Every impending deadline, coupled with the window of opportunity for talks in Kashmir, underscores the need for a new line of engagement between New Delhi and Islamabad.
The Hindu, 13 Jan 2010
As a slew of new track-2 and track-3 initiatives try to build a ‘roadmap’ for a new India-Pakistan dialogue, it may be time to look at some of the circumstances in which dialogue has been derailed in the past — and hunt clues for the future. In the parlance of India-Pakistan ties, specifically in the past decade, it is the top leadership that has proposed new initiatives for peace, and it is terrorists and those who direct them who have been most easily a ble to dispose of them.
On the night of the Mumbai terror attacks of November 26, 2008, just an hour before the attackers fired the first shot, the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers were holding a press conference in New Delhi. The tension between the two countries at the time was over the Indian cricket team’s hesitation to go play a series in Pakistan after the Marriott hotel bombing in Islamabad. Coincidentally, India’s Home Secretary was in Islamabad, where the two countries had issued a comprehensive Joint Statement on fighting Terror and Drug Trafficking. India and Pakistan had agreed to ‘fast-track’ the 5th round of the Composite Dialogue. Hours later all dialogue was suspended, and history was written once again by the terrorist’s gun.
While the Mumbai attacks led to what’s become the most prolonged suspension of talks since the year 2000, it is part of a distinct pattern. In May 2006, negotiators were close to a breakthrough on demilitarising the Siachen glacier, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had hoped to make a “mountain of peace.” According to those who knew, talks with Pakistani officials had entered an advanced stage, due to be taken forward that summer. But first deadly attacks at the Congress party rally in Srinagar on the eve of the Prime Minister’s roundtable conference, and another brutal attack on tourists pushed Siachen talks to July, when the Foreign Secretaries were due to meet. In July 2006, just nine days before that meeting, the Mumbai train bombings left more than 200 dead and with them buried all talk of talks for months.
For Mubashir Hasan — anti-NRO petitioner and a former Bhutto aide — the struggle for a just Pakistan is not over yet.
The HIndu- 21-Dec-2009
As the ruling Pakistan People’s Party scrambles to deal with the fall-out of the Supreme Court verdict annulling and voiding the National Reconciliaiton Ordinance, it can be no consolation to it or to President Zardari that the main petitioner in the case was none other than an old political associate of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and a co-founder of the party back in 1967.
Many in Pakistan are celebrating the verdict as the beginning of the country’s “moral renaissance”. The NRO was widely seen as legitimising corruption because it let off many charged with siphoning national wealth into their own pockets.
Obituaries are not what martyrdoms are for…
Here is a defence for the cause…
I could do only one thing in the days that followed April 20th- weep…! I wept over each and every moment of life I had enjoyed with two of my close friends - Asiya and Khurram… While Asiya Jeelani was taken away from us by the IED attack on the Sumo they were traveling in, Khurram Parvez was critically wounded. I sobbed recollecting every discussion we had - about life, activism, journalism, Islam and ofcourse Jihad - pleasant as well as heated. I wept remembering the kind of questions these two used to pose to me during the times we spent together in the four walls of the CCS office in Srinagar and in Delhi. I cried when I saw Khurram, who was amputated upon…
April 20th, horror strikes: Our Election Observation work (part-2, after the 2002 Assembly Elections) was going to start on that fateful day. Having opted out of the first two phases’ work, due mainly to financial difficulties and others, I was sitting in my office in Delhi. On a pleasant day, I was trying to coordinate the arrangements for the people doing the the Election Observation work for the last two phases of elections in J&K.
It was not long before I got a call from a friend… A regular number, as was recognizable in the mobile, I picked up the call addressing her. There was no voice reaching me from the other end. Suddenly a hello… the trembling voice went on to tell me: “Vijayan, our election observation team’s vehicle has been blown up”, she sighed. All the faces that were participating in that phase of election-monitoring flashed through my mind. ‘Who’ was the question. Parvez, Gautam, Zaheer, Kumar, Bashir, Sajjad… who? She continued: “we have lost Asiya and our driver;...and Khurram and a volunteer are critically injured. It was an IED”. The voice went on to tell me lot more, but my ears had stopped listening. Suddenly some of the mine blasts I had known, came to my mind. The shattered body of the militant at Doda, the two jawans who got blown up at Jammu… I couldn’t imagine the pain my friends were going through, pools of blood all around, at the heights of helplessness...!
For all those who have been closely following the civil society groups in Jammu & Kashmir and their involvements for human rights and dignity of the people, the growth of a new youth group - around the ‘J&K Coalition of Civil Society’ was of much interest. This group, nurtured from some independent thinkers from the Kashmir University students’ community, showed its best potential during the 2002 Assembly Election Observers’ work in the valley. Volunteers filled with enthusiasm and the cadres who actively debated different aspects of the peace-building process in the Kashmir imbroglio, were assets of the group hitherto unknown in this conflict-ridden society. It was nobody’s surprise when Khurram and Asiya became the respective ‘commanders’ for this human rights army.
I remember the day when Asiya asked me over a tensed conversation about human rights work: “how come you left your full-fledged media-related work, and decided to work as a human rights activist?” “what attracted you to this field?”… etc. A bit taken aback by her naivety, I tried answering through a quote, which I have treasured: “You dare and your confidence and acts will prove your worth to the world - do what your heart tells you to, find satisfaction in the happiness of your people and believe in the religion called life”. A visibly impressed Asiya was busy taking them down in her diary!
Asiya’s commitment and ability to perform in a team saw her climbing the ladders of her career as a human rights activist and a strong woman writer. She became a writer, editor of ‘Voices Unheard’, a magazine published by APDP. She also took it on herself to do a variety of writing jobs for the collective of groups, including APDP, PCHR and JKCCS. The committed gender rights campaigner in her also fought consistently against any signs of patriarchal influence over the collective’s functioning.
However, it will be wrong to portray Asiya only as a committed worker for the cause of Human Rights, Gender Justice and Peace. She was a humanist and one who valued her personal friendships and relationships. If not for her adoration for the work of individuals like Adv. Parvez Imroz and Parvina Ahangar and for her personal closeness to Khurram, she would not have worked with any of these groups and would not have been in that tragic journey to the interior areas of Kupwara.
Aftermath: After all those phone conversations had ended and all the moaning was controlled, the inevitable question began to haunt some of us. Many friends from different walks of life started asking those uneasy questions: “Was it a targeted attack?” and “who did it?”
I still am among those looking for those answers. In a war scenario, where human lives no more hold the worth and virtue, it is difficult to find answers to some of these questions. It is also difficult sometimes to distinguish between the perpetrators and the victims. But some of us could guess from the modus operandi, who must have committed this dastardly crime. But here we are, having lost a better one among us to an IED that didn’t have her name on it.
Last week, a friend called me from Srinagar and insisted that I write an obituary for Asiya… I agreed, and here I am, trying to scribble those lines about my better friends - including Khurram, who is still languishing in St.Stephen’s Hospital, Delhi, who has already braved 9 operations upon his ‘lost leg’. The sheer determination, with which this young friend has faced his life since ‘rebirth’ on 20th April, has been a source of hope and inspiration for many of us.
Now, I realize that for brave hearts like Asiya, who actually ‘dared’, it is better that we write obituaries with our lives and not our pens or keyboards!
Vijayan MJ June 2004
Civil Society Initiatives
The Other Media, Delhi
(This write-up is strictly not a fact finding mission report. The author visited the areas as a part of the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy’s attempt to involve more people in the relief work as well as to react politically to attempts at wiping out ethnic minorities. The analysis given below should be seen only an onlooker’s anger)
Everyone seems to have done enough to condemn Godhra incident and the “communal riots”, which ‘followed’. All political parties (including those facilitated violence), many NGOs, individuals and organisations have done enough to save their respective faces in the wake of one of the worst “communal riots” in Gujarat, with the exception of very few committed ones. The media has rushed from Gujarat to Ayodhya to complete the ‘live coverage’, they have been consistently doing and thus has the global attention. What more can you expect from all of us, given the fact that in this part of the globe there is no lack of issues and no end to the constant fire-fighting one is involved with. Given along is the fact that the agencies, which have been keeping us pre-occupied with this fire-fighting, still has all the strings needed to continue the puppet show.
No Communalism this is...
Any attempt at portraying the brutal genocide, which took place in Gujarat as communal riots is nothing but an underestimation of the ‘hardwork’, which has gone behind it. There are different factors and reasons, which make anyone, who witnessed the aftermath, believe this. One is the simple reason that communal riots as defined in the Indian socio-political ‘dictionary’ take place when there are two or more violent communal groups clashing with each other in the streets. From any possible viewpoint, this is not what has happened in Gujarat. Secondly, for the communal, fascist laboratory of Gujarat, communal riots are neither unexpected nor irresistible. Even the members of the minority communities have their own inbuilt system of resisting the communal onslaught by the ‘defenders’ of Hindu Rashtra. But all these kinds of internal mechanisms collapsed this time as a result of the strategic mop-up operation by the VHP led killers and hence the total wipe-out. Thirdly, factors like the methodology and pattern used by the killers (belonging to only one community), for which there is no precedent in the Indian history part which deals with communal riots (discussed in detail below). All these combined make any onlooker realise with horror the extremism used for this magnitude of genocide. Thus many parts of the city of Ahmedabad looks more like war-torn and bombarded Afghanistan or Kosovo than communal riots affected Gujarat. It also becomes evident thus, that the ideology made use this time by the fanatics is much beyond any religious propaganda.
Ethnic Cleansing: The Gujarat Model
If there is a phrase which can somewhat be aptly used for the Gujarat carnage, it is ‘Ethnic Cleansing’. In history, this phase of extremism comes mostly after the communal phase and then the ‘sons of the soil’ campaign. But in Gujarat, the Sangh seems to have ‘successfully’ attempted a leap forward jumping one round in between, resulting in the genocide, now. The result is the minority Muslim community loosing out to the fascists in economic, social, political and cultural fronts. In most parts of the state the socio-political and economic destruction of this community is so much that it will take a long time for the victims to recover- if at all.
POTO comes handy- The politically motivated ban on Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)- first under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and then under Prvention of Terrorism Ordinance- and the subsequent raids worked as the biggest encouraging factor for the government as well as the outfits in Sangh Parivar. These undemocratic raids and picking unarmed even the self defensive mohalla committees of the minority community.
Even after the carnage, more than 80 percent of the people arrested under POTO belong to the minority Muslim community in Gujarat.
Training camps for Dalits and tribals- The most dangerous social aspect of the fascist masterplan has been the use of adivasis (eg. Bhils in Gujarat) and Dalits against Muslims. This is organised by groups like Bajrang Dal, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, RSS and VHP in such a way that these marginalised sections of the society are made to feel that they stand to gain economically and socially by eliminating the religious minorities, who are portrayed also as the exploiters. Above these are the four to five times daily wages and free liquour they get for ‘rioting’.
January 30, 2003 09:55 IST
The avoidance of war between India and Pakistan was a 'major achievement' of the United States and the international community, Secretary of State Colin Powell has said.
"We kept foreign ministers stacked over Islamabad and New Delhi a thousand feet apart for six months to constantly talk to both sides and defuse that crisis," he said in an interview to the National Journal.
"And it was the positive relationship I had formed with the Russians and the Chinese over the spy and EP-3 incidents that allowed me to go to them and say, 'Hey guys, here's what we have to do to keep the Indians and Pakistanis from going after each other.'
"And we all agreed. Nobody was playing superpower or Cold War politics with that one," he said.
At the time, everybody feared that a war, which could go nuclear, was going to break out between India and Pakistan.
Powell said, "I personally never thought that because I had been talking to both sides almost every day. I was quite confident a solution would be found. But solutions don't happen overnight. You've got to work them."
Powell recalled how President Pervez Musharraf agreed to support the US over the war against the Al Qaeda and Taliban, which the Pakistanis had created.
"My deputy [Richard Armitage] talked to their intelligence guy when he visited Washington right after 9/11, and told him, 'Hey, you guys have got to knock it off and join this war,'" Powell said.
The Pakistani intelligence official took the message back to Musharraf.
"Then I called Musharraf the next day and said, 'Mr President, you are with us or not, but we've got to have a clean answer.' And he said, 'I'm with you, and I'll do all of those things that you have asked.' So, yes, I think that was a milestone."
By Praful Bidwai
February 05, 2003
The physical intimidation and harassment of top-level Indian and Pakistani diplomats and the tit-for-tat expulsions of four high commission staff by each of them mark a historic, abysmal, low in relations between the two states. The episode shows them in singularly unflattering light as two juvenile governments competing with each other to recklessly push up the spiral of rivalry and prove to the world that South Asia will long remain its 'most dangerous place.'
After this episode, it is hard to predict how much lower Indo-Pakistan relations will fall. But 'mounting tensions' between them have already created financial problems, says The Economic Times, including a sharp spike in the forward premium payable by corporations on their foreign exchange liabilities.
The two sub-continental rivals' conduct probably has no parallel at least in the post-War era. Even in the worst phases of the Cold War, US and Soviet embassy staff didn't have to fear for their bodily safety. Physical harassment of diplomats is indefensible and impermissible, no matter what the circumstances, and irrespective of the consequences. It is also forbidden by the Vienna Convention of 1961 on the treatment of accredited diplomats, and by the bilateral Code of Conduct India and Pakistan signed in 1992. The fact they had to explicitly commit themselves not to harass each other's diplomats -- despite the existence of numerous international conventions -- is itself a sad comment on the two governments' maturity. It only suggests that such harassment was prevalent before 1992.
Even worse, the two rivals have since violated that very code any number of times. Every now and then, they rough up middle-level diplomats and consular officers and subject them to 'physical harassment, disconnecting of telephone lines, threatening telephone calls, pursuit in cars and unauthorised entry into residences' -- practices forbidden by the CoC. When one side does that, the other vengefully reciprocates. However, until last month, both respected one unwritten rule: they wouldn't subject the heads of mission (including acting heads) to aggressive surveillance or harassment.
Last month, even this rule was transgressed. This came to light when the car of India's Acting High Commissioner Sudhir Vyas was repeatedly blockaded in Islamabad by police and intelligence agencies. The vehicle, flying the national flag, was allegedly boxed in by four cars and two motorcycles. It was blockaded 'for up to 45 minutes at a time.'
Going by the written record, it is India which seems to have cast the first stone. Indian agencies started tailing Pakistan's Acting High Commissioner Jaleel Abbas Jilani in early January. On January 7, Pakistan's mission complained in writing that 'lately the surveillance of the flag vehicle has been increased to such a level that it can be simply termed as harassment.' For three days, it said, 'intelligence vehicles' followed it 'bumper to bumper,' making 'dangerous manoeuvres' which could have caused 'a serious accident.'
It is not clear whether this action was taken by overzealous low-level intelligence officials or had high-level sanction, and whether it was provoked by something Pakistan did. But beyond a point, it is futile to ask who fired the first shot. Even if India didn't, it brought itself no credit by descending to the sordid level of harassing diplomats. There are some things civilised states simply don't do, no matter what the provocation. The end-result was the expulsion of staffers and reduction of the strength of the two missions to 51, less than half the number a year ago, when India asked for the recall of Pakistan's high commissioner following the attack on Parliament House.
This episode comes together with several other negative developments: exchange of nuclear threats and bellicose rhetoric, hardening of nuclear doctrines and strategic postures, military preparations and plans for new weapons acquisition, demonisation of each other's intentions and hostile pursuit of each other in every conceivable forum. India-Pakistan relations have now plummeted to their lowest level since 1947, lower indeed than during the 1971 war which dismembered Pakistan.
Even during that war, the strength of the two diplomatic missions was not halved. Rail and air links were not severed for prolonged periods (as they have been since January 2002). Nor had India and Pakistan overtly crossed the nuclear threshold. Today, they drop threats to incinerate each other -- at the drop of a hat. On January 26, Defence Minister George Fernandes repeated that threat when he told the BBC that Pakistan would be 'erased from the world map' if it uses nuclear weapons against India.
Both governments are today driven by extreme frustration: India, because it cannot get Pakistan to stop supporting militant infiltration across the border and fishing in Kashmir's troubled waters; and Pakistan, because it cannot get India to the negotiating table on Kashmir and implement the spirit of the Simla agreement to resolve all disputes solely through bilateral negotiations. Neither can militarily coerce the other, especially now that they are both nuclear powers. Nor, given today's political equations and strategic balances, can they persuade any external power to prevail upon the rival. As US Secretary of State Colin Powell put it the other day in Davos: 'No American "hidden hand" can remove the distrust between India and Pakistan. That they must do for themselves.'
The present India-Pakistan stalemate gives an especially dangerous edge to their continuous half-century-long hot-cold war. The conflict between the United States and the USSR was essentially ideological -- to be sustained with armed preparation and settled over time through competition between the two social systems, but not expressed through direct military engagement. The two rivals were physically far apart and fought proxy wars in the Third World. But they never exchanged a gunshot. By contrast, the India-Pakistan conflict is territorial, political, highly militarised (the two have fought three-and-a-half wars), and driven by hostility of a foundational nature -- over accepting each other's very existence. Symbolic of all these features is the Kashmir dispute. Many Indians and Pakistanis haven't reconciled themselves even to the possibility of their peaceful coexistence. Some of them are in power.
In the recent past, particularly post-September 11, 2001, India's Pakistan policy has been shaped by hawkish and extreme Right-wing elements in the Sangh Parivar who believe that Pakistan is bent upon destroying India and India must defend itself by whatever means. This way of thinking does not place reliance on diplomatic engagement, but upon military 'solutions,' although these are fraught with unconscionable risk -- nuclear holocaust. This view is driven by visceral, pathological hatred of Pakistan. Indian hawks have their counterparts in Pakistan, who too feed on mutual hostility. Both have a stake in maintaining the hostility. Like the well-rehearsed, synchronised, flag-hoisting and lowering rituals every day at the Wagah border, with all its rooster-walk aggressiveness and swagger, the hawks of both countries work in coordinated and complementary ways.
It should be evident that India's Pakistan policy and Pakistan's India policy have both become totally sterile and counterproductive. No amount of Pakistani support to the Kashmir militancy is likely to force India to the negotiating table. And no amount of Indian muscle-flexing can bend Pakistan to New Delhi's will. And yet, both governments are wasting the precious lives of civilians and soldiers. India's hawks are convinced that all of India's 'security' problems are caused by Pakistan. They are comprehensively wrong. To argue this is not to entertain the illusion that Pakistan is a benign power which harbours no hostility towards India. The bulk of India's security problems are of internal origin, including Kashmir's azadi movement, People's War-style militancy, and the Northeast's secessionism. Pakistan cynically exploits India's problems -- just as India once did Pakistan's, in Sindh and Baluchistan. But it is not their principal cause.
A radical policy shift has become overdue. India should take the initiative by restoring communications and diplomatic links and offering talks to Pakistan to monitor the Line of Control with a mutually acceptable multilateral group, and to implement a comprehensive ceasefire, and restore human rights in Kashmir. If a prolonged ceasefire holds, India could begin a structured dialogue, as agreed at Lahore, on the 'six-plus-two' formula -- not excluding Kashmir, but not limited to it. At the same time, domestically, India must sincerely apply the 'healing touch' by releasing political prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir and dismantling the Special Operations Group, etc.
It would be a tragedy of monumental proportions if the Indian government squanders the opportunity offered by the present juncture: the installation of a broad-based coalition government in J&K following credible elections; growing popular disenchantment and disgust with militant groups like Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed; serious differences, including armed clashes, between the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen's 'moderate' Majid Dar group and the Syed Salahuddin faction; the formation of a civilian government in Pakistan; and growing recognition in that country, especially in the intelligentsia, that Pakistan's Kashmir policy has run out of steam and become unworkable, as testified by the repeated criticism of it by US officials, including Ambassador Nancy Powell. These conditions may not be ideal, but they could quickly deteriorate if the India-Pakistan stalemate persists. India must take a calculated risk and grasp the nettle right now.
Praful Bidwai April 29, 2003
Whatever one's reservations about Atal Bihari Vajpayee's political style and his party's ideology, one must heartily and unstintingly welcome his decision to visit Kashmir and launch an initiative for reconciliation and peace. His visit was undoubtedly a landmark: on April 18, he became India's first prime minister to address a public meeting in the valley since the 'azaadi' militancy broke out in 1989. This is itself commendable. It also speaks of a positive change in ground reality. His visit, coming six months after the largely free and fair legislative assembly elections, has kindled new hopes. If his overture is followed up with wise and purposive moves, we could see some real progress in resolving one of the most troubled, complex and bloody disputes in the world.
In Srinagar, Vajpayee attempted a 'double whammy.' He held out the 'hand of friendship' to Pakistan, significantly, from Kashmiri soil. And he offered a dialogue between the Centre and different currents of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir. Both offers were soon hedged in with conditions. And yet, they indicate a welcome softening of New Delhi's stance. The change of tone and tenor has outlasted the somewhat dampening effect of the qualifying statements Vajpayee himself made the following day, reiterating that the talks leading to peace with Pakistan would only take place once there is an end to 'cross-border terrorism.' Yet, the impact of the new tone and tenor is welcome.
Of the two initiatives, on Pakistan, and on domestic arrangements pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir, the first is both more important and likelier to succeed more quickly than the second -- for three reasons. First, Pakistan has responded remarkably positively to India's offer of a dialogue and said it is willing to hold it 'any time, any place and at any level.' It has added that it hopes to work out specific dates for negotiations 'within days.' Second, there is growing recognition within both governments that they cannot indefinitely sustain their mutual hostility. They are under increasing pressure from the major powers to defuse rivalry and reach mutual accommodation.
Only six months ago, India and Pakistan were all ready to go to war. The reasons why they didn't, basically continue to hold today. The global situation emerging after the Iraq war has discomfited both by highlighting their own vulnerability on account of the Kashmir and nuclear issues. Washington, in its most aggressively unilateralist and expansionist phase today, has threatened to extend the Iraq conflict and also turn its attention to South Asia. On March 31, Secretary of State Colin Powell told The New York Times that 'the whole of the subcontinent's problems' were part of the 'broad agenda' that the US plans to address soon. South Asian tensions have figured prominently in the deliberations of Russia, France and Britain too, who have all called for an India-Pakistan dialogue.
And third, a certain momentum favouring a short time-frame for an India-Pakistan meeting has been generated, with the planned visit to South Asia of US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in early May. It is likely that both India and Pakistan will make some positive gestures just ahead of that visit. Minister of State for External Affairs Digvijay Singh says there is already some clarity on certain 'modalities' for a possible India-Pakistan summit and its agenda. More important, Armitage will probably mediate informally between the two governments and 'facilitate' a future summit -- just as he brokered peace between them twice last year.
This doesn't argue that a Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting will certainly happen or succeed. After all, even one terrorist act in India, whether or not sponsored by Pakistan, can scuttle it altogether. Yet, today's circumstances are highly conducive to such a meeting. Its success will depend on how far the two governments are prepared to move away from their stated 'first positions' and explore a new d?tente or agenda of peaceful coexistence.
This, in the first place, means they must accept war is simply not an option. Neither side can win it. India's conventional superiority over Pakistan (measured in balances of forces and equipment) has steadily eroded from 1.75:1 (in the Bangladesh war) to 1.56:1 in 1990, to barely 1.22:1 now. (The winning ratio is normally 2:1 or higher). And their nuclear capability has been a 'great leveller.' Nuclear wars cannot be won; they must never be fought.
To make the summit successful, Islamabad will have to drop its traditional emphasis on a plebiscite on Kashmir and 50-year-old UN Security Council resolutions. More important, it will have to verifiably give up supporting militant violence in Kashmir as an instrument to coerce India to the negotiating table. It has to recognise that its support to terrorist militants who kill innocent civilians at will has done nothing to advance the cause of the Kashmiri people. Equally, New Delhi must drop its formal, stated, position that Jammu and Kashmir is 'an inalienable part of India.' The issue must be opened up. The Kashmiri people must be involved in settling it.
India must also take the Simla agreement of 1972 seriously. Under it, all bilateral issues are to be resolved through peaceful mutual discussion. So far, New Delhi has cited the Simla accord mainly to oppose a multilateral dialogue -- but never once discussed Kashmir bilaterally with Pakistan. Changing all this won't be easy, but if a robust beginning is made on the basis of some mutually accepted principles, the process of reconciliation could get rolling. At times like these, process is everything.
The biggest obstacles here will be the hawks in the two countries who have a stake in perpetuating a state of mutual hostility. In Pakistan, they are jihadi Islamists both inside and outside the army. In India, they are the BJP's right wingers who oppose reconciliation with Pakistan. Their leader, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, played a major role in torpedoing the 2001 Agra summit. At the last minute, he vetoed a draft declaration after Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf and their foreign offices had agreed to it. Vajpayee failed to assert himself and allowed the summit to collapse.
This time around, the BJP has supported Vajpayee's peace gesture, but somewhat reluctantly. Its first response on April 18 was to oppose it. Earlier, it enthusiastically welcomed Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha's diatribe against Pakistan as a 'fitter case' than Iraq for pre-emptive war. Ideological antipathy to Pakistan apart, this is an important election year for the BJP. In four major state assembly elections, it's pitted against the Congress. Rather than embark on a new, uncertain, Kashmir and Pakistan policy, it might be tempted to fall back upon a hawkish line which appeals to its urban elite constituency.
Piloting a peace process will need statesmanship. Even more difficult will be the domestic Kashmir reconciliation agenda. Here, the Centre has no clarity whatsoever, although people like Vajpayee sense that J&K today offers a great opportunity because of its relatively credible election, and the installation of a state government which generates hope with its 'healing touch' -- despite the impediments created by a constantly carping BJP and an uncooperative Centre.
But the Centre is fumbling at the level of strategy. It said it would talk to all those who abjure violence. Yet, it refused to invite the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, representing 23 different groups, to talks. But it should know there is little political sense in talking only to 'elected representatives,' for most of whom J&K's integration with India is unproblematic. It is the others that it must win over. They include the APHC. The Hurriyat's influence may have declined. But it still represents a significant current of opinion in Kashmir. The Hurriyat would of course like the government to apply the 'Nagaland formula' to Kashmir: talks at a high political level; exclusively with one group; and a ceasefire. In reality, there are too many differences between Kashmir and Nagaland, and the APHC and NSCN. But talking to the Hurriyat on a non-exclusive basis is surely necessary.
The government's interlocutor N N Vohra didn't invite the Hurriyat, and it has decided not to meet him. Vohra has a vague, confused brief. He has taken an excessively cautious, even timidly bureaucratic, approach. He published his itinerary in Kashmir's newspapers, but didn't invite specific groups! This attitude must change. The Centre must realise that Kashmir's past experience with interlocutors -- whether official (Messrs K C Pant and Arun Jaitley), or unofficial (Messrs R K Mishra, A S Dulat and Ram Jethmalani), has not been happy. To have some credibility, Vohra must pro-actively, aggressively, talk to all currents of opinion as a step towards an apex-level political dialogue, along with a ceasefire and termination of hostilities.
It is hard to see the Centre, especially the home ministry, going this far. A breakthrough on Kashmir will probably have to wait upon serious progress in India-Pakistan relations. But the process of reconciliation must start, both internally and externally. Far too much is at stake -- not least, the lives of millions who could turn into radioactive dust should war break out. There is simply no alternative to peace.
Thursday, October 31, 2002 (Ganganagar):
Ever since the armed forces were ordered to demobilise in mid-October, strategic experts have been debating over the gains and losses of keeping troops at the border for ten months.
But human costs to border residents have been largely ignored despite the fact that landmines laid in countless fields have claimed the lives, livelihood and limbs of hundreds of people in the border villages of Rajasthan.
Naina Devi's life took a drastic turn six months ago when her only son, 30-year-old Hansraj, died in a landmine explosion while he was trying to save their cattle from straying into a field mined by the army.
The Army had laid mines in fields along the international border during the tension with Pakistan after the terrorist attack on Parliament.
Since then, feeding the three children and widow of their son is a nightmare - as mines still remain in the six bighas of land they own.
"We are very unhappy. He was the only earning member of our family. Now we do not know how to get food or clothes. You can imagine how tough it will be for our kids in the future," says Naina Devi.
Like the families of 60 other people who have died in landmine explosions in Rajasthan since last December, Hansraj's family was given a compensation of only Rs 10,000.
Two hundred people who were crippled in landmine blasts in the state have received only Rs 5,000 as compensation.
And now many people in the border areas have to face the nightmarish prospect of being suddenly disabled in their youth.
"These were the years when I should have been earning, but now I have been crippled and am facing a terrible time. I cannot walk so how will I earn? How will I look after my parents and children," says Dileep Chand, a 32-year-old mine victim of Daulatpura village in Ganganagar district.
Hundreds of cattle have also been killed or injured in mine accidents.
Border residents now want the Army to plough their fields once it completes de-mining.
"Once meetings for the demining exercises are held, we will definitely raise the issue of how people can be assured that their fields will really become safe again. We will have to find some way to solve this crisis as it affects all our border villages," says UN Sahu, superintendent of police, Ganganagar.
The prospect of mines being finally removed is a big relief to the Rajasthan villagers. But with little compensation or effort at rehabilitation so far, ensuring a dignified and productive life for those whose lives have been shattered by mine accidents is bound to be a tough challenge.
The President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India met during the SAARC summit in Islamabad.
The Indian Prime Minister while expressing satisfaction over the successful conclusion of the SAARC summit appreciated the excellent arrangements made by the host country.
Both leaders welcomed the recent steps towards normalisation of relations between the two countries and expressed the hope that the positive trends set by the CBMs would be consolidated.
Prime Minister Vajpayee said that in order to take forward and sustain the dialogue process, violence, hostility and terrorism must be prevented. President Musharraf reassured Prime Minister Vajpayee that he will not permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner. President Musharraf emphasised that a sustained and productive dialogue addressing all issues would lead to positive results.
To carry the process of normalisation forward, the president of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India agreed to commence the process of the composite dialogue in February 2004. The two leaders are confident that the resumption of the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides.
The two leaders agreed that constructive dialogue would promote progress towards the common objective of peace, security and economic development for our peoples and for future generations.
January 6, 2004
by Dr Mubashir Hasan July 5, 2003
NATIONS meet across a conference table to advance their national interests. More often than not, immediate political interest of one or both the governments overshadows national interests. It may not be an exaggeration to state that in the case of India and Pakistan, the ruling elites, represented by one political government or another, have kept their narrow political interests uppermost and relegated national interests to the second place.
In other words they did not act statesman like. Many an election was won on the slogan of intense confrontation between the two. There were efforts at making peace but there were also wars. At times no peace, no war was the official policy. The situation began to change during the last decade or more. A peace movement began building up in both the countries. Political governments perceived substantial change in the political climate. New Delhi and Islamabad concluded that they will gain in political terms by moving towards normalisation of relations. Prime Ministers Gujral and Nawaz Sharif set the tone but it fell to Prime Minister Vajpayee to hold a summit meeting with his Pakistani counterpart.
The military leadership, the ultimate physical protector of civil governments of Pakistan, viewed the steps taken by Nawaz Sharif with suspicion. Then, Kargil happened. The strife between the civil and military in Pakistan deepened. Nawaz Sharif was deposed and General Musharraf assumed power. However, the logic of the need of dialogue for peace persisted and resulted in the Agra Summit meeting. The change in Pakistan from Nawaz Sharif to Musharraf did not come in the way of dialogue.
The unannounced agreement at Agra was substantial enough to bring the opponents of peace and dialogue into action. As a result, the follow-up of the Agra summitry was delayed, and as if that was not enough to achieve their nefarious objective, they mounted an attack on the Indian parliament, striking a mighty blow at the prestige of the Vajpayee government. Very drastic measures were taken to repair the political damage caused by the attack.
A war-like situation came into being. A million armed men faced each other across the international border and the Line of Control. To counter the pressure for resuming the dialogue, almost all links between India and Pakistan were snapped. Road, rail and air communications were cut off and the two high commissions were denuded of more than half their strength. Restrictions were placed on the issue of visas.
As things stand today, the peoples’ forces within Pakistan and India along with international pressures are proving to be too strong for the anti-dialogue lobbies. There are positive signals for the resumption of the dialogue for the settlement of all outstanding issues. The governments may like it or not, the standoff has to be ended. The dialogue has to be resumed.
Now, a dialogue is a political process. Politicians enter it in a sophisticated manner in the way experienced businessmen proceed to strike a business deal. For non-political persons, it is a crude “give and take” session. The ultimate aim of the dialogue is to strengthen one’s political position for staying in power and winning next election. A dialogue can be just a formality should there be no political gain or an economic or security dividend forthcoming. Even the failure of a dialogue has to be of a kind that it can be claimed as a victory.
It is a game of creating reasonably favourable perception for one’s side of the polity but it should not be too lopsided as it turned out at Agra. Musharraf came out as a clear winner leaving Vajpayee a distant second, thereby creating difficulties for the latter in pursuing the matter further. In order that the results of a dialogue are endorsed by the people and parliament, both the interlocutors have to come out as winners.
Pakistan’s strategy should be to convince the world, the Indian public and especially the Kashmiris of its sincerity in establishing a state of permanent peace in the subcontinent and, simultaneously not putting the Indian leadership in a bad light in India and its own in too good a light in Pakistan.
At the moment the political climate in India favours a dialogue. Rhetoric apart, all political parties, except a section of the BJP, want India to talk to Pakistan. So does the international community. Four Indian states are going for elections in October. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, having created the perception that he is a man of peace, would like to handle the coming dialogue with Pakistan to improve the electoral position of his party. It is for Pakistan to use the occasion to extract out of India as much as it can in the effort to secure a final settlement of all outstanding issues.
The goal of achieving a final settlement can be achieved if both sides, between now and 2004, are able to strengthen their political position in their respective constituencies. Towards that end, they have to give first priority to enable the peoples of Pakistan and India to meet with each other as freely a possible.
The present visa regimes must go. The Khokrapar and Ganda Singhwala border check-posts should be opened. More buses and trains should be allowed to run. Let newspapers cross the borders freely. These measures will immensely strengthen both the governments to make the inevitable give-and-take inherent in any final settlement acceptable on both sides.
India and Pakistan should implement the accords already reached such as those of Siachin Glacier and Wuller Barrage. There was almost total agreement in 1989 on the draft of a no-war pact, -- call it non aggression pact or a friendship treaty -- which should be worked upon afresh. Then, there is the list of 8 points agreed upon at Agra for further discussion.
No settlement is possible on the dispute of supreme importance unless consultation is started with the people of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the dividing line. The two governments should remove the restrictions on the movement of the people of Kashmir. They should be given passports to visit the other country. Above all they should be allowed to cross the Line of Control on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.