government has refused to lead and the BJP led opposition has failed its own imagination’.

Despite a state of denial, Kashmir dispute has ever since been recurrently coming back in circles to haunt India and as a corollary to affect Pakistan. The latest episode is the refusal of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to grant membership to India and Pakistan for the reason that the two countries must settle their territorial disputes to qualify for membership. India is a wilful defaulter of UN resolutions on Kashmir. Hence, its pipe dream of a berth in UNSC is also in jeopardy.

A day after the UN General Assembly approved Ban Ki-moon for a second term as secretary-general of the UN; he said that he would be discussing the long-standing Kashmir dispute with the leaders of India and Pakistan to help resolve it peacefully through a dialogue. “I will have opportunities in the future, as in the past, (to) discuss the matter with leaders of both India and Pakistan how we can help on how this issue could be resolved peacefully through dialogue.” The secretary-general was specifically asked whether he would take more active interest in his second term in helping to resolve the Kashmir dispute over which the United Nations has passed several resolutions. “I am aware of the positions of both India and Pakistan leaders. They have been discussing this matter at foreign secretary level, and foreign ministerial level meetings have taken place.” “I understand there is going to be one soon,” Ban said. “All these issues should be resolved peacefully through dialogue between the two governments,” he added.

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Indian Occupied Kashmir, like Palestine, is a zone where human tragedy reigns since 1947. Over half a million security personnel suffocate the state with draconian powers. Recently discovered mass graves in Kashmir stand as an ugly showcase of ‘shining’ India. Indian brutalities have killed innocent Muslims in thousands but have not been able to suppress their urge for self determination.

India-Pakistan relations are a typical example of a textbook stalemate, marred by zero-sum psyche and a pattern of one step forward and two backward. There is a need for change of mindset if the two countries aim to improve the quality of bilateral relations. Core issue of Kashmir has to be addressed squarely to help evolve sustainable goodwill among the two estranged neighbours.