By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
After remaining in a substantial suspension, the Indo-Pak composite dialogue process, is resuming at the internal/ home secretary level from March 28, 2011. As per the spokeswoman of the Foreign Office, Ms. Janjua, Pakistan will be entering into these dialogues with a very clear mindset. She said, “Pakistan believes that dialogue, which is uninterrupted and uninterruptable, is the only way forward.” This would be the first formal dialogue between India and Pakistan after the terror attacks of November 2011, on Mumbai. Tracing their bi-lateral history, trust deficit has been the biggest problem facing Pak and India, since last sixty-four years. Would this gulf would ever be bridged is an incredible question. Starting from the unjust border demarcation to inequitable distribution of assets upon the partition of the Sub-continent in 1947, to the Indian invasion in Kashmir, the two neighbours could not reconcile their bilateral relationship. This unremitting distrust became the cause of three major wars and a limited conflict between India and Pakistan. Beside wars, never ever in their history there existed a agreeable decade of relationship between these neighbours.
On many occasions, these South Asian neighbours, sat together on the negotiation table, conducting many rounds of bi-lateral talks for the resolution of the out-standing issues in the last six decades. However, there has not been any substantive outcome from any of these. The result is that, today South Asia stands least integrated and most fragile region, once compared with other regions like Southeast Asia or European Union. Owing to this mutual antagonistic approach, the worst sufferers have been the people of the region. Despite of Indian economic growth, today 72% Indian are below the poverty line, if universal standard of the poverty are applied to this world second most populous country. Somehow, the people in Pakistan are facing a similar situation in the poverty level. Through years of enmity, one thing is for sure that confrontations and wars have not brought solutions to the issues, prevalent between two neighbours. Rather, conflicts and mutual suspicions have given rise to many more differences. These qualms and bitterness have brought both countries to the brink of nuclear confrontation. Apart from this, there have been huge sum spending by both countries for the procurement of conventional weapons, thus saving the war industries of the world’s most advance countries from dying and giving way to an unending arms race in South Asia.
The arm-race compelled both countries to neglect social development of their respective people, who are meeting the fate of worst poverty. Today, despite of its claims of enormous economic development and being the world biggest democracy with apparent secular face, India alone has 42% of the world poorest people. Interestingly, India has biggest number of world’s richest and highest number of world’s poorest. This indeed, bring a sharp contrast in Indian social setup, which otherwise has divided societies based on caste system, Dalit class being treated callously. In it’s so far history of over six-decades, the South Asian politics has been hostage of the Indo-Pak antagonism. Without any misgivings, the onus of the responsibility lies on India, the successor state of the British India, otherwise biggest in the region. Rather facilitating the integration, it followed the discriminatory policies towards the newly state of Pakistan and other regional countries. From its very inception, it tried to prevail on the South Asian politics through political and economic domination and exploitation in its favour.
The Indo-Pak Composite Dialogue process, started in 1997, was seriously interrupted owing to the unfortunate Kargil conflict-1999, and military mobilization-2002. Later on, it was resumed in 2004. Thereafter, it was expected that, peace would prevail in the South Asian region. Nevertheless, the individual incident like Mumbai terror attack of November 2008, once again, brought both countries back to the confrontational path. Since the incident, India decided to end the dialogue process, knowing fully that it was a sporadic occurrence, has nothing do with the Government of Pakistan. After all, amid a smooth dialogue process, started after its hectic pursuance, how Pakistan could have sabotaged these? Now, it has been once again agreed to resume the dialogue process, during the Secretary level talks in Thimphu, Bhutan, it is the joint responsibility of the two nuclear neighbours to have a clarity of mind and sincerity for their subsequent success. The joint statement issued, after the meeting of the foreign secretaries in Thimphu, Bhutan in February 2011, clearly says that, “[The foreign secretaries] agreed on the need for a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues. They affirmed the need to carry forward the dialogue process.”
As per the agreed format of the dialogue process, the Foreign Ministers of both countries are scheduled to meet in July 2011 in New Delhi. A round of talks between foreign secretaries of both countries would precede these talks. For a systematic process, the interior/ home secretary level talks would be held from March 28 to 29, 2011 in New Delhi. After this there would be talks between the commerce and trade secretaries in Islamabad. Since this is a positive break through after almost two and half years, therefore, Pakistan is optimistic about it. Pakistan expects from this wholesome process, “a meaningful and sustained process of engagement to bridge the trust deficit, resolve all outstanding issues, notably the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and for creating an enabling environment for promoting peace and prosperity in the region as a whole.”
The agenda of the internal/home secretaries’ talks would be to concentrate on issues like; counter terrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian problems. Besides, talks would focus on Mumbai Terrorist Attacks, Samjhota Express, infiltration and destabilization of Balochistan and tribal areas. On the issue of terrorism, Pakistan feels that, owing to its global and regional scope, it requires an immediate attention. So far, Pakistan is the worst sufferer, because of the terrorism. It has fallen prey of both the regional and global conspiracies in spreading this menace in its geographical boundaries. Pakistan would like that, all those countries and spying networks, associated with the spread of terrorism in Pakistan, should sincerely dismantle those. “All issues are going to be discussed. When we are going to talk about terrorism, it is not going to be confined to the Mumbai attacks. The best interest of both countries demands a transparent approach whereby any apprehensions on either side should adequately be looked into by the other side.”
The menace has seriously damaged the most peace loving society of Pakistan. On its part, Pakistan would never like that its soil to be used against any other country. However, Pakistan would expect that, all those countries sponsoring the sub-nationalism and terrorism in Balochistan and FATA, must take effective steps to dismantle their spying/ terrorist networks and stop arming and funding the sub-nationalists and so-called religious militants. This indeed, would be in the best interest of those countries too, as eventually terrorist have no religion or a particular state to house in. It is desired that, through this dialogue process, both sides would be able to overcome the activities of all those non-state actors, “who have been involved in acts of terrorism,” for the subsequent elimination. Pakistan has been driving a very focus campaign against the narcotics since 1970s. It has a well-established and institutionalized setup (Anti Narcotic Force) to fight against this menace. Over the years, Pakistan has gained marvellous success in controlling the narcotic from Pakistan. Pakistan expects that, neighbouring countries, especially Afghanistan should put a ban over this menace. The occupying powers and those involved there in any capacity should help that country to put an end to its production and trafficking over to Pakistani borders.
On humanitarian issues, Pakistan has a very principled stance that, all those languishing in the Indian jails for so many years for minor border violations, must be freed on priority. On its part, Pakistan has set free, people like Kashmir Singh, and Gopal Das; involved in heinous crimes of spying and terrorist activities in Pakistan. It has released thousands of Indian fishermen deliberately or incidentally entered Pakistani territory. Should not India, reciprocate to this Pakistani unconditional good will? In the so far history of the exchange of the prisoners, those incidentally crossed over Indian border, India has released only a few. Remaining people are put-through tortures, killed or subsequently made spies, or else terrorists like Ajmal Kasab. Indeed, India needs to be more human on the humanitarian issues. In order to have an enhanced interaction at political, economic and above all people-to-people contact, India should bring relaxation to its current rigid visa policy. “Visa is a major topic at the talks. Presently we may not be in a position to say anything about opening of new border crossing points. But certainly about easing of visa restrictions, yes we will want to make headway.”
Pakistan has its concerns over the Indian long-term policy of water manipulation of the Pakistan’s exclusive waters. Through various water storage dams and water diversion processes, India is working a strategy to gradually reduce the quantity of water flowing to Pakistan, thus converting its green fields into the barren land. In the past, Pakistan and India are said to have reached very close to the bilateral consensus solution to some of the very important issues like Siachen and Sir Creek. It is said that, Indian Armed Forces have prevailed over these development, and compelled the political leadership to halt a possible solution. As per former Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, both countries had even reached very close to a consensus solution on the future status of the Jammu and Kashmir issue.
Pakistan is optimistic about the peace in Sub-continent. In the same context, with the aim to remove any misperception, prior to the start of Indo-Pak Home Secretary-level talks, President Asif Ali Zardari said,“Dialogue is always the right direction. Whether it starts late or early, small or big, dialogue is always the right direction. We are hoping to engage India in a new dialogue…and we are hoping that India will respond as the largest democracy of the world to the youngest democracy.” Earlier Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, while talking to Indian delegate under Kuldip Nayar, a peace activist, recently visited Pakistan that, “wars are no solution.” The premier said that, bilateral talks are the only way to resolve outstanding issues and that; he is satisfied over the resumption of the dialogue process, which would surely lessen the trust deficit.
While there might have been positives thinking of former Indian Prime Minister, A. B. Vajpayee or Dr. Manmohan Singh, about Pakistan. Both perhaps wanted to have a good neighbourly relations with each other and a negotiated solution of the issues prevalent between India and Pakistan, but the question arise, whether the hawks either of the Congress party or the BJP had/ would let them do that. It was amply demonstrated during Agra Summit-2001 and later, the helplessness of Dr. Singh, the current premier as indicated in the Wiki leaks. It is said that, “Even if he wants to, it is far from clear if the Indian prime minister can go beyond gestures and offer something substantive.”