Natwar Singh with FM Khurshid Kasuri, Below: with General Musharraf
Dilemma of Pakistan and India
Anand Giridharadas and Salman Masood
October 5: Were the peace process between India and Pakistan a
play in two acts, two days of bilateral talks held here this week
would mark something like the intermission.
years of diplomacy appear to have staved off the nightmare scenario
of nuclear war in South Asia. But for the show to go on, diplomats
and analysts say, the process must now shift from preventive measures
to active, constructive initiatives, notably on the longstanding
dispute over the control and sovereignty of Kashmir.
To reach this goal, analysts said, the two sides must graduate
from merely avoiding a nuclear nightmare to fostering a new kind
of relationship, one through which a tense frontier becomes a
soft border that allows for the "free movement of ideas,
people, goods and services," as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
of India has said.
High-level talks in Islamabad on Monday and Tuesday added to a
steady trickle of confidence-building measures the two sides have
achieved. To enhance contacts between two governments that remain
wary of each other, Foreign Minister Natwar Singh of India and
his Pakistani counterpart, Khurshid Kasuri, on Tuesday revived
a joint commission that last met in 1989, when a burgeoning insurgency
in Kashmir chilled ties.
A day earlier, the two governments formally signed a deal to notify
each other before testing ballistic missiles, a symbolic step
given that the deal has been disclosed on a number of previous
occasions and that both countries already notify each other informally.
The logic of the small steps this week, officials said, was to
weave together the two bureaucracies by moving them into the minutiae
of shared administration: writing memos, holding meetings, constituting
This would serve to deepen working bilateral ties by taking them
beyond the special relationship forged by Singh and President
Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, analysts said.
"Personal chemistry can take you only so far," a top
Indian government official involved in the negotiations with Pakistan
said, requesting anonymity as is customary in the case of diplomatic
negotiations. "Public opinion is fickle. "It's important
to have steady, clerical work going on in the background so you
have a certain sustainability to the process," the Indian
India and Pakistan are stuck in a fraternal feud of nuclear proportions,
having fought three wars and reached the brink of a fourth in
2001. But since 2003, a cease-fire has held and peace talks involving
senior leaders are increasingly frequent.
So are the smaller steps both sides are taking. Air traffic between
the two countries has expanded, and a bus service now reunites
Kashmiri families split by the Indo-Pakistani border. Indian produce
makes its way across the border and into Pakistani kitchens. The
two neighbors have even played cricket.
"The easy parts have been done," said Brahma Chellaney,
a scholar in New Delhi. The progress on feel-good initiatives
is now pressuring diplomats to move into what might be termed
Act Two: a durable accommodation on Kashmir.
Pakistan is wary of continuing to ease relations without getting
to the Kashmir question, which it sees as the heart of the matter.
Friday Special, an Urdu-language Pakistani newspaper
recently banned for spreading "hate," wrote earlier
this year that India was lulling Pakistan into a trap, according
to a translation by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies
in New Delhi.
"India wants Pakistan to mentally accept this fact that Kashmir
is an integral part of India," the paper wrote. "This
has forced Pakistan to change its foreign policy towards India.
Musharraf's advisers are urging him to re-start the jihad policy.
In the days to come, India-Pak friendship will be in the reverse
"Essentially, what we're now looking at is thinking about
a final solution in Kashmir," said Prem Shankar Jha, a columnist
in New Delhi who is renowned for his contacts with India's foreign-policy
makers. "This is one of those things that can't be piecemeal."
Even now, such a solution remains a far-off prospect in the Muslim-majority
territory of Kashmir.
Yet on both sides, old inflexibilities are softening. Musharraf
has gradually rescinded the country's demand for a plebiscite
in the region and has accepted publicly that India will never
hand over territory.
For Singh's part, he has said that India's military presence in
Kashmir had been overly aggressive, and he has promised troop
withdrawals linked to a reduction in violence there. Haltingly,
the contours of a solution are being defined.
"There is not yet an identity of views between India and
Pakistan on a solution, but some things are getting clearer,"
The Hindustan Times, an Indian daily, said in a recent
editorial. "It is simply not feasible to think of redrawing
boundaries and making territorial exchanges. Instead," the
paper said, "both sides need to get down to the task of transforming
existing borders and making them more-or-less meaningless."
Najmuddin Shaikh, former head of Pakistan's diplomatic corps,
recently wrote in Dawn, Pakistan's leading daily: "It
would be safe to assume that both sides will also agree that progress
needed to be made towards creating a situation where boundaries
or borders would become irrelevant.
"There may not be agreement, given Pakistani anxiety for
a quick solution, that creating such an ambience will take time,"
he wrote. "But our desire notwithstanding, it would appear
that the logic of the ground situation would dictate that Pakistan
accept the need 'to make haste slowly."'
The very success of confidence-building measures has brought India-Pakistan
relations down to their essence, the core chicken-and-egg dilemma
that will not go away.
Singh says he cannot concede on Kashmir without showing his public
a drop in violence. Since 1989, the insurgency has killed at least
Musharraf, under pressure from Islamist critics of his participation
in the US-led fight against terror, says his hands are tied,
too. - Courtesy IHT