Category — India
By Josy Joseph in The Times of India
New Delhi: Kashmiri terrorists and refugees from Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have both received a pay hike. According to latest inputs from various intelligence agencies, Pakistani authorities are now offering terrorists coming to fight in J&K a monthly salary in the range of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. This is a huge jump from the average pay of Rs 5,000 they were getting earlier.
The reason for this benevolence is obvious. There has been a drastic drop in violence levels in J&K and militancy needs a revival if the separatist agenda has to continue to grab global attention. The number of terrorists in J&K is now hovering around 700, an all-time low since militancy erupted in the state in the late 1980s.
The desperation among terror groups is also visible in the return of Furqan, one of the senior most Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives who had been the group’s launch commander based in PoK for some years now. He infiltrated into J&K in April-end with a group but the Army was able to intercept them. Furqan is believed to have successfully evaded the Army and entered the state. His return, after more than four years, is being seen as a sign of LeT’s desperation to carry out a few sensational attacks.
It is not just Kashmiri militants who have got pay hikes. Those staying back in refugee camps of PoK too have been given increased financial benefits. From Rs 1,800 per month, their allowance has gone up to Rs 2,400 a month early this year, sources said.
Thousands of Kashmiri youth moved across the border to PoK in the past two decades for the explicit purpose of becoming trained militants. Many now want to return.
Pak authorities said to be offering Rs 8,000-10,000 a month to terrorists to fight in J&K, up from Rs 5,000
Only 700-odd terrorists in the state now, the lowest since militancy began in the state in the 1980s. The raise is an attempt to get more recruits
Those who crossed over and stayed back in PoK refugee camps getting Rs 2,400/mth against earlier Rs 1,800 Dole hiked to dissuade refugees from leaving PoK camps?
New Delhi: Pakistan is opening the purse strings to fuel militancy in Kashmir. The monthly salary of Valleybound ‘freedom fighters’ has been hiked to Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 from Rs 5,000. What’s more, thousands of Kashmiri youth who crossed over to PoK to train but have stayed back in refugee maintenance camps run by the Pakistan government will now get a dole of Rs 2,400 per month against Rs 1,800 hitherto.
There are no clear numbers, but some estimates say as many as 30,000 could be in PoK, holding state subject facility cards which grants them certain rights. Some have married local girls, and many Kashmiri youth have started small businesses.
While inflation is an obvious reason for the hike in monthly allowance for the refugees, the desire of many of them to return to India may have also been a reason for increasing the allowance, officials speculate.
In 2007, when Indian government opened up a liberal surrender policy for Kashmir, almost 150 of them came back. After a year, the policy was tightened, but sources now say that they are looking at revising it. An exodus of these refugees from PoK to J&K would hit Pakistan’s image, say officials. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5938412.cms?prtpage=1
May 17, 2010 No Comments
The writer is a graduate of Boston University.
Pakistan-India relations since independence have revolved around mutual distrust, uncertainty, disappointments, tensions and fear of conflict.
We should seriously think as to why it`s so, especially when both countries gained independence from a single colonial power through a political process, negotiated between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. While we often hear people from both sides say, had the two countries been one, we would have been a force to reckon with, both in might and economy, I wonder why India and Pakistan can`t draw strength from each other as friendly and stable neighbours, sharing a common past, heritage and civilisation.
Bilateral disputes between them remain unresolved, their cooperation bounded by severe limitations. India thinks Pakistan is an irritant impeding India`s emergence as a key player in the world economy and Pakistan feels that India has been trying to destabilise Pakistan since partition.
Unlike the past when Kashmir was the sole issue with maximum emotive appeal, today we have mutually impinging interests, of an unusually urgent kind, such as the issue of India blocking the waters of the western rivers, against the spirit of the Indus Water Treaty. If we don`t attend to the crisis, it will come and haunt us a few decades down the road when the Himalayan glaciers recede because of global warming.
Despite domestic sensitivities, Pakistan and India should realise that peace between them is imperative. They can no longer afford an armed conflict because it can easily escalate into a nuclear conflagration. The use of force for the settlement of bilateral disputes must be ruled out by both countries. The real challenge lies in building up trust and confidence, establishing a strategic restraint regime, developing mutually beneficial cooperation and making meaningful progress towards the resolution of all outstanding disputes for a genuine and lasting peace. Force and propaganda should no longer be considered viable for securing the objectives of foreign policy. Instead what should be considered feasible is a `tactical adjustment` aimed at clarifying intentions and promoting goodwill.
The meeting between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in March 2010 served as an icebreaker in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. The subsequent revival of talks led to genuine optimism for resuming the composite dialogue and finding breakthroughs on all issues. There is a growing consensus among parties, individuals and independent experts that the potential for possible headway has increased significantly. They feel that achieving a breakthrough is not as important as preventing a breakdown!
Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani had a cordial meeting in Sharm-el-Sheikh, they exchanged courtesies in Washington and the recent bilateral meeting in Bhutan has paved the way forward for peaceful resolutions. Singh, often seen as a dove, carrying the emblem of peace, has already de-linked peace talks from progress on terrorism, hence talks are not being held hostage to Pakistan combating perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.
The meetings have set the stage to seek deeper entrenchment in a sustained peace process, to try and agree upon an agenda, procedure and comfortable venue for talks. We must recognise that the details stage of negotiation is invariably more difficult and time consuming than the formula stage and will require the participation of experts. What is needed is precision, confidentiality and objective consideration of national interest. The momentum of negotiations can falter for a number of reasons, even if the government is committed to progress. Therefore it`s not a bad idea to have both symbolic and artificial deadlines.
Initiatives like `Aman ki asha` and subsequent people-to-people interactions may revitalise the peace process and have made a strong case for hope. A healthy exchange of ideas and opinions through a culture of debate and dialogue can make both sides adaptable and responsive and will give both countries leeway to bargain for mutual concessions. Cultural, religious and ideological tolerance will help explore and expand channels of bilateral negotiation.
For most of their history, India and Pakistan were locked into public postures that made negotiations impossible without jeopardising the domestic position of their leaders. There was profound mistrust of each other`s intentions and both countries employed threats as a tool. Today there are solid grounds for optimism about the future because peace seems obtainable through a cooperative pursuit of common interests.
Peace between India and Pakistan would mean that soldiers who have borne the greatest brunt will be surrendering postures in defence of which they have lost brothers; settlers will be relinquishing control over land in which they have sunk roots; exporters might lose important markets and workers may lose their source of income. When a settlement of great political sensitivity is eventually reached, it will still have to be packaged to obscure and minimise the most sensitive concessions. There should be no vagueness and no inconsistencies and the deal should be defensible at home.
The media on both sides can play an instrumental role in facilitating talks and driving negotiations forward by providing reassurances to each country that what is being said is heartfelt and both parties are genuinely interested in negotiating a peace-deal. The media can assist in the construction of an agreement by helping people understand the depth of a conflict that has obstructed relations for more than 62 years.
Our ultimate goal should be to ensure a secure and prosperous future for our people by addressing issues that are common to all South Asian neighbours such as poverty, healthcare, food security, water and energy shortages, terrorism and environmental problems. We need to pool resources, share knowledge and work towards a common strategy to earnestly address and resolve these critical concerns. What we need is visionary leadership, unflinching commitment and firmness of intent. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=238937
May 14, 2010 No Comments
Dialogue matters: edit in The Daily times, May 13
The recent SAARC Summit in Thimphu, Bhutan, promised many things aimed at promoting regional harmony and cooperation but the most promising development was a breaking of the ice between India and Pakistan on the sidelines. In continuation of that effort –as agreed to at the summit — the foreign ministers of both countries, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and S M Krishna, will be meeting for extended talks on July 15 this year in Islamabad to discuss the various issues that have remained contentious so far.
However, in the wake of the Mumbai attack’s subsequent conclusion — Kasab’s conviction — it is the issue of terrorism that will obtain top billing. Both countries, although extremely weary of this scourge, have nevertheless, time and again, locked horns on it. The fact that the interior ministers of both countries, P Chidambaram and Rehman Malik, will be meeting in Islamabad on June 26th to set the tone for the impending dialogue speaks volumes for the fact that terrorism will be the dominant topic. It is wise of Mr Qureshi to keep repeating that any attempts by non-state actors to disrupt the peace process should not achieve their objective. It is also very refreshing to note that our foreign minister is not entertaining any delusions about the “uphill task” that such a dialogue is, especially when it is occurring between two historically, and mutually, suspicious neighbours. He has cautioned the public not to expect a resolution to Kashmir and other such prickly issues overnight, and rightly so.
With matters on the table such as Sir Creek, Siachen, Kashmir and alleged violations of the Indus Water Treaty, and the pertaining issue of terrorism to boot, this is going to be a hefty agenda. However, this is a welcome about turn from the immutable deadlock voiced by India as irreversible till Pakistan ‘handles’ the matter of the Mumbai attackers.
We must realise that it is inconceivable that two nuclear-armed nations remain away from the dialogue front, as they cannot afford a war-like stance, not even in the worst-case scenario.
It is hoped that this move to bridge the trust deficit and overcome accusations will lead to mutually beneficial conclusions for both countries. Officially recognised as democracies, dialogue is the only way forward for both India and Pakistan as a means to usher in more civilised norms of conduct and normal relations. /www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\05\13\story_13-5-2010_pg3_1
Talks about talks: edit in The Frontier Post, May 13
So there we are, at long last. Islamabad’s desperately-awaited telephonic conversation between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India has taken place. And the two have agreed to meet, yes, after 65 days on July 15 in Islamabad, giving enough grist to professional commentators making a living from churning out the most pleasing scenarios out of the most dismal and to cliché-savvy and pretentiously self-righteous chatterboxes having fallen in love of seeing their faces on the TV screens. And we would be the last to embitter their good taste with even a slight streak of pessimism, although there are some home truths that we believe are too imperatively relevant and must not be left unspoken. For the first thing, the upcoming talks are about talks, not about the resumption of a stalled dialogue. The two interlocutors are, as Indian external affairs minister S.M. Krishna put it, to work out the modalities for carrying forward the dialogue process to discuss outstanding issues in an atmosphere of mutual trust. So there is many a caveat, many a ruffle to be sorted out before the actual dialogue starts. If the popular talk in the Indian media, think tanks and commentariat is any guide, the Indian officialdom wants just to do away with the format of the stalled composite dialogue and intend to give a new configuration to the dialogue process. And from foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s press talk, it appears that Islamabad too is not any averse to the idea. He was cited looking forward to reconsidering the framework of the stalled composite dialogue for updating it to accommodate “other issues”. That gives the uneasy sense that the dialogue process is now set to mark a fresh beginning, may be a start from the scratch. If that be it, the little said of this new venture, the better. In that eventuality, the venture could get bogged down in mere footling and technicalities from the outset and so remain moribund incessantly, corroborating the suspicions of many a sceptic that India is just marking time as it presently has no heart in a real dialogue with Pakistan and is in the show only to appease the Americans on whose nudging has it entered talks as has Islamabad. Not that the stalled composite dialogue was any spectacular success. It was not. It did mark some remarkable accomplishments on the front of confidence-building measures. But four rounds if it passed away without a slight stab on any of the substantive issues. Indeed, the major casualty of that dialogue’s futility was the intended visit of India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan. To give meaning and significance to his visit, he wanted to come to Islamabad with a stitched-up final agreement on the Siachen withdrawal by the two sides and sign it up here. But his defence establishment was the stumbling block. Neither the Indian army was agreeable to vacate some high peaks, nor was the Indian air force willing to abandon its facilities on the glacier. He succumbed to their adamancy and his intended visit consequently slipped into the cold storage where stays freezing now for years. Ironically, as the peace dialogue was going through the rounds, Manmohan Singh even acceded to the Indian army’s demand of raising a South West Command for a surprise Cold Start offensive against Pakistan along the border between the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan. Considered by every reckoning, the issue of peace essentially boils down to the unswerving political will of a leadership and its unbending resolve to stand by its commitment. That essential irrefutably has been shown by the Pakistani side in these past years and the Indian side has clearly shown it not so far. Indeed, by agreeing to a radical Kashmir settlement dispensation on the diplomatic back-channel, Pervez Musharraf had put his neck on a chopping block that only providence could have saved, the people of Pakistan and the Kashmiris would have surely spared not. Yet Manmohan Singh only dithered and wobbled, and could muster not the guts to own it up publicly and accept it, even though the knowledgeable people assert it reflected 90 per cent of India’s traditional stance on the Kashmir dispute. Arguably, if a political leadership has the will, the commitment and the determination, it makes no difference what format or a framework a peace dialogue wears on. Peace flows in and in spates in any event. And the days ahead will show if the Indian leadership is real, if its intents are real, and if it is serious and means business. Its acts will count, not its vows. http://www.thefrontierpost.com/News.aspx?ncat=ed&nid=94
Pakistan-India talks: edit in The News, May 13
The doves can again be seen in the skies after a long period during which the hawks had prevented them from fluttering a feather. The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, after a detailed talk over the telephone, have agreed to meet in Islamabad in the middle of July. This is indeed a breakthrough that could help resume the peace process interrupted by the 2008 acts of terrorism that left 166 people dead in Mumbai. It is possible that recent peace initiatives, including the `Aman ki Asha` effort, helped create some of the goodwill that encouraged moves seen at the official level. Certainly the meetings that brought people together, including those from the media, did no harm at all.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi has stated that terrorism will figure as a key issue in the talks. We know this is essential. If the matter is not tackled we run the risk of seeing another episode, such as that in 2008, throwing the dialogue effort into a nosedive. To avoid this, the question of militancy needs to be dealt with. The matter of Kashmir stands at the centre of this. It may not be possible to immediately open up discussion on the territorial dispute that has for over six decades held up good relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. But as high-level talks resume, both countries would do well to keep in mind that moving towards a resolution is essential to lasting peace. Necessary confidence-building measures may be adopted ahead of broaching the Kashmir issue, but in the final analysis it is this region which acts to generate militancy. We can hope for a lasting era of security and stability only when a fair settlement has been reached. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=238934
A fresh start: Dawn Editorial, 13 May, 2010
Are Pakistan and India inching towards a new phase in relations? The meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on July 15 will go some way to providing the answer, but improving relations seems to be on the minds of both camps for the first time since the Mumbai attacks.
Never mind that the reasons for the change of heart may lie in faraway Washington or neighbouring Afghanistan; India and Pakistan must seize whatever opportunities that come their way to put their volatile relationship on firmer footing. While the focus will be on the talks between the foreign ministers, there are at least two opportunities before then that could set the stage for a real breakthrough in July. Meetings between the interior ministers and foreign secretaries of both sides will occur before then, and perhaps it is at those meetings that goodwill can be created.
Creating that elusive goodwill between the two countries is a matter of both sides offering something new. India is still very concerned about the relative lack of action here in Pakistan against those linked to the Mumbai attacks. On this count, it could be helpful to inject new life in the anti-terrorism trial that is moving desultorily, marred by countless adjournments. Yes, the wheels of justice move slowly in the subcontinent, but there is a sense that concluding the trial of the Mumbai suspects is not as much a matter of concern as it should be. A more vigorous trial could go some way to ease Indian suspicions.
On its part, India needs to make some gesture which demonstrates it genuinely wants a result-oriented dialogue process, and not just endless talks about talks that produce photo-ops and little else. Perhaps India should think about concluding a deal on Siachen and Sir Creek, two issues where the bureaucrats have come close to sealing a final settlement. There are other gestures that could be made too. The point is that between now and July 15 there are opportunities to ensure that a genuine breakthrough occurs when the foreign ministers meet — and one hopes that no untoward incident mars the prospect. http://news.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/19-a-fresh-start-350-hh-04
May 13, 2010 No Comments
The writer is a freelance columnist.
Published: May 6, 2010 By and large, the SAARC Summits were nothing more than talk shops where the attitude of successive Indian governments impeded the desire for progress in the region – a proposition that can only be achieved if there was peace between India and Pakistan. However, this time more than half of the members present at the 16th SAARC Summit, hosted by Bhutan, were quite optimistic about the prospects of peace between the two nuclear power neighbours.
Nevertheless, after 62 years of animosity both India and Pakistan should have learnt that the negotiating table was the best option, whereas in the present times war would mean total destruction of the two neighbouring states. Indeed, successive democratic governments in Pakistan have tried to move forward with India on the critical issue of Jammu and Kashmir but failed because of a particular group in India that exerts immense pressure on its administration forcing it to back pedal on the issue every time the talks begin with Pakistan. For example, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tried his best to talk to Sardar Swaran Singh, and then Benazir Bhutto with Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly, Mian Nawaz Sharif also made an attempt to improve relations with New Delhi when he invited Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore.
Unfortunately, all the efforts of the Pakistani democratic leaders have failed to bear fruit just because the Indians did not have the political will, and their weak governments could not afford to jeopardise their political future by striking even a fair deal with the Pakistani government. Thus, it was no surprise when Manmohan Singh came under severe criticism, after he met with PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, that he was left with no choice but to renege on the promises he had made with Pakistan’s PM at the NAM Summit.
Surprisingly, this time the Indians who had been shying away from talking with Pakistan on various flimsy grounds succumbed to the pressure exerted by the US administration and the European Union. Needless to say that the Indians have substantial economic interests with the US and EU, and therefore were unable to withstand the leverage that exists with them. While it will be prudent to adopt a policy of wait and see with the Indian government, keeping in view their past track record of lies and deception, yet it would be sagacious for the Pakistani government to take two steps forward for every step taken by the Indians in the right direction.
The Indian PM has, once again, agreed to start negotiating with Pakistan on all contentious issues, including the outstanding problem of Kashmir. Yet some Indians have tried to drag their feet by claiming that they were not ready to resume the composite dialogue between the two countries. The mere fact that Mr Singh has agreed to visit Pakistan on the invitation of the Pakistani PM has raised a glimmer of hope for those who believe in peace as being the only option for the two countries.
Moreover, it is expected that before Manmohan Singh visits Pakistan he will try to convince his people about the gains that both the neighbouring states can achieve by resuming the peace talks. There is still tremendous potential for trade between the two countries and the present visa regimen, which is coercive in nature, can also be relaxed that will help to establish the much needed trust lacking mainly due to India’s anti-Pakistan policies. At the same time, the Government of Pakistan can also relax certain conditions that will help to establish the mutual trust essential to resolve the issues that have dodged India and Pakistan for such a long time.
Nevertheless, to establish mutual trust leaders of both countries will have to make concrete efforts to educate their citizens, instead of fanning the fires of animosity. It would be much better if the Indian administration was able to rein in the extremists in their country. Delhi should remember that a vast majority of the Indians are still living without the basic amenities of life, and peace with Pakistan would mean that they could divert the resources to areas like provision of clean drinking water, sanitation, education and basic health. The same formula could be applied by the Pakistanis who could divert substantial amounts of money for the betterment of the poor who live below the poverty line. Only if the leadership in both the countries could realise the dividends that peace will provide to their citizens, it should be an incentive to move towards a goal that would lead to a peaceful settlement on all outstanding issues. It must also be remembered that peace between India and Pakistan will also provide immense economic opportunities to the other six member states of SAARC.
During the SAARC Summit, several heads of states have expressed their views on this issue and tried to nudge both India and Pakistan so that they should move faster on the road to peace. They were willing to play any role that was assigned to them for this purpose. This does not mean that peace was round the corner, but it sent a very loud and clear signal to both Singh and Gilani that the demand for peace was not only gaining ground in India and Pakistan, but it was also a demand by their regional neighbours that could help alleviate the sufferings of the poor. However, the question will remain that whether Gilani and Singh were listening attentively, the coming weeks and months will provide the leaders of SAARC with the answer. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Columns/06-May-2010/SAARC-cries-for-peace
May 6, 2010 No Comments
THE leaders of the South Asian countries have just gone through another pleasant but sterile Saarc summit meeting in the beautiful mountain kingdom of Bhutan.
Once again, the leaders called it a ‘landmark’ meeting, though there was nothing of note except that Bhutan was hosting the summit for the first time. The summit declaration was as ambitious as any, but if the past is any precedent, it will remain a mere expression of good intentions.
It is this dismal track record that has encouraged the perception that Saarc is a mere talking shop, unable to achieve meaningful headway in implementing its declarations. At the root of this malaise, lies the continuing hostility between Pakistan and India.
While many of its faults could be removed through the revision of its charter and the reordering of its priorities, unless member states demonstrate greater political will and eschew narrow national interests, Saarc will remain the weakest link in the chain of regional organisations that girdles the globe. This pervading atmosphere of mistrust was poignantly acknowledged by the host, Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, when he warned that “fractious and quarrelsome neighbours do not make a prosperous community”.
The summit’s declaration called upon the leaders to ensure that the organisation lived up “to the hopes and aspirations of one-fifth of humanity”. It also adopted the Thimphu statement on climate change, besides unveiling a poverty reduction fund. Leaders signed agreements on trade and environmental protection.
But as in the past, the smaller states were not too thrilled to observe India-Pakistan ties dominating the summit. The Maldives president demanded that the two countries ‘compartmentalise’ their animosities, so as not to impede regional cooperation.
Nevertheless, Thimphu’s idyllic setting did succeed in thawing the ice between the two countries, when it was announced at the end of the tête-à-tête between Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh that they had agreed to revive, without preconditions, the dialogue that had been kept suspended since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Both sides termed the meeting as “very positive”, with Foreign Minister Qureshi gushing that the meeting was “warm, cordial and engaging”. He also claimed that all issues, including Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek, were on the table. According to him, Gilani assured Singh that the perpetrators of Mumbai would be brought to justice. In view of the trust deficit between the countries, their foreign ministers were tasked with bridging the gap to “take the process forward”.
Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao was more circumspect. She told the media that the two leaders held good talks in a “free and frank manner”, but that Singh expressed concern over the slow progress of the Mumbai trials in Pakistan, adding somewhat ominously that Singh had been “very emphatic that the terror machine needs to be controlled, needs to be eliminated”.
The agreement to resume the dialogue process is a positive development. But the mere resumption of ‘talks to have talks’ is not an occasion to go overboard. After all, the two countries have been talking to each other for the past 60 years, formally and informally, within and outside established formats. Talks are a means to an end, not the end itself. So, the Thimphu announcement has to be treated with caution.
In any case, it should not be forgotten that since the foreign secretaries’ meeting in Delhi earlier this year, India had been signalling its readiness to resume dialogue, but outside the format mutually agreed upon between them as far back as June 1997. Pakistan’s stand, on the other hand, had been that the dialogue needed to be conducted within the established formal, structured format. What led Pakistan to abandon its stand?
After all, India has always been willing to talk; what has been lacking is the commitment to resolving differences. This was painfully evident in the failure of the talks between the Indus water commissioners, which was followed by Indian statements to the effect that Pakistan’s concerns on water were a “gimmick” and a propaganda device, lacking substance and reality.
Even during the Washington nuclear security summit last month, Singh chose to dwell on Pakistan’s transgressions and failures in his meeting with Obama, while Foreign Secretary Rao accused Pakistan of using terrorism as a policy tool, adding that India should not be expected to resume talks until Pakistan was able to “cease its encouragement of terrorist groups that were targeting India”.
What then explains this apparent volte-face, if Qureshi’s claims are to be taken at face value? For one, New Delhi has made no secret of its disappointment with what it perceives is a change in the Obama administration’s attitude to the region. Instead of piling pressure on Pakistan, Washington is now appreciating Islamabad’s efforts and seeking its cooperation, especially in the unfolding post-exit strategy in Afghanistan.
More importantly, since this envisages a planned US drawdown from Afghanistan, but not any diminution of its presence in the region, Pakistan’s role will continue to figure in all American calculations. This explains the anxious flurry of diplomatic overtures by India to Russia and Iran (even Saudi Arabia), to work in concert with them on Afghanistan, which is likely to remain an object of desire not only for Pakistan, but for others, as well.
No less important has been the impact of the Obama administration’s ‘counsel’ to India to resume the dialogue process with Pakistan. How else can Pakistan be persuaded to devote its resources and energies to the western front? Voices have also been raised in India itself, indicating that it cannot achieve global player status while remaining recalcitrant and prickly in its own region.
These developments call for the Pakistani leadership to respond to India’s gesture with maturity, because the resumption of talks does not necessarily represent a change in India’s strategic approach to Pakistan — it is only a tactical modification. Of course, this should not mean the weakening of our resolve to achieve a cooperative relationship with India, but to paraphrase Lenin, we must not confuse form with substance. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/saarc-and-dialogue-650
May 6, 2010 No Comments
The Nation, May 6
ISLAMABAD (Online) – Backdoor diplomacy between India and Pakistan has been restored and in this regard a 10-member delegation headed by former army chief General Jahangir Karamat left for India on Wednesday.
The delegation includes Sherry Rehman, Ahsan Iqbal, Jahangir Badr, Najamuddin, Humayun Khan, Shafqat Mehmood and Aziz Ahmed Khan.
According to a private TV channel, Track-II diplomacy between both the countries has been restored after the deadlock that ensued following Mumbai attacks. The governments of US and UK have played a key role in this regard, as per sources.
Sources further reported that the delegation was divided in three groups: one group, headed by the former army chief, would deal with Kashmir issue; the second was on the issue of trade; and the third group would deal with terrorism.
Diplomatic circles are giving much importance to these initiatives because the process of backdoor diplomacy had started in the second term of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and continued gradually but stopped after the incident of 26/11 it was stopped. The resumption of dialogue after such big hurdles is a good sign, the circles believe.
The Nation, May 6
FOREIGN Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi finally seemed to be making the right noises on Kashmir when he informed the National Assembly that Kashmir was the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy and Pakistan desired a peaceful solution to the dispute in keeping with UN Resolutions and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. If this means a reversal of the confused Musharraf policy on Kashmir and its attempt to delink from the UN Resolutions, then the present policy is to be welcomed. Presumably the government has once again understood that Pakistan’s principled position on Kashmir stems and acquires legitimacy from the UN Security Council Resolutions.
Unfortunately, there are some serious misgivings that also arise in the context of the present government’s policies in relation to Kashmir and India. To begin with, the Foreign Minister’s reference to the “changed ground realities” of Kashmir is the same ominous phrase so often used in the past by leaders determined to shift away from the principle of self-determination. Of course, nothing remains static anywhere so similarly the ground realities in Kashmir keep shifting but there is a constant that has not changed and that is what Pakistan should be highlighting but what the FM has failed to do and that is the fact that Kashmiris today are as adamant to reject Indian occupation as they have been since 1948. Generation after generation of Kashmiri youth continue to sacrifice their lives to rid themselves of India’s brutal occupation. So while the tactical ground realities are constantly in a state of flux, the strategic macro level reality of what the Kashmiris want for their future and continue to reject remains unaltered.
As for the FM’s reference to the composite dialogue being an Indian term of reference, with Pakistan seeking a comprehensive dialogue, the point is that having accepted this nomenclature Pakistan was able to conduct multi-tier dialogues on critical issues simultaneously, including the Kashmir and nuclear issues. Now the Indians clearly want to put all that aside, including whatever progress was made – and certainly there was some – and commence anew dialogue format where they will decide the agenda. Our FM, who spoke vociferously in defence of India’s PM and their innocence on the waters issue, now seems to be preparing to sell us this new Indian dialogue ploy. Clearly he is unaware of the fact that India has just made its intention public of purchasing 126 fighter planes to add to their already massive weapons arsenal to, as the Indian Air Chief put it, “bolster India’s war fighting capability.” So where is the peace that the Indian leadership “desires” according to the Pakistani FM? It is time we awoke to the reality of India’s aggressive designs towards Pakistan and the Kashmiris as reflected in their policies today. Equally important we must never forget that Kashmir remains the essential core issue between the two antagonist states.
The Dawn, May 6
SHAKESPEARE brushed aside semantics by asking, “What’s in a name?” But Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi attaches a lot more importance to the issue. He made it clear in the National Assembly on Tuesday that Pakistan had returned to its “historical” stand on Kashmir. He also said that the dialogue with India will not be referred to as a “composite dialogue” but will henceforth be a “comprehensive dialogue” as Pakistan had originally wanted it to be called. He, however, hastened to add that the eight points specified in the previous format would continue to be addressed as before. One should not worry about these changes in nomenclature as long as they do not indicate a turnaround in the positive thrust in Pakistan’s foreign policy as it has evolved over the years. The fact is that if there is to be peace in South Asia, India and Pakistan must learn to seek peaceful and durable solutions to their disputes. Kashmir — described as the core issue — needs to be addressed and in such a way that the people of the state are included in the peace process, whatever the mutually agreed format. It would be impossible to go back to the specific modalities stipulated in the UN resolutions of 1949 apart from the underlying principle that the wishes of the people should be kept in consideration. The settlement that is agreed upon must have the confidence of the National Assembly. But would it not be unrealistic to expect the two sides to sit at the negotiating table under the media limelight? This would inevitably force them to play to the gallery. That would scuttle the peace process even before it has been resumed.
There are many issues that need to be sorted out between India and Pakistan if the political climate in the region is to be made conducive for amicable talks. Thus Afghanistan, terrorism and the water issues that affect the two countries directly call for a regional understanding as they are so closely related. Islamabad and New Delhi should waste no time in initiating their dialogue so that confidence-building gets under way. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/kashmir-policy-650
The Business Recorder, May 6
EDITORIAL (May 06 2010): The next round of talks with India may not be in the framework of the Composite Dialogue, but all eight subjects, including Kashmir that formed its agenda, would be on the table. The assurance was given the other day by Foreign Minister Qureshi in his statement in the National Assembly, as doubts swirled about in the Capital that the Composite Dialogue forum has been sacrificed in barter for the much sought after Gilani-Manmohan Singh meeting in Bhutan.
Even if so – and that is quite likely given the minister’s claim that the phrase ‘Composite Dialogue’ had an Indian origin – the most critical subject on the agenda of the Composite Dialogue, Kashmir, would be discussed head-on with the Indians. Pakistan is returning to its “historical and principled” stand after “wavering” by the Musharraf regime for 7-8 years when ‘reliance was put on the back-channel diplomacy, without taking parliament into confidence’.
Whether Foreign Minister Qureshi’s stance, so vehemently taken on the floor of the National Assembly, was a disapproval of back-channel diplomacy or an explanation for abandoning the Composite Dialogue forum, one could guess and say it was both of it.
Back-channel diplomacy was General Musharraf’s hobbyhorse, and if former foreign minister Kasuri’s recent disclosures are any guide, quite a bit of “progress” had been made towards resolving the Kashmir dispute. Kasuri says 90 percent of the spadework had been completed and a “final Kashmir settlement was just a signature away, once India and Pakistan decided to pull the file from the rack”.
But where is that back-channel file? Is there a back-channel file at all “beyond Musharraf’s pronouncements of unreciprocated unilateral gestures of flexibility?” And, who will pull it off the rack? Former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad would like to know. Qureshi denies if there is such a file in the Foreign Office.
And, according to Shamshad Ahmad, “that is what always happens when shady deals are struck at non-institutional levels”. Not only General Musharraf’s back-channel diplomacy negatively impacted Pakistan’s known position on Kashmir, it also triggered debate for options other than Settlement of the Kashmir dispute under the UN resolutions.
So much for the back-channel diplomacy, which to say the least, was hardly an honest way of dealing with an issue of momentous importance to millions of Kashmiris and a billion of others in South Asia. Of course, a few CBMs were put in place but they too have gone with the wind as harsh ground realities catch up.
As for the Kashmir and other issues, with India everything seems to be back to square one, leaving Foreign Minister Qureshi with no option but “to recover from the damage done to Pakistan’s case then”. May be, given Pakistan’s present difficulties, there are ‘friendly pressures’ to adjust with India, and to concede its interference in Afghan affairs.
May be the Indian pliability, as exhibited in the Bhutanese capital, is driven by the same incentive and consideration. In that backdrop one may err on the side of believing that the bonhomie witnessed on the margins of the 16th Saarc summit was essentially a transitory thaw.
Having relegated Kashmir to the backburner of back-channel diplomacy, India, of late, is sparing no effort to turn Pakistan into a bone-dry desert, as we see helplessly from across the border. Here, too, Pakistan is becoming a victim of a kind of back-channel diplomacy by agreeing to successive rounds of meetings and talks, in defiance of the Treaty, which clearly defines as to what constitutes a dispute to be resolved by third-party arbitration.
The fact is that both the problem of Kashmir and the violation of Indus Waters Treaty by India have a strong international context; they bypass the United Nations. We need to look afresh into this aspect of our disputes with India and invoke international law at the world forums. No doubt, it would be a long haul task but this is the only right way to deal with India. www.brecorder.com/index.php?id=1053008&currPageNo=1&query=&search=&term=&supDate=
May 6, 2010 No Comments
MUZAFFARABAD, May 4: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir cabinet endorsed on Tuesday Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider’s action of filing a reference against non-functional chief justice Reaz Akhtar and urged President Raja Zulqarnain Khan to either fall in line or face action by the parliamentary party.
“The cabinet endorses and fully supports efforts of Raja Farooq for reforms in the superior judiciary and considers the filing of reference (against Justice Reaz) a timely and appropriate action under the constitution and law,” said a resolution adopted by the cabinet.
A meeting of the cabinet presided over by the prime minister criticised a reported suggestion by the AJK president during his meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari “for initiation of extra-constitutional measures in AJK such as dissolution of the government and elected institutions”.
“We demand and expect from the (AJK) president that he will fulfil his obligation to improve and protect institutions by following the constitution and law and to withdraw his earlier extra-constitutional measures,” the cabinet said.
The cabinet, however, praised President Zardari for “dismissing and discouraging” all proposals and suggestions calling for extra-constitutional actions in AJK. It expressed the hope that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani would soon implement recommendations of the Supreme Judicial Council calling for removal of Justice Reaz Akhtar. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/ajk-cabinet-warns-of-action-against-president-550
May 5, 2010 No Comments
One issue that stood out in Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir’s address to the 37th session of the Standing Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Bhutan was the need to adopt a regional approach towards tackling water issues. Environment and climate change will be the focus of the 16th SAARC Summit, which is going to adopt a declaration titled ‘Green and Happy South Asia’. Climate change worldwide and the malign effects of global warming will have a negative impact on our common heritage — the Himalayas — which are the reservoirs of our water in the form of glaciers. And that is how the subcontinent has, historically, remained one of the most fertile areas of the world. The water that flows down the mountains and is distributed through an extensive irrigation system is a source of livelihood and the very survival of millions comprising the agrarian communities of the region.
The issue of water distribution is the bone of contention between upper and lower riparian countries in the region. Voices of protest against India pilfering Pakistan’s share of water are growing louder. Besides Pakistan, India has had problems with Bangladesh on the waters of River Ganges that forms its delta in Bangladesh. These are issues dictated by nature, which is no respecter of political boundaries. Without a cross-border and region-wise cooperation, these issues cannot be settled to the satisfaction of all parties.
The same applies to all other issues, be it energy, food security, trade, people to people contacts, security, etc. The proximity and relative ease of transportation has the enormous potential to make trade among member countries a booming success, whose benefits will accrue at all levels of the regional economy. Unfortunately, this potential of cooperation among member states has not been tapped because of bilateral political problems, particularly between India and Pakistan. Since no bilateral issue can be discussed on the forum of SAARC, this hampers progress on key issues, affecting all other countries. This is not to say that progress has not been made since SAARC came into being, but the kind of cooperation necessary to make the dream of a prosperous and peaceful South Asia — originally envisaged in the body’s charter — a reality, is nowhere in the offing. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\27\story_27-4-2010_pg3_1
April 28, 2010 No Comments
By Khalid Hussain
ISLAMABAD: The ongoing water contentions between India and Pakistan in the context of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 (IWT) place before us four different yet inter-connected realities. One is the perception present in news coverage and analysis by the mass media in both the countries. The other exists between the two Indus Water Commissioners (IWCs) that jointly make up the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) charged with implementing the IWT in letter and spirit. Third there are the ever-dominant bilateral security concerns that now stand compounded with ongoing international involvement in our regional geo-politics. And
finally, the environmental and ecological reality that we all live with across South Asia connects us to the rest of the world fighting climate change.
Let us address these perceptions one by one for a holistic perspective on water contentions between India and Pakistan. The media version is flawed because of a limited capacity to understand the complex hydrological regimes of the Indus Rivers System that both countries manage independently in their respective territories following the IWT. The almost secretive working of the IWCs in both countries further compounds the situation. The media in Pakistan, while projecting unfounded allegations of water theft and the ‘water war’ India is waging, tends to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the IWT – an instrument that has ensured water peace between the neighbours even during war times.
To these allegations, senior Pakistani statesman and a water expert in his own right, Dr Mubashir Hasan responds: “If India has stolen our water, then tell me how have they done it? Where have they taken it?”
“New Delhi has no ‘storage and diversion canals network’ to withhold Pakistan’s share of water,” explained India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Sarat Sabharwal in his recent speech at the Karachi Council for Foreign Affairs.
Basically, there is a general tendency to oversimplify the IWT, especially in Pakistan. Most coverage simply goes with the notion that India has no rights over the Western Rivers (Chenab, Jhelum and the Indus). The reality is not that simple. Indian has water rights for domestic uses including drinking, washing, bathing and sanitation. The non-consumptive uses allowed to India cover uses including navigation, flood control and fishing.
India also has the right to draw water from the Western Rivers to irrigate a maximum permissible irrigated crop area of 1.34 million acres. It can also use water from these rivers for run-of-the river hydroelectric projects. Hydroelectric projects incorporated in storage works are also allowed albeit to the tune of only 3.6 million acre feet (MAF). Of this storage, 0.4 MAF is allowed on the Indus, 1.5 MAF on the Jhelum and 1.7 MAF on the Chenab.
This is in addition to the storage that existed on these rivers before the Treaty came into force. However, storage is strictly regulated for India, with a total of only 1.25 MAF allowed as general storage. The remaining quantity is split between 1.6 MAF for generating hydroelectricity and 0.75 MAF for flood control.
The media is key to ensure a fair coverage of the issues involved. The current water scarcity that is feeding emotions across the borders of the IWT is not permanent. It is making water ‘hot’ at the moment but as soon as supplies are replenished in the river system, the issue will move to the backburner as always.
This is why sustained open communication is so essential, as underscored at ‘Talking Peace’, the editors’ and anchors’ conference organised in Karachi recently by Aman ki Aasha, a joint initiative for peace by the Jang Group and Geo TV in Pakistan and the Times of India group in India. Editors agreed on the need for more cross-border information and on the need to focus on facts rather than emotions when writing about each other’s countries.
Concerted joint efforts are essential to cover the range of issues involved in an objective and fair manner on both sides. This is imperative to counter tensions between the two countries. This brings us to the latest unresolved contention between the two Indus Water Commissioners (IWCs) that jointly make up the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) charged with implementing the IWT in letter and spirit.
As reported earlier (Part I of this series), Pakistan has already notified India of its intention to seek arbitration on the Kishanganga Hydroelectric project. The News has learnt that Pakistan will hire the services of its arbitrator in the Baglihar Dam case, Prof. James Crawford, Head of the Law, Cambridge University, once again. The News has learnt that a senior water expert from Pakistan paid a quiet visit to England in the last week of March this year to confirm his acceptance.(to be continued.) http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=28538
April 28, 2010 1 Comment
By Babar Dogar in The News, Apr 28
LAHORE: Former foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has disclosed that the agreement on Kashmir, worked out through back-channel diplomacy, was an interim one, and was subject to review after 15 years.
Talking to The News here on Tuesday in the backdrop of ‘Aman Ki Asha’ – a joint venture of the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India, Khursheed Kasuri claimed the Pakistani and Indian sides at that time had the realisation that in view of the history of Jammu and Kashmir dispute, no solution that they could think of would be an ideal one. He termed that agreement on Kashmir the best possible under the circumstances.
“We were aware of the fact that there would be an overwhelming support for this agreement; but we also realised that there would be criticism from some sections in Kashmir, Pakistan and India,” he said, adding that it was impossible to offer a solution which could be acceptable to everyone.
Kasuri said they decided that the arrangement they had arrived at would need a review after 15 years of its announcement. During this period, its implementation would be monitored by all parties concerned and, in the light of the experience, this arrangement could further be improved.
He said the water issue was not discussed as a crucial matter at that time; the agreement on Kashmir was being negotiated. However, the management of water was one of the issues included in the joint mechanism. He claimed that the joint mechanism was apart from the Indus Basin Treaty, which was the basis of water sharing arrangement between the two countries.
Responding to allegations from religio-political parties, which termed the proposed agreement an attempt to sell out Kashmir, Kasuri said the basis of the agreement was the assumption that Pakistan and India had tried everything in their power to enforce their version of a Kashmir settlement.
“They have fought five wars, including two minor ones in the Rann of Katch and Kargil. There have been various mobilisations of troops, including the largest one since First World War (Operation Parakram), in which one million soldiers remained eyeball-to-eyeball for almost a year,” Kasuri claimed. He said the nuclear parity had been established in South Asia after the nuclear tests India and Pakistan conducted, making war between the two countries nearly impossible.
Reacting to the criticism by Syed Ali Geelani of his statement on the reported Kashmir agreement, Kasuri claimed that he had great respect for Ali Geelani for his being a freedom fighter, but he disagreed with him that the solution that was envisaged for Kashmir would have led to further disturbances in the valley and that the people of the valley would never have acquiesced in a settlement that he described as one perpetuating the status quo. Giving reasons for his disagreement, he said the whole purpose of the disagreement was to improve the comfort level of the Kashmiris by the gradual demilitarisation. “The Kashmiri leaders, we met in India, Pakistan and overseas, attached highest importance to withdrawal of the Indian forces,” he claimed. Furthermore, he said the Kashmiris, due to the proposed agreement, would have become in-charge of their own destiny in a vast array of specified subjects in the economic, social and political spheres. He claimed that the very creation of a joint mechanism consisting of Kashmiri representatives from both sides as well as Indian and Pakistanis would have comprehensively negated the criticism that status quo had not been changed. He said the agreement arrived at once signed could not be unilaterally changed by either side. He believed that it would have given a lot of relief and hope to the Kashmiris.
He welcomed the statement of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that efforts were being made through the back-channel diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues with India. He said it was important that negotiations be resumed because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government with which they negotiated the arrangement was still in power, and the BJP the other majority party had started the process during the tenure of former prime minister Vajpayee. He said he welcomed it despite being in the opposition because he believed that in matter of national interest one had to rise above the spirit of partisan.
He claimed that there was no need to reinvent the wheel and the recent comments from the Foreign Office of Pakistan suggested the same and were encouraging. He said painstaking and detailed work had already been done and the two governments should take off from where they had left.
Kasuri claimed that they conducted secret negotiations with all stakeholders because they wanted to avoid any spins or leaks, which could damage the level of trust between the parties. He said they could not have signed an agreement without authorisation from their respective cabinets and parliaments. He claimed that the whole idea was to produce a draft which the governments of Pakistan and India felt would be acceptable to the large majority of Kashmiris, Pakistanis and Indians, and the draft agreement would then have been submitted to the appropriate constitutional authorities in both the countries for their approval.
Kasuri believed that the present government also supported the agreement. He claimed that President Asif Ali Zardari, in his very first interview at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, said the nation would have good news about Kashmir very soon. He claimed that though this announcement was premature, yet it was clear that he could only make the statement because he was aware of the progress made on back-channel and supported it. He said the incumbent government appointed Tariq Aziz, their representative on back-channel, to continue his work after the present government took over. He further referred Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s announcement during an interview with CNN that former foreign secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan, who was privy to all negotiations on the Kashmir agreement, was asked to start working on the back-channel.
Kasuri pointed out that those who criticised the secret nature of the back-channel needed to take note of the great secrecy with which the representatives of various political parties conducted their negotiations in parliament over the issue of the 18th Amendment, although this was purely an internal matter and not even marginally capable of exploitation by premature leaks or spins as against the protracted and difficult nature of negotiations between Pakistan and India given their troubled history on the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.
Regarding taking all the stakeholders on board, he stated it was unthinkable that an issue of this nature could be negotiated without having all the stakeholders on board. He claimed that besides the Foreign Office and the Presidency, the Military was appropriately represented.
Kasuri claimed that the nature of Pakistan-India relations following the Mumbai attacks needed concerted efforts not just by the government but also by the civil society to bring the two countries to the dialogue process once again. He appreciated ‘Aman ki Asha’ by the Jang Group and The Times of India Group as an important contribution in helping to remove some of the trust deficit that existed between the two countries.http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=28528
April 28, 2010 No Comments