Categorized | South Asian Politics

Dialogue Must Start between India and Pakistan

Posted on 31 August 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 There is a feeling in many political circles in Pakistan and India that these two countries should have normal relations as neighboring states. In reality, they have problematic relations more often. Currently, there are serious problems in their relations and there are little prospects of normalization of their relations.

 The present phase of their troubled relations began in August 2014, two months after Narendra Modi assumed the office of Prime Minister. India objected to Pakistan’s High Commissioner (ambassador)’s meeting with the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders and postponed the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of two countries. Since then the efforts to revive the bilateral dialogue have not succeeded for one reason or another.

 The interesting aspect of the difficult relations between India and Pakistan is that the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan talk to each other on phone from time to time and Narrender Modi made a sudden and personal visit to Nawaz Sharif’s Lahore residence on December 25, 2015. It seems that they have a normal personal relations but this normalcy does not reflect in the relationship between the two states.

 The latest controversies in the relations between Pakistan and India started with the Prime Minister Modi’s Independence Day speech in which he talked about his concerns about the political situation in Gilgit-Balltistan, Azad Kashmir and Balochistan. He raised the issue of human right violations in Balochistan. Pakistan took a strong exception to the negative mention of Balochistan in his speech. Pakistan also rejected Modi[s claim that there were political troubles in Gilgit-Balitistan and Azad Kashmir.

 The government of Pakistan responded to Modi’s reference to Balochistan in two ways. Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman rejected Modi’s remarks and expressed strong Pakistani disapproval of what he said in the Independence Day speech. However, Pakistan sent a letter to India asking for resumption of the dialogue on Kashmir and other issues at the level of Foreign Secretaries. Prime Minister made one statement on Modi’s comments but avoided criticizing him directly.

 India’s response to Pakistani letter was not surprising. It said that it could hold talks only on cross-border terrorism. It refused to accept Pakistan’s statement that suggested talks on all contentious issues—Kashmir and other issues. India’s response was in line with its policy since 2013, more so after Modi assumed power in India towards the end of May 2014. It wants a single issue agenda: terrorism and how can Pakistan make sure that there is no terrorist entering from Pakistan into Kashmir and India. It also demands that Pakistan should restrain the political activities of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar.

 India wants Pakistan to satisfy India on the terrorism issue and that it must fulfill its demands in this respect before dialogue can take place on any issue. On Kashmir, it argues that it is integral part of India and the only discussion on this subject can pertain to that part of Kashmir which is under Pakistani control.

 India’s formula for the talks violates the basic principles of diplomacy. The basic principle of the dialogue diplomacy is that the agenda is prepared jointly and talks start on a mutually agreed agenda. If one party wants to impose its agenda, it is viewed as an indirect refusal to hold talks.

 The trouble in Pakistan-India relations manifested in two SAARC meetings held recently in Islamabad. The meeting of SAARC Home/Interior Ministers was held on August 3-4, 2016 and India’s Interior Minister, Rajnath Singh, participated in it. There was no bilateral meeting between India and Pakistan. Though the SAARC Charter does not allow the raising of bilateral issues on its forum, Rajnath Singh accused Pakistan of terrorism and related issues. Pakistan’s Interior Minister responded to his charges, Rajnath Singh left the meeting and returned to Delhi before the end of the meeting.

 Second SAARC meeting in Islamabad was that of Finance Ministers. and Finance Secretaries on August 25-26, 2016. India’ Finance Minister and Finance Secretary did not come to Islamabad. Instead, India’s Secretary for Economic Affairs represented India. The SAARC summit conference is scheduled for early November. It is not clear up to now if Prime Minister Modi will come to Islamabad. It is possible that some senior minister would represent India or India may seek the meeting’s postponement. Bangladesh would support this because Bangladesh’s Prime Minister is not in favor of coming to Islamabad.

 The decision in India to mention Balochistan in Prime Minister Modi’s speech on August 15 was made after a discussion at the highest policy making level. The opinion was divided. The hard liners succeeded because they wanted India to take such a position in retaliation to Pakistan’s support to the current protest movement in Indian-administered Kashmir. As Pakistan is now mobilizing international support against India’s repressive policies in Kashmir, India decided to talk about Balochistan to divert Pakistan’s attention from Kashmir and put Pakistan on the defense.

 Despite India’s efforts to cover up the use of brute force against the ordinary Kashmiris by describing the Kashmiri struggle as a terrorist activity and blaming Pakistan for sending people across the Line of Control in support of this struggle, India has failed in its bid. The Indian atrocities in Kashmir have come to the notice of the international community. This issue will be raised in the forthcoming General Assembly session in the third week of September. Meanwhile, the relations between Pakistan and India will continue to stay troubled.

 It is in the overall interest of region that peace is restored in Kashmir and a dialogue starts between Kashmiris and India as well as between Pakistan and India.

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