UPA’s shabby approach to Indo-Pak talks : A self-inflicted insult

March 1, 2010

When in July 2001, General Musharraf returned from the Agra summit he was very angry with the Indian Government for having invited him and sent him back empty-handed, without even a joint statement containing some goody goody observations about Indo-Pak amity.

In his initial reaction all his vitriol seemed concentrated on me. Later, however, in his memoir, In The Line of Fire, he did not spare even Shri Vajpayee. His acerbic comment was:

“There is the man and there is the moment. When man and moment meet, history is made. Vajpayee failed to grasp the moment, and lost his moment in history”

Taking due note of his remarks, Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee reacted, and put the record straight thus:

“General Musharraf’s reported comment on the failure of our talks at Agra have surprised me. Every one in our government was acutely alive to the fact that there could be no normalcy in Indo-Pak relations until cross border terrorism, which had cost thousands of innocent lives, ended. But during our talks General Musharraf took a stand that the violence that was taking place in Jammu and Kashmir could not be described as ‘terrorism’. He continued to claim that the bloodshed in the state was nothing but the people’s battle for freedom. It was this stand of General Musharraf that India just could not accept. And this was responsible for the failure of the Agra Summit.”

Indeed, my own opinion is that it was Shri Vajpayee’s uncompromising stand at Agra in respect of cross border terrorism that fetched him later his historical triumph, when in January 2004, after the SAARC conference General Musharraf made a joint statement with Shri Vajpayee at Islamabad taking a position on terrorism absolutely different from the one he took at Agra, and assuring Vajpayee that he would not permit Pakistan or any territory in Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.

A seeming failure to secure a breakthrough at Agra became converted into a remarkable success at Islamabad, thanks essentially to firmness.

Firmness evoked respect then while India’s irresolute attitude this time only invited insults.

Our Foreign Secretary called the recently concluded meeting “constructive” but her Pakistani counterpart ridiculed the meeting and said his country did not believe in “cosmetic engagement” and did not want India to “lecture” them by demanding that Pakistan should “do this or that”.

Last week, in a resolution at Indore on “National Security and Jammu and Kashmir“, the National Council of the BJP said:

“A ‘dialogue without terror’ was NDA policy; for the UPA , however, ‘dialogue and terror‘ can coexist. We hold that when terror stalks India, having no dialogue is a legitimate diplomatic option.”

In his statement to Parliament after the Foreign Secretary level talks, External Affairs Minister Shri S.M. Krishna described the meeting as “constructive and useful” but the only concrete outcome that seemed to emerge from the 500-words statement was the Foreign Secretaries “agreement to stay in touch”.

Indeed, let anyone interpret in plain language what this concluding paragraph of the Minister’s statement means:

“India’s engagement with Pakistan will be predicated, as it has been since the Mumbai terrorist attack, on the response of Pakistan to our core concerns on terrorism. However, we do not dilute our position, or our resolve to defeat terrorism as our Prime Minister has said, by talking to any country. Communication and engagement represent the best way forward.” (emphasis added)

Is dialogue linked with Pakistan’s abandoning its terrorism, or have the two been de-linked as was clearly said by our P.M. at Sharm-el-Sheikh ? In that statement, at least, there was clarity; in this latest one, there is nothing but contradictons and obfuscation.

As I have said earlier, Government of India’s U-turn on the issue of dialogue with Pakistan seems to be the upshot of Washington’s ‘nudge’.

The Obama administration has lately confirmed our observation officially. P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs said: “The Obama Administration have long encouraged the restoration of dialogue between the two countries. It is an important step for Pakistan and India, and we commend the political leadership in both countries.”

* * * *

On February 2, 2010, Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, gave a 46-page intelligence report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in which he has affirmed that Pakistan’s cooperation with U.S. anti-terrorist operations is limited to action against outfits Islamabad thinks are against Pakistan. Blair says :

“Islamabad has demonstrated determination and persistence in combating militants it perceives dangerous to Pakistan’s interests. However, it still judges it does not need to confront groups that do not threaten it directly, and maintains historical support to the Taliban.”

Dennis Blair adds:

“Islamabad’s conviction that militant groups are an important part of its strategic arsenal to counter India’s military and economic advantages will continue to limit Pakistan’s incentive to pursue an across-the-board effort against extremism.”

This report only makes it evident that if the international community is earnest about defeating terrorism, Pakistan must be forced not just to dismantle its terrorist infrastructure, but also renounce the use of terrorist outfits against India and formally ban these outfits, a step implicit in Gen. Musharraf’s 2004 public statement.

L.K. Advani
New Delhi

March 01, 2010

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