As one more round of talks ended between India and Pakistan led by ministers S.M. Krishna and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, arm chair intellectuals, analysts and policy makers called them a failure and compared the talks to the famous Agra failure of Vajpayee – Musharaf talks.
The politicians of both countries seem to be taking their populace for a ride. The only favorite issue that come as a stumbling block is the issue of terrorism or Kashmir. It has become a fashion to announce that talks have failed, but will continue. These are the countries which are ranked as 134 and 141 in the UN Human Development Index. They nevertheless buy the largest amount of arms in the region. A full fledged war has not been fought by them for the past 38 years, yet the defense budgets keep swelling at the cost of the hungry bellies of the impoverished masses.
On the Pakistani side, there is great concern over India’s role in aiding terrorism in Balochistan, Punjab and Fata. Though India has been refuting all such accusations, the Pakistani media and its politicians have not really blown it the way India has blown over Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism on Indian soil.
David Coleman Headley, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative who is accused of conducting reccé for the Mumbai attacks, is in a Chicago jail and was recently interrogated by a team of Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA). Immediately Mr. Shiv Shankar Menon, the National Security Adviser of India said the interrogation of the key accused in Mumbai blast case David Coleman Headley brought to the fore the linkages between the official establishment and intelligence agencies with terror groups.
“For us, most recently what we learnt from Headley, it is really the links between official establishment and intelligence agencies, (it) is the nexus which (is) making it much harder to deal with,” he said.
He said the information gathered suggests that this nexus will not go away but get stronger in the future.
“Unfortunately, what we know and what we see suggests that these links or nexus (between terror outfits and official establishment) would not be broken soon. If anything, it is getting stronger,” he said.
However, Pakistan has dismissed Menon’s accusations as ‘baseless’.
The official stand was that Menon’s accusations were yet another manifestation of the Indian establishment’s propagandistic stance towards Pakistan. In a statement, Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit said Menon’s comments were “entirely inconsistent with the understanding reached between the leadership of the two countries” during a meeting on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Bhutan. That understanding was “terrorism was a common threat which needed to be addressed in a co-operative manner”.
Kashmir is another issue which does not allow the leaders of these two neighboring States to move forward. Kashmir provides enough space and scope for the leaders of these two countries to produce hate monsters and keep the imagination of their respective countries occupied as to what would happen next. As long as this issue remains unresolved there cannot be progress or a meaningful dialogue between neighbors. India and Pakistan want to solve the Kashmir issue to the advantage of each State. To both, it is of prime importance as the issue of “national security” is involved here, that leaves the Kashmiris unimportant and high and dry.
After the latest round of talks, the Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said. Hurriyat’s point of view is that unless and until both countries — India and Pakistan — come close to each other, the prospects of Kashmir issue being resolved are less.
“…the sad part is that we are still caught in jugglery of words and political jargons and there does not seem to be any sincerity on resolving the issue. We maintain that the core issue between the two countries is Kashmir. Yes, there are other issues which are also important but we have maintained that an India – Pakistan dialogue can only be in the right direction if we see some changes on the ground…”
Umar Farooq also advocated that policy makers in New Delhi should listen to its own Army Chief General V K Singh, who has said that Kashmir was a political issue and needed to be resolved politically.
Umar Farooq also said, Hurriyat was very disappointed that no headway has been made though some contact is there (between the two countries). At least in the future, for talks to be successful, the leaders of both the countries should try to accommodate Kashmiri leaders from both sides of the divide to have a meaningful people oriented dialogue and not dictate terms to the Kashmiris.
For people’s need and democracy
In the interest of the people of both the countries more confidence building measures and small gestures at the ground level that can facilitate future peace talks in a friendly manner can be taken up. Among them, India can
- Reduce the troops in Kashmir and instill confidence among the civilians
- Order inquiries into disappearance cases
- Allow Pakistan to open a consulate in Mumbai which has been a long standing request of Pakistan
- Grant more visas to human rights activists, lawyers, journalists to visit India and exchange views with their Indian counterparts
- Resume sports contacts
Pakistan on the other hand can
- Allow screening of Bollywood movies
- Reopen the Indian Consulate in Karachi
- Facilitate the visit of Indian pilgrims to Pakistan
- Allow transit trade between India and Afghanistan
- Promise to control terrorism and close down all the terrorist training camps
On the other hand both the countries could agree to
- Share information on terrorism
- Agree for mutual assistance in investigation and prosecution on alleged terror activities across borders
- Promote free trade in the entire zone
- Move towards establishing a common South Asian currency
- Agree to mutually review the progress periodically
Though Krishna and Qureshi failed their respective people in the interest of their country, there is hope that these two countries would work together for the betterment of humanity and not enter into mud slinging as each round of talks is conducted utilising public money and there seems to be no accountability towards it. If both the sides are protecting their so called ‘national interests’, what is national interest? If it does not serve the interest of the common man across both the sides of the border.
Dr. Paul Newman
The writer could be contacted – <email@example.com>