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Future of Pak-India Relations – Kuldip Nayar
Future of Pak-India Relations – Kuldip Nayar
PRESIDENT Zardari invitation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan has evoked little interest in India. People believe that Pakistan has not done anything concrete to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 attack on Mumbai to book. More disappointment is because of Pakistan court’s judgment which has rejected the report by Islamabad’s judicial commission on the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai as “illegal.” Indeed, the report suffers from the basic fallacy because the commission visiting India never cross-examined the witnesses.
Jurisprudence both in India and Pakistan, inherited from the British, says that no testimony is admissible without cross-examination. But what makes the whole thing intriguing is that there was a prior agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad on the subject. Pakistan said that its judicial commission would not cross-examine the witnesses. Both sides knew that they were circumventing the law but still went ahead. Pakistan cannot now turn back and say that the witnesses must be cross-examined.
The question is where do we go from here? Indian opinion is understandably horrified. The 11-member Pakistan judicial commission owes an explanation. Either they went on a free jaunt or they just wanted to go over the exercise at the asking of Islamabad which was under pressure from India and America. The immediate fallout has been a reliable observation that the Prime Minister may not go to Pakistan this year. It is difficult to even envisage him taking a trip next year because there will be precious little time left before the general elections due in March-April 2014.
How things will shape when the new government comes is still more difficult to say. But one thing is certain that Manmohan Singh, keen on normalizing relations with Pakistan, will not be the Prime Minister. I do not know whether the Pakistan government was involved or not or whether the entire 26/11 attacks were conceived and executed by the ISI. Yet the manner in which Islamabad has handled the case from day one raises many doubts. Even the fact that the attacks were from the Pakistani soil has been denied. There has been a barrage of denials which has only infuriated the Indians and tangled matters further. And Hafiz Sayeed, considered by New Delhi the architect of the 26/11 attacks, goes all over Pakistan ranting jihad against India. The more Islamabad tries to curb him in his pronouncements, the better it will be for the progress of the 26/11 cases. The announcement of a joint inquiry into the attacks at the very outset would have assuaged India’s anger to a large extent. Even now the Pakistan government should do whatever it can because no trust, an ingredient for good relations, can be built if it looks like dragging its feet on the 26/11 attacks.
However, one noteworthy development between now and the past is that the sharp edge of hostility has somewhat got blunted. We have travelled a long way from August 1947 when India was partitioned. Therefore, despite reverses like the judicial commission’s failure, the atmosphere between the two countries has not been vitiated. Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna has kept his date with Islamabad. People on both sides still clamour for normalization, although some continue to carry the baggage of history. The resumption of cricket series indicates that New Delhi does not want to lose whatever momentum it has gained in getting nearer to Pakistan. By not canceling the cricket series despite demand from players like Sunil Gavaskar, New Delhi has proved that it is not disheartened by roadblocks. Take the meetings between foreign secretaries of the two countries. Even though they made little progress, they discuss all questions, including those which are not on the agenda. Much in the future depends on what happens inside Pakistan. It still has a long way to go to become a full-fledged democracy. Yet the army is less demanding than before although it still calls the shots. The judiciary and the government are on a warpath. How long the present prime minister will continue in his post is not known. It all depends on the army what kind of National Assembly it wants to bring after the next elections due in the next few months. Former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is no more a dark horse. Yet his emergence depends on those in khaki.
Taliban are not as much a danger to Pakistan as are the Islamists that are brainwashing the minds of people who, given the desperate economic and environmental situation, see in them their deliverance. Even otherwise, Taliban have learnt a lesson from hostilities and horrors they have gone through death and destruction that the US and the NATO forces have unleashed. Taliban also want a change in their image because they smell power after 2014 when the foreign forces begin to withdraw.
I was recently in Pakistan after one year and found the country bravely facing the problems. Terrorism is absent from most parts of the country. Punjab has not experienced even a single incident in the last 15 months or so. Above all, terrorism is no more a topic in any discussion. I did not see any armed security person on the streets of Lahore. Still people do feel uneasy and even insecure, but appear to have reconciled to the circumstances and the conditions.
In the same way, the Taliban do not figure in the daily discourse as was the case last year. No doubt, they are there and it is contended that the Pakistani army does not go after them as much as it does in the case of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is apparent that fanaticism is not thriving any more, although an appeal in the name of religion has not lessened in effect. The maulvi is still a bugbear for all, more so to the liberals who seem to have toned down their voice of dissent. Sensing that the establishment is not with them, the rightist forces have arrayed themselves on a platform, Council of Defence (DAFA), to pounce upon those who dare to think of peace and harmony. Leaders include Hafiz Saeed who is connected with the terror attacks on Mumbai and the India-baiter Lt Gen Hameed Gul ®, former ISI chief. They fear that Islamabad may even make up with their top enemies, America and India. However pernicious their hate campaign, there is a genuine desire among the people to have good relations with India. Despite all pressures, the common man on both sides has nourished good feelings towards one another. Yet I have never seen before the surge for friendship which exists today in Pakistan. “We have wasted last 65 years in animosity,” said many leading people. “Let is not waste any more time.”
Elderly persons have a feeling that if the hatchet between India and Pakistan is not buried in their lifetime, it might not happen after they are gone because the youth is indifferent. However, I found many young girls and boys keenly interested in India and want to interact with their counterparts. But their main problem is the visa which is “impossible” to get.
Trade with India is awaited with abated breath, not only because it would give a break to the deteriorating economy of Pakistan but also because it would provide an opportunity to have contact with India. The bonds of common culture, common traditions and common ethos are convincing more and more Pakistanis that their long-term interests lie with India, not with the Islamic world which the rightist forces are trying to sell all the time. This, however, is not the case with the media which I found too involved in domestic happenings like our newspapers and television channels.
A few businessmen told me that the extremists have already begun threatening them of dire consequences if they were entering into any trade relationship with India. Most significant is the news that cantonments have their walls full of slogans against India written in chalk. (Chalking is the common practice to spread an idea). No doubt, the general perception is that the army is strong. But I did not find it throwing its weight about as happened even in General Musharraf’s time. The military seems to have realized that a takeover would not be easy this time. The political parties are daggers drawn but they have let it be known that martial law is out of the question. Nawaz Sharif told me that they would all stand by the Asif Ali Zardari government if there was any attempt by the army to push it out. I believe that Zardari has got such a message from Sharif who wants the army to be like the one in America or India.
I think the killing of Osama-bin Laden at his house in Abbotabad is the watershed for the army. People’s confidence in it has been greatly hit. They find it “too flabby and too close” to America. A story openly told is that President Zardari had a meeting of top army officials including General Parvez Kayani and some senior ministers to find out how far Islamabad could go to push America for having killed some Pakistani soldiers. The army top brass is said to have indicated that it could not withstand the pressure of Washington. Although the US drone attacks are criticized, the people admit in private that but for the drone attacks Pakistan would not have got rid of Taliban leaders like Osama and Mullah Omar.
No doubt, the anti-American feeling is stronger than it was last year. But this is primarily because of Washington’s pro-Kabul policy. Islamabad still wants Afghanistan as it strategic depth and it is irritated over Washington’s policy to make Kabul strong. That the latter is close to New Delhi aggravates the situation.
Kayani is no friend of India but he does not see any purpose in wearing his anti-Delhi feelings on his sleeves. He finds America pressing him relentlessly to give up hostility towards India. Kayani realizes that if Pakistan wants to get the military wherewithal he has to favour steps to lessen the distance with India. The decision to extend the status of ‘Most Favoured Nation’ to India had his nod. What he probably does not realize is that the peace lobby in Pakistan has expanded beyond his estimate. Nawaz Sharif has no hesitation in saying that he won against Benazir Bhutto in 1991 on the plank of peace with India. He proposes to raise the same issue in the next election in 2013. Some elements in the ruling Pakistan People’s Party too see the point. It is not, however, surprising to find the emerging Imran Khan not following suit. Maybe, the army, his biggest supporter, still wants to reap some dividends by not settling problems with India once and for all.
That both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should send messages of goodwill to the Hind-Pak Dosti Mach is a welcome development. The March is engaged in an endeavour to improve relations between the two countries. This was the 17th year for its members from the march and SAFMA in Pakistan to light candles at midnight on August 14-15, when the two countries were born, on the Attari-Wagah border. The sky was rent with slogans like: Long Live India-Pakistan Friendship and Dono bhaiyon ko mil ne do (Let brothers meet one another). Messages by the two governments are an admission of their mistake to have run down the tiny step taken in 1995, which has become a long stride, towards improving relations between India and Pakistan. Zardari has commended the efforts “in pursuit of shared destiny in the sub-continent.” He has paid homage to all those who have been making systematic and concerted efforts for promoting peace and cooperation in the subcontinent.
“The present democratic government and the people wish to see peace and cooperation flourish in the subcontinent. We are committed to it and hope that the search by the two countries together for a peaceful resolution to all disputes through a sustained and productive dialogue will bear fruit…The two countries need durable peace and security to focus on the social and economic development of their peoples…,” said Zardari. Manmohan Singh too wrote in the same vein. In his message, he said: “I am happy to know that the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch is organizing the 17th India-Pakistan Peace Festival at Amritsar on 14-15 August, 2012 as part of its efforts to build public opinion for peace and friendship in South Asia. The Manch is pursuing a worthy cause because sustained peace and friendship in this region are necessary for South Asian countries to effectively focus their energies on tackling challenges such as hunger, poverty, illiteracy and disease…” It has not been a pleasant experience to light candles at the border. The anti-Pakistan feeling was dominant when we started the journey. Threats, demonstrations and abusive letters were hurled at us whenever we came to the border to light candles or held seminars to determine what was wrong between the two countries and how it would be eliminated. All these years we have not faltered in our resolve that people-to-people contact is the only way to normalize relations. Both the Congress and the BJP would scoff at the effort and call us “mombatti wale” to belittle the efforts made to rise above the bitterness of partition. The Indian government has become somewhat cooperative because it gives us permission to go right up to the zero point, even though the border is under curfew from 8 p.m. However, the Pakistan government has given permission to go to the border at midnight after the Zardari government has assumed power. At the border, we exchange flags and sweets and we also sing together Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s couplet: Hum dekhenge…” It is an emotional journey for all us because for the most who come to the border, it is not a nostalgia but a commitment to see that the line drawn does not divide the centuries’ old composite culture. Both Hindus and Muslims have lived together for hundreds of years and shared joy and grief, apart from festivals like Id and Diwali. Why could not they have lived side by side after partition? I feel that it is possible to bring back that spirit provided people from both sides consider that the happenings during partition was a blot on their long history of togetherness. It should be a written off as an aberration. Still I wonder why the relationship going back to hundred of years collapsed like a house of cards? True, the seeds of bitterness were sown long before partition. Yet killing the neighbours or kidnapping their women shows that both sides have not risen above the medieval, religious thinking.
We still carry the baggage of history. Books on both sides depict partition from their point of view and underline the differences over religion. Therefore, it becomes inevitable that the borders between India and Pakistan should soften so that people can go into each other’s country without the hassle of visa or police reporting. But the worst is the role of fundamentalists, more in Pakistan than India. They are out to wreck the democratic polity on this side. They are still waging a war of Jehad and the messages and images sent by them to foment the migration of people of Northeast from the different states to Assam show that. Some Indians too have helped the fundamentalists from across the border in this devious move. I am glad to see that the two countries are cooperating in detecting the guilty and punishing them.
However, the manner in which people from northeast were forced to migrate to Assam is a sad commentary on our secular polity. Mere two hundred messages from across the border have exposed India’s secularism. Suppose there were to be two thousand next time, what would be the state in the country. This is a serious matter which civil society and government should ponder over because even after 65 years of independence, we have not been able to achieve national integration.
My greatest worry is to find India and Pakistan stuck in the status quo. Both the countries are traversing the same old beaten path and making no progress. The visit of India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna early next month provides both sides with a new opportunity to span at least some distance, even if they do not sign any specific agreement. What they should be discussing Afghanistan. If Kabul is taken over by the Taliban, it would have disastrous consequences in the entire region. The recent attack on the Pakistan air force base near Islamabad should be a warning. This means that the Taliban have the capability to strike at any place at any time. On the other hand, Pakistan is not seen doing enough to eliminate terrorism. When people in the India find that Islamabad is dragging its feet on punishing the perpetrators of 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, they wonder whether the statements by Pakistan against terrorist are credible. Pakistan is sending mixed messages. It wants to increase business but some of its leading firms have cancelled big deals at the last minute. In economic ties lie the hope. The two countries must realize this.
I can appreciate the relief in India that a Pakistani terrorist, who was assigned by the Taliban to attack New Delhi’s embassy in Paris, failed in his mission. But I cannot understand the logic that if the terrorist, Mohammad Merah, had succeeded, India would have ‘lost patience’ and might have done something. Does this mean that peace between the two countries hangs by the slender thread on what some demented fundamentalist from among Taliban or any such group decides to do? An act of madness by an individual or a group can set fire to the haystack of peace. New Delhi should consider whether its policy makes sense.
Pakistan is itself bleeding at the hands of the terrorists. One can argue that it is Islamabad’s own doing. The Taliban, once coddled by both civil and military establishments (some may still be at it) have become a Frankenstein, although India too has suffered in the process. Yet to jump to the conclusion that any Pakistani Taliban who proposes to attack India or its missions abroad must have been sponsored by Islamabad or even the ISI reflects a state of mind which is spiteful and stung by loads of mistrust. The Taliban are obsessed by jihad. They are by no means normal in their behaviour or action. The Swat Valley in Pakistan has had a taste of their occupation. It would be the height of irresponsibility if New Delhi were to equate the Taliban’s madness with Islamabad’s foreign policy, however adventuress it may be.
True, the Taliban used the Pakistan soil when they attacked Mumbai in November 2008 and killed as many as 300 people. Some fundamentalist elements in the establishment may have been mixed up with the perpetrators and the attack itself. But should that tragedy be stretched to the aborted attack on India’s mission in Paris? The terrorist, said to be from the Taliban, was killed by the special forces of France. He was a Pakistani. According to a report in Le Monde, a leading French newspaper, “Taliban handlers in Pakistan had ordered him to attack the Indian mission” when they “prepared him for jihad during the training in Pakistan in the summer of 2011.” The story may well be true, although one year is a long period for a young man to nourish the anger for an attack on the Indian mission in Paris. India has not officially corroborated the story.
Presuming the story is correct and the Le Monde is justified in playing it up because it has attributed the information to a source in the Central Director of Intelligence. Still it would have been disastrous if New Delhi had acted in a combative manner. India should not forget that Pakistan too is a nuclear state and a war between them could wipe out most of the two countries. It is known to all that the Taliban are trying to disturb peace in India. Pakistan realizes this and Home Minister Rahman Malik himself gave information to New Delhi when some member of the Taliban tried to cross into India a few days ago. Probably, the two terrorist attacks in Kashmir in the last few days can be by the Taliban who managed to cross into India. Yet both India and Pakistan have to face the threats by the Taliban together. It becomes all the more necessary that they set up a joint mechanism to deal with the Taliban, particularly when the US and the NATO have announced the withdrawal of their troops from 2014. In fact, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan should have a joint policy because all the three are going to be a target of the Taliban once the western powers pull out their troops.
However, I am unable to make out why experts on both sides are reporting that India and Pakistan have lost an opportunity to sort out their differences. The climate is still there and trade between the two countries will make it more conducive. It is up to New Delhi and Islamabad to give the much-awaited peace to the peoples on both sides. They have to sort out the pending problems between the two. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has remarked that Sir Creek problem is ‘doable’. And Pakistan chief of army staff Pervez Kayani has supported the resumption of composite dialogue between the two countries to sort out all problems, including Kashmir. It looks as if the demilitarization of Siachin glacier is the sticking point. This can be sorted out if both sides are sincere in their steps to demilitarize the area.
The hurdles are not Sir Creek, Siachin glacier or even Kashmir. It is the lack of trust in each other. The army in India realizes the futility of stationing troops at the glacier where the inclement weather has killed more soldiers than in action. Yet the army is convinced that once it vacates the heights, Pakistan would occupy them. After all, the stationing of forces by India in 1982 was on the basis of information that Pakistan was about to do so. It may have been preemption. That was in the past. Today the two countries should have a durable peace so that they can ameliorate the living conditions of the people who are poor if not poorer, after more than 60 years of independence.
Kuldip Nayar kindly agreed for FIRD to use his material, saying FIRD is “pursuing something after my heart”. At the age of 89, he has seen Gandhi at prayer in Birla Mandir, quizzed Nehru, watched Jinnah closely, worked with Shastri and Govind Ballabh Pant. Journalist, editor, author, he has seen history unfold, watched in action people most of the present generation knows only as institutions or physical landmarks, say Kamraj University or the Netaji Subhash Airport. “My story is really the story of modern India. Of the freedom struggle, of Partition, of Nehru’s India, of the Bangladesh war, of Emergency and more recently of liberalisation and India as a world power,” he says.