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Category — Kashmir

Pak left red-faced at UN as envoy goofs up on picture

Report in The Times of India, Sept 25, 2017
NEW DELHI: In its zeal to rebuff India’s scathing indictment of Islamabad’s terror policy, Pakistan only managed to embarrass itself at the UN as it displayed a wrong picture of a purported Kashmiri pellet gun victim.

The photograph flashed by Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, turned out to be that of a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, Rawya Abu Joma, who was injured in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in 2014. Pakistan was attempting to get back at foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for slamming the neighbour for producing jihadis while India turned out “doctors and engineers”.

The photo was actually taken at Shifa hospital in Gaza by Jerusalem-based American freelance photojournalist Heidi Levine.

“This is the face of Indian democracy,” Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi said as she brandished a photograph while exercising Pakistan’s right to reply in response to Swaraj’s speech. The photo turned out to be that of a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, Rawya Abu Joma.

Screenshot of photojournalist Heidi Levine’s website shows the image of 17-year-old Rawya abu Jom, who was injured during the Gaza War.

Rawya was injured in an airstrike on her apartment in which her sister and three cousins were killed. So far, India has never used heavy military against its citizens in Jammu and Kashmir or elsewhere.

Lodhi had dramatically waved the photo in a misfired attempt to expose what Pakistan routinely describes as atrocities committed by Indian forces in J&K. In her response to Swaraj, Lodhi had described India as the “mother of terrorism” in South Asia. This was a big loss of face for Pakistan also because the right to reply in such cases is usually exercised by junior diplomats and Lodhi was fielded only to ensure that Pakistan’s message was heard loud and clear.

In her speech, Lodhi had invoked comments by celebrity Indian author Arundhati Roy to counter Swaraj’s assertion that Pakistan was the greatest exporter of terrorism.

“Much of what is in the air in India now is pure terror, in Kashmir, in other places,” Lodhi said, quoting Roy in her speech.

She also quoted the novelist —who is an activist for civil liberty causes —that “whole populations of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians are being forced to live in terror”.

Lodhi further said, “A racist and fascist ideology is firmly embedded in Modi’s government and its leadership is drawn from the RSS which is accused of assassinating Mahatma Gandhi.”

She slammed the decision to appoint Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of UP, saying “the government has appointed a fanatic as the chief minister of India’s largest state”. “It is a government which has allowed the lynching of Muslims,” she said.

Lodhi took particular objection to Swaraj’s observation about Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah who, Pakistani PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said, bequeathed a foreign policy based on peace and friendship. Swaraj had said it “remains open to question whether Jinnah Sahab actually advocated such principles”.

Lodhi said Pakistan remained open to resuming a comprehensive dialogue with India but it should include Kashmir and end what she claimed was a “campaign of subversion and state-sponsored terrorism”.http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pak-left-red-faced-at-un-as-envoy-goofs-up-on-picture/articleshow/60820650.cms

September 25, 2017   No Comments

US designates Hizbul Mujahideen as terror outfit

by Waseem Abbasi in the News, August 17, 2017
WASHINGTON: In another indication of its growing ties with India, the United States on Wednesday designated Kashmiri organisation Hizbul Mujahideen as terrorist outfit, freezing its assets and banning US financial transactions with the group.

In a statement posted on its official website, the State Department said the move was aimed at denying resources to Hizbul Mujahideen that it “needs to carry out terrorist attacks”. The announcement came nearly two months after the State Department declared the Hizb’s chief, Syed Salahuddin, as a global terrorist.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office had called the earlier move “completely unjustified”. The decision had faced criticism and condemnation from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), with Kashmiris chiding the US President Donald Trump’s administration for “equating their legitimate struggle for internationally acknowledged right to self-determination with terrorism”.

Separately, on Wednesday, the US Treasury Department also said it had listed the Pakistan-based group as a counter- designated group, freezing any assets it may hold in the United States and prohibiting Americans from dealings with it.

“Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that Hizbul Mujahideen is a terrorist organisation. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organisations and individuals and deny them access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of US agencies and other governments,” the State Department said.

Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, told The News that the decision is another indication of how quickly the US-India relationship is deepening. “It may not be coincidental that the State Department announced this move the very day after the US and India announced a new initiative to deepen their strategic dialogue, which includes the formation of a new ministerial dialogue on defence and foreign affairs,” he said.

Kugelman believes the Trump administration is telegraphing a powerful message that on matters of militancy, it firmly sides with India. “I doubt this decision will have any type of major impact on Pakistan, but it will certainly cement the perception in Islamabad that Washington is deepening its embrace of New Delhi. That’s a perception that I imagine to be quite accurate,” he said.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/224048-US-designates-Hizbul-Mujahideen-as-terror-outfit

August 18, 2017   No Comments

In Kashmir, extremism is the real enemy: by Nyla Ali Khan in Daily Times, Apr 24, 2017

The writer is the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir, and a member of the Oklahoma Academy, a state-wide policy planning organisation

The growth of nationalism or an autonomous Kashmiri identity doesn’t necessarily have to be pursued through a politics that supports obscurantism or deliberately prevents spread of knowledge and information. The identity of a state or a nation cannot be built just on an unquenchable hatred towards the other and should, certainly, not be constructed by cashing in on the other’s pain and grief. It is or, at least, it should be inconceivable, in the day and age of a global economy, to spurn reason and ethics from one’s politics.

In a society as diverse as ours, the perpetuation of a politics that emphasizes cultural myopia and mono-cultural identities would prove to be only a bane of our existence, and may lead to intolerance, arbitrary justice, tyranny, and ignorance.

The contemporary political discourse in the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), particularly in the Kashmir Valley, doesn’t have to be limited to the framework of the two-nation theory. Nor should dissatisfaction with policies of Indian and Pakistani governments encourage glorification of reactionary politics. The rise of Taliban ideologues in any guise is the last thing J&K needs right now.

A lot of Kashmir observers, including academics and career diplomats, tend to reduce the conflict to just a dispute between India and Pakistan over sharing of Indus basin waters. I observed this first-hand during a discussion following a presentation delivered in May 2012 at Salisbury University, Maryland. Another tendency among observers is to see the issue only in terms of the religious-secular binary. There is a new breed of writers in the Subcontinent, particularly in Kashmir, who, erroneously, labour under the delusion that J&K has been a haven for pan-Islamism well before the partition of India. This view is completely anachronistic.

Interpreting the issue through the above mentioned lenses alone is problematic because it obliterates the legitimacy of regional political aspirations across party, religious, cultural, and linguistic lines. Take the case of this British-Indian academic who once labeled me as an “Islamist,” after I wrote an article on the autonomous status of J&K. Probably, he was thinking about autonomy only in religious terms, and not along political lines.

Such criticism has not deterred me from expressing my views on the Kashmir issue. At this juncture, I cannot emphasise enough how foolish it would be to ignore religious, provincial, and sectarian violence, or the growing obscurantism in either India or Pakistan. This will not bode well for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute. Similarly, the sanctioning of extremist political and religious ideologies in either of the two countries will prevent progress on the issue.

Sloganeering, rabble rousing and seeking constitutional amendments are all okay, but the real test of these activities will be in terms of their impact on institutions. This applies to most places rife with political instability. For instance, after reading a recent essay of mine on the issue, my editor pointed out that, “the constitutional victories gained in Egypt and Tunisia have brought the same concern to mind.”

In short, the disappointments that Kashmiris have had to face over the years shouldn’t dilute democratic aspirations. And extremist ideology must, at all costs, be kept at bay.

In 2008, Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari had claimed to be agonised by the strained state of relations between the two nuclear powers in the Indian subcontinent. While emphasising the importance of creating bonhomie between the two countries, Zardari had said that the resolution of the Kashmir conflict could be placed in a state of temporary suspension, for future generations to work out. The current Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, seems to have mastered the art of turning volte face on Kashmir issue.

Things look no better on Indian side either. No substantive measure has been taken by Indian governments following that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to initiate a composite peace process with Pakistan. Efforts at the “Quiet Diplomacy” by one-time Indian Minister for Home Affairs, P. Chidambaram, remained intermittent and interspersed with pugnacious responses by the Indian government to regional demands for greater autonomy.

A resolution to the Kashmir imbroglio requires an unprecedented and strong political will from leaders, policy makers, and civil society members on both sides of the Line of Control. Alongside, we need to remember that democratisation is an evolutionary process and there are no instant solutions for it. And to further this process, it is important to respect the pluralistic regional, religious, cultural, and linguistic ethos of J&K.

Towards this end, it is important to ensure accountability of state actors, including those elected by the people. This will bring transparency in the affairs of state institutions. It is equally important is to find ways for accountability of non-state actors as they too seek to climb their way to the echelons of power.

Although the sufferings of the people of J&K cannot be brushed off, the bitter truth is that it is time to summon courage to initiate a politics of construction. A fragmented society cannot accomplish anything, either politically or socio-economically. Can we begin the process of developing a cohesive society with coherent state policies? http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Apr-17/in-kashmir-extremism-is-the-real-enemy

April 24, 2017   No Comments

Pak Ups Money To Get More Recruits As Militancy Dwindles

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.

Bait Money

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

Ulema and terrorism: op-ed by Muhammad Ali Siddiqi in The Dawn, May 10

The proceedings at the Deobandi ulema’s recent conference in Lahore must be studied less for its expected refusal to condemn suicide bombings and more for the insight it gives into the psyche of a large section of our powerful ulema community.

Of equal significance are the fissures that came to the fore between hardliners and harder-liners. Evidently, the latter carried the day.

It was gratifying that at least some ulema — among them Maulana Samiul Haq — were cognisant of the negative impact which acts of terrorism were having not on the nation but on the Deobandi image.

While the delegates did indeed plead with the militants to adopt peaceful and democratic means for the establishment of Sharia in Pakistan, a majority of the ulema, according to Nasir Jamal’s reportage (Dawn, May 2), said terrorism would continue to haunt Pakistan as long as “factors and causes” responsible for it continued. What was mind-boggling, however, was the principle some ulema propounded to establish a link between terrorism and government policies.

Briefly, the ulema at the Lahore moot said that the government’s foreign policy was pro-America, and this obedience to commands from Washington in their opinion was the reason behind the militants’ war against the government. That this war against the government and the army translates itself into a war on the state of Pakistan itself was an issue into which the ulema chose not go.

If one were to accept resort to terrorism as a justifiable means for registering dissent against government policies, then every country in this world must be ravaged by terrorism, because there is no government on the surface of the earth whose policies do not have critics. Let us, for instance, see the situation in two of Pakistan’s neighbours — Iran and India — where government policies have diehard foes.

The nuclear deal between America and India was first agreed upon in principle when Manmohan Singh met George Bush in July 2005. It took more than three years for the treaty to go through the various phases of America’s complex constitutional process and approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the nuclear suppliers’ group.

The treaty evoked opposition from key members of the Senate and House foreign relations committees, but to my knowledge no senators or congressmen or lobby groups resorted to terrorism or to threats of terrorism to express disapproval of this aspect of the Bush government’s foreign policy.

In India the treaty aroused intense opposition, not only from the traditionally anti-American parties of the Left but also from the extreme rightwing Hindu parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party. The press was equally divided, and influential sections of the print and electronic media came out with highly technical opinions from nuclear scientists who argued that the treaty undermined India’s nuclear programme.

The opposition finally called for the Manmohan government to obtain a vote of confidence, and it goes without saying that the vote saw a phenomenon we in Pakistan are quite familiar with — MPs were bought and convicts brought from prison to cast their votes. All along the intensely emotional debate, no party or group started killing India’s own citizens and blowing up markets and schools and temples and mosques because they thought the Manmohan government had sold India to Washington or to its corporate sector.

To our west, we have a theocracy in Iran, almost as obscurantist and ruthless as Ziaul Haq’s tyranny. The clerics have imposed an ideological dictatorship on Iran, the Internet is censored, foreign channels are banned or shown selectively, there is no opposition press and even government newspapers are often banned when they deviate from the official line.

The economy is in a mess, and crude-producing Iran imports half its oil because of lack of refining capacity. The parliamentary opposition does manage to put its views across, but the real opposition has gone underground. But no opposition group has started killing Iran’s men, women and children and blowing up shopping plazas in Tehran and bombing schools in Isfahan or mosques in Mashhad because President Ahmadinejad is pursuing wrong policies.

It is, however, in Pakistan that some sections of the ulema think that killing our own people is a justified way of expressing dissent against the government’s policies.

Mind you, the government’s perceived pro-American policies do not have opponents merely in the religious right. Even liberal sections of opinion — the recently formed Workers Party Pakistan, for instance — are sharply critical of a continuation of Pervez Musharraf’s war on terror by the PPP-led government. But none of these political parties and elements has justified blasts in Moon market or the blowing up of mosques or a girls’ university to register their protest against the government’s foreign policy.

The religious touch to the ulema’s anti-Americanism is laughable. Just the other day, they were head over heels in love with America, and any opposition to the CIA’s overt and covert operations in Afghanistan was considered heresy because there existed an “indissoluble unity” among the People of the Books.

The ulema know the hurmat Islam attaches to human life. In case some of them have forgotten, the blast in the Rawalpindi Askari mosque on Dec 4 last killed, among others, 16 children.

P.S: For some mysterious reason, ideologically motivated governments, movements and individuals, whether religious or secular — Nazi, Zionist, Taliban — are singularly devoid of the milk of human kindness. The attitude of a large number of Pakistani clerics today reminds us of the Christian church’s cold-bloodedness in burning purported heretics at the stake in medieval Europe. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/ulema-and-terrorism-050

May 10, 2010   No Comments

Landslide lake in Hunza rises to threatening levels

LAHORE: The water level of a landslide-triggered lake in Hunza is threateningly on the rise, with another village facing risks of a flood, a private TV channel reported on Sunday.
The artificial lake formed out of a landslide, has not only destroyed the Atta Abad village, but also completely covered the villages of Gojal, Aieenabad and Shashkat. The threatening water level may inundate Gulmit, the headquarters of Gojal tehsil, as its low-lying areas are already under water, the channel reported.
The residents of Atta Abad were given a May 15 deadline to vacate the area after experts voiced their concerns that the Atta Abad Lake dam may breach soon. Separately, residents of Hunza district are facing severe food shortages due to a shortage of fuel.
Goods laden trucks have been unable to cross the Chinar Bagh Bridge, due to which fuel cannot be delivered to boats, leaving them stranded. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\05\10\story_10-5-2010_pg1_3

May 10, 2010   No Comments

AJK chief secretary transferred: By Tariq Naqash in The Dawn, May 10

MUZAFFARABAD, May 9: The federal government transferred on Sunday the chief secretary of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in a move to appease some leaders of the AJK chapter of People’s Party (PPAJK) who considered him an obstacle to their efforts to reinstate AJK Supreme Court’s non-functional chief justice.

Mr Sultan has been replaced by Muhammad Shahzad Arbab, one of the five BPS-21 additional secretaries in the President’s Secretariat, Islamabad.

Mr Arbab called on Prime Minster Raja Farooq Haider in Kashmir House, Islamabad, on Sunday evening and is likely to take up his new assignment on Monday.

Some top PPAJK leaders, associated closely with President Asif Ali Zardari, had been trying for some weeks to get Mr Sultan ousted from AJK. These efforts were reportedly backed by Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo who has not hidden his leaning for an “out of box” solution to the AJK’s judicial issue.

They (PPAJK leaders) had been constantly convincing their leadership in Islamabad that “despite being a representative of the federal government the chief secretary was not supporting them in AJK and should, therefore, be transferred,” informed sources told Dawn.

Since the chief secretary was abiding by the AJK government he had also become a “persona non grata” in the “R” Block which houses the Kashmir Affairs’ Ministry. Last month, PPAJK president Chaudhry Abdul Majeed used obnoxious language against Mr Sultan in the presence of a PPP MNA and reportedly vowed to get the chief secretary ousted from the AJK.

Simultaneously, a smear campaign was also launched against Mr Sultan by a section of press to which he had served legal notices.

Interestingly, an intelligence agency, whose role in the ‘out of turn’ elevation of Justice Reaz Akhtar Chaudhry as the CJ is an open secret, was also unhappy with Mr Sultan and was reportedly gathering information to prepare grounds for his exit from here, the sources added.

The chief secretary is the most important tool in the administrative machinery of AJK and if he is non-cooperative he can frustrate the working of the government. http://news.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/ajk-chief-secretary-transferred-050

May 10, 2010   No Comments

AJK high court disposes of writ challenging appointment of chief justice

By Tariq Naqash in The Dawn, May 8

MUZAFFARABAD, May 7: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir High Court disposed of a petition on Friday, challenging the appointment of Justice Reaz Akhtar Chaudhry as Chief Justice of the AJK Supreme Court, “as he stood removed from this office under the report of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), rendering the office of top judge vacant”.

The petition was filed by advocate Karam Dad Khan on March 27, 2007, but the Supreme Court had confiscated the same from the HC registrar’s office on the following day. However, on April 15, this year, the apex court’s acting CJ, Manzoor Hussain Gillani, sent the case back to the HC.

In his decision, after preliminary hearing, HC CJ Ghulam Mustafa Mughal held that since Justice Reaz Akhtar stood removed from the office of CJ from the day when SJC had made recommendations to the chairman of AJK Council (Prime Minister of Pakistan) to this effect, there was no point in issuing a writ of quo warranto. http://news.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/ajk-high-court-disposes-of-writ-challenging-appointment-of-chief-justice-850

May 8, 2010   No Comments

SJC summons AJK President’s secretary: The Frontier Post, May 8

MUZAFFARABAD (APP): The Supreme Judicial Council of Azad Kashmir has summoned the Secretary to President AJK to appear in person before the council and submit the record of April 4 letter written by the President, ordering withdrawal of a reference against the deposed Chief Justice Reaz Akhtar Chudhary and his subsequent reinstatement.
The Supreme Judicial Council summoned the AJK President’s secretary on Friday during the hearing of a petition filed by AJK Bar Council members Raja Sajjad Ahmad and Sardar Muhammad Ejaz Khan under section 42-F, read with section 45 of AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974. The SJC directed the Secretary to President and other three respondents to produce the record of the President’s letter and reportedly filling up a reference against Acting CJ Manzoor-ul-Hassan Gilani, HC Chief Justice Mustafa Mughal and ad-hoc SC Judge Justice Ibrahim Zia.
The Secretary to AJK President could not produce any record before the Council rather objections were raised, which were turned town while Khawaja Farooq Ahmad Advocate on behalf of the SC Judge Justice Khawaja Shahad clarified before the Council that the respondent has no such record.
The other two respondents also did not appear nor any of their representatives could produce such record. The Council then directed the Secretary to President to appear in person before the court and produce record on Saturday. http://thefrontierpost.com/News.aspx?ncat=ts&nid=1131

May 8, 2010   No Comments

Saarc and dialogue: Op-ed by Tariq Fatemi in the Dawn, May 6

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