WEB DESK: India is ready to resume composite dialogue on longstanding disputes ranging from Siachan to Kashmir and does not want to restrict its presently stalemated peace talks with Pakistan to terrorism, Indian High Commissioner Dr TCA Raghavan told a seminar held here Tuesday.
“Pakistan is prepared for a serious, sustained… uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue process with India,” replied Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi while addressing the inaugural session of “India-Pakistan Emerging Realities”.
These claims, however, came only after the two officials pointed a finger at each other for committing violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and showing political intransigence in holding a meaningful dialogue to peacefully resolve bilateral disputes between the two nuclear-armed hostile neighbours.
The full-throated speeches of Raghavan and Fatemi were preceded by that of former foreign ministers and secretaries of Pakistan and India Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Shamshad Ahmed Khan and Salman Haider who blasted governments across LoC for following a “flip-flop” policy approach and ignoring the deep-rooted “human touch” in conducting bilateral relations.
Organised by Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR), the event was also attended by Chairman Observer Research Foundation Mumbai Sudheendra Kulkarani who was attacked by Shiv Sena fanatics who blackened his face with ink when the pacifist was going to host the launch of Kasuri’s book on “Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy” in India last month on 12.
“The impression that India only wants to discuss terrorism (with Pakistan) is entirely false,” said Raghavan. The Indian high commissioner also blamed Islamabad for running a “disinformation campaign” by saying that India had committed 400 LoC violations during last one month or so. “For months now we have been suggesting to government of Pakistan to bring peace on the border,” he said claiming Islamabad was staying back from holding DGMOs level meeting to resolve the border issue.
Also he rubbished the narrative in Pakistan that New Delhi wanted no or conditional talks with Islamabad saying: “Every single (peace) initiative has come from India”. To this effect, he referred to PM Narender Modi sending Foreign Secretary Jay Shankar to Pakistan in March and his side’s “asking” for a meeting between the prime ministers of two countries at Russian city of Ufa.
“We have a clear and consistent policy of engaging the other side,” the commissioner told Mani who earlier asked him to explain India’s exact policy toward Pakistan. Illustrating the strenuous relations neighbouring Sino-Japan and Japan-South Korea have been having, Raghavan said nothing was extraordinary in Indo-Pak relations. “The question is how we address these issues,” he said in reference to unresolved territorial conflicts over Kashmir, Siachan and Sir Creek.
Dwelling on emerging ground realities in Indo-Pak relations, Fatemi lamented that while a billion and half people were living in acute poverty, issues like environmental degradation and scarcity of water were haunting the two countries alike, their soldiers being killed on Siachan Glacier by frost bites and the world was interconnecting through abolishing borders “we are creating new walls of Berlin”. “We don’t now even talk to each other!” he said.
On India’s LoC violation claim, the assistant said if Pakistan was the violator why India wasn’t allowing the UN Observer Mission to establish facts behind the issue. He said the people of Indian occupied Kashmir, India and Pakistan were suffering only because New Delhi had failed all multilateral and bilateral efforts Pakistan had been making to seek a lasting peace with its neighbour.
“We are spending billions fo dollars on most sophisticated weapons only to blow each other up,” the senior diplomat said adding the political leaderships across LoC would have to show political maturity and vision to not let peace overtures between the two sides become a “dialogue of the deaf”.
Earlier, Kasuri said there was no policy of “benign neglect” for the two countries which, the optimist said, had no option but to talk. About PM Modi, he said the BJP leader could not have made it that far without being pragmatic. The results of bihar elelctions must have told PM Modi that “polarisation does not work”.
Pinning hope on presence of positive impulse on two sides of the LoC, the former foreign minister slammed the politicians of two countries for saying “one thing in power and completely different in opposition”. “They would have to rise above bi-partisanship,” said Kasuri, a “born optimist”. Mani, advising the negotiators on two sides to let the sleeping dogs lie and try to resolve bilateral issues, said the human touch was appeared to have been completely missing from the Indo-Pak relations. The former Indian petroleum minister reminded Pakistan that terrorism was as major an issue in India as was Kashmir in Pakistan.
“My plea to Pakistan is to give importance to our concern on terrorism,” he said and called for the restructuring of composite dialogue to “make it uninterrupted and uninterruptable”. Dwelling on a historical perspective of Indo-Pak ties, Senator Aetzaz Ahsan told the audience that communal divide across LoC could only be bridged when the “Indian Muslim become a proud Indian and Pakistani Hindu a proud Pakistani”.
Ex-Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider viewed that governments in the two countries have been doing “much to keep the people apart”. Warning against assumption that the prevailing uncertainty was permanent, he said back channel diplomacy could be worthwhile in bringing the two governments closer to each other.
His former Pakistani counterpart Shamshad Ahmad cited a troubled history of relationship, complexities of issues involved and centrality of Kashmir dispute as three basic ground realities of Indo-Pak ties. The challenge Islamabad and New Delhi, he said, were facing was to unblock themselves from a mode of not talking to each other. While the political leaders of two countries had failed to narrow down differences, diplomats on the two sides could deliver miracles, he said.
On the sidelines, Chairman ORF Mumbai Sudheendra Kulkarani told reporters that the Shiv Seniks’ attack did not frighten him as the cause he was following was a greater one. “Those who did it are a minority and do not represent the people of Hindustan who love Pakistan,” he said adding “(When return) I would tell them that no black flags were shown to us in Pakistan. Nor anyone said we would not let Indians to come to Pakistan,” Kulkarani said adding “This would change. We (together) would change it”.
By Ismail Dilawer
Source: Business Recorder