: Maj. Gen. Dipankar Banerjee,
P R Chari: Confidence-Building Measures across Line of Control and International Border
Keeping aside the debate over individual Confidence Building Measures (CBM’s), either between India-Pakistan or those pertaining to Kashmir alone, three conceptual features regarding CBM’s deserve particular mention: first aspect refers to the underlying paradox of CBM’s in that while these are undertaken to build trust and confidence between two sides, their effectiveness also requires confidence in order to be successful. This gives rise to an insoluble dilemma of what comes first resulting in a circuitous argument. Another noticeable aspect particularly of Indo-Pak CBM’s is that while military CBM’s that are more difficult to achieve are critical for establishing peace and stability in the region, the non-military CBM’s in contrast are important as they help improve overall milieu. Some of the positive achievements of CBM’s include Indus Water Treaty, advanced sharing of information on military exercises, ceasefire along the Line of Control that despite tough negotiations have proved to be successful upon completion. Lastly, the historical pattern of the CBMs between India and Pakistan reveals a stop-go pattern with strife and tension interspersed with peace efforts. The brass tracks crisis of 1987, the Kashmir crisis of 1990 was followed by 1991 CBM’s on over flight rights and military movement. The Lahore declaration in 1999 was followed by the Kargil war, and the Agra summit 2001 was followed by border confrontation. However bombing of Kabul embassy followed by the Mumbai attacks has occasioned the present phase in Indo-Pak relations. Dialogue revival has become hostage to Pakistan taking action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.
Stark differences exist today between the two countries on how to revive the process. Pakistan is interested in reviving the process but is not willing to accept any pre-conditions put forth by India including taking action on identifiable terrorist groups within Pakistan. To be fair, Pakistan would require solid evidence in order to proceed credibly in a court of law. This task is all the more formidable given the immunity enjoyed by many against the law, a problem common both to India and Pakistan. This aspect needs to be considered in assessing Pakistan’s commitment against terrorism.
Overall, it appears that so long as the composite dialogue remains stalled between India and Pakistan, back channel diplomacy and Track-II dialogue should seek to fill the gap and engage in wide-ranging dialogues. New suggestions and ideas should be discussed while strengthening the CBMs including exchange of good for trade, greater student exchange, relaxation of visa restrictions for trade and people to people contact, a dialogue on nuclear doctrine and polices and greater contact between the intelligence agencies. Another useful thing would be to quantify costs of non cooperation by giving it publicity by for instance highlighting the costs of not trading.
Amb K C Singh: Working Together on Afghanistan and Terrorism
The issue of terrorism has closely been linked with developments in Afghanistan given that this phase of terrorism in India began with the withdrawal of Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Given the surge of international terrorism in general and regional terrorism in particular, India-Pakistan dialogue has always faced the challenge of insulating the dialogue against global trends of terrorism. To begin with, despite international pressure on Pakistan leading to its commitment to curb terrorism in January 2004, the issue of state endorsement of terrorism within Pakistan has never been discussed in public. In order to keep the dialogue going, India could not mobilize international pressure on this aspect. As a result, there is no direct proof for such a linkage. Then, both the nations face the challenge of selling the idea of reconciliation at home, with severe costs for the leadership for settlement of the issue. This aspect too has impinged upon cooperation between the two nations. Moreover, a more troubling issue is the persistent confusion within Pakistan regarding an emboldened Taliban. There is still no final recognition that the Taliban and al Qaeda, and not India, is their biggest security threat. Recent Pew survey reveals that more Pakistanis judge India as a very serious threat to the nation (69%) than the Taliban (57%) or al Qaeda (41%) as very serious threats. The survey also reveals that Pakistanis are still soft over the various Islamist groups: while the negative opinion against the Taliban and al-Qaeda increased by 37 and 27 percent respectively from 2008 to 2009, concern over extremism has increased only by 7 percent in the same time period. The political establishment in Pakistan is not taking sufficient steps to clear the confusion regarding the biggest security threat. In this regard, there needs to be a greater debate within Pakistan and until then, India-Pakistan dialogue does not hold much promise.
On Afghanistan, it is important for India-Pakistan interests to converge rather than diverge, for a return of Taliban is not in the interest of either country. Pakistan has to realize that if Afghanistan was to once again fall into the hands of the extremists, they are in all probability going to expand into Pakistan too. With Pakistan’s nuclear weapons being the primary temptation and with many such extremist groups having made ideological inroads into Punjab, it spells a potentially dangerous trend ahead. In order to counter the Taliban, it is in both the countries interest to support the presence of US/NATO in Afghanistan for a withdrawal forces would throw the country into the woes of a civil war. The way forward in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan should not be limited to making Afghanistan a neutral country but to strive towards establishing a multi-ethnic peace.
Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal: Resolving Siachen
The Pakistani delegation was very apprehensive about the current situation in Pakistan; however, they also seemed very complacent at a level. The sense one got was that they perhaps felt that the Pakistan army was capable of handling the situation and therefore the sense of civil-society waking up to take charge of the situation was not present.
The conflict over Siachen began when the Indian Army moved its troops and occupied two passes in the Soltaro ridge in April 1984 and Pakistan followed suit by occupying the third pass. We have come close to a resolution in terms of demilitarization; however it has not been successful. The key question is: does Siachen have a strategic significance? The answer is no. Siachen does not have strategic, political, or economic significance. A roadmap for demilitarizing Siachen can be achieved over two summers, in accordance with the plans laid down by the Director General Military Operation’s (DGMO) on both sides as well as representatives from the foreign office.
The process can be verified and monitored according to the mutual satisfaction by using national technical means, with joint reconnaissance being carried out in subsequent years. The mechanism for joint reconnaissance can be instituted with the setting up of a centre at Chalunka village on the Indian side of the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). Reconnaissance missions can be carried out through helicopter missions and verification through satellites, UAV’s and maps.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, it has no particular interest in staying where it presently is; at least its troops are not on top of the Soltaro Ridge. The cost of maintaining the troops in Siachen is very high. It is at a high altitude and the weather is very bad especially in winter. Almost 80 per cent of the causalities are because of medial reasons. Therefore, demilitarization can be achieved and the Indian army, as precaution, can keep a battalion of troops in state on high alert. Siachen should be declared as an international science park with the involvement of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). It should also be opened for mountaineering and skiing expeditions with the presence of army officers from both.
Dr. D Suba Chandran: Water and Trade Issues
The impression one had before going to the Bangkok dialogue was that there would be less complication in discussing issues of Indo-Pak trade and Siachen when compared to Kashmir. This, however, was not the case. In fact, there was a lack of seriousness in discussing Indo-Pak trade relations. The sense one got was that Pakistan was not bothered about the MFN status. India on its part wanted to discuss about the transit route to Central Asia. The truth is that Indo-Pak CBMs has run its course. The indifference on part of Pakistan was high and there was no discussion whatsoever on the IPI pipeline. There is nothing that one can expect from Indo-Pak trade because Pakistan does not consider it as a CBM.
On Indo-Pak water issues, the biggest setback is lack of scholarly expertise from Pakistan to discuss water issues. Moreover, every Pakistani tends to get highly emotive when discussing issues with India, besides the fact that a detailed research or homework is almost done. Pakistan seems to have concluded that India is going against the Indus Water Treaty and this is the view shared by all Pakistanis without any verification of the same. Therefore, it seems that not only has anyone in Pakistan read the treaty but also that they do no seem to understand the implications of water sharing. There is a blind view that anything that comes from India is detrimental to Pakistan. It is quite immature because the thinking is on the lines that India will either construct a dam or starve Pakistan of water or that India could flood Pakistan. There is a lot of rhetoric coming from think-tanks in Pakistan as well as in the media. The media goes to the extent of encouraging gimmickry such as Pakistan using its nuclear option if India stops the water inflow. Even at the highest level Pakistan does not posses man-power or material to work on Indus water.
India, however, should be extremely careful and cautious regarding water issues with Pakistan. There is a severe power shortage in Pakistan and government water bodies in Pakistan are highly corrupt. Pakistan is witnessing a high population growth and this combined with the recent global economic meltdown has impacted the power supply tremendously. The emphasis on water and thereby on Indus Water Treaty is likely to escalate on Pakistan. It is time that India works with Pakistan on water issues between the two countries, before domestic pressure in Pakistan negatively impacts Indo-Pak relations.
Water Dispute and the Indus Water Treaty
- There is a need to expand the CBM beyond the military and security matters to non-security areas including media, agriculture, culture and arts. These would be very useful to give an impetus to confidence building between the two nations.
- The role of CBM seems to be limited. It has been unable to penetrate to the civil society within Pakistan that also includes, one, the rural mass that are still reluctant to give up Kashmir; secondly, the extremists that are unlikely to change their tactics and objectives; and lastly, large parts of the military that is still opposed to India. The key question surrounding CBMs is whether they can penetrate into the core issues that plague the two countries.
- Water issue is a universal problem. Rivers will pass into the territory of another country and just like Pakistan feels at disadvantage regarding Indus water, Bangladesh also feels at disadvantage with the Ganges water. This is a technical issue and should therefore be left to technical people to resolve the matter in hand.
- The issue of water is emerging as a grave issue between the two countries. In this regard, it is important to review the Indus Water Treaty and perhaps explore the need for a new treaty to replace it.
- The issue of water is not as grave as it is made out to be. India faces several water disputes and it has adopted a legalistic approach in addressing the same. This is reflected in the Indus Water Treaty itself. For instance, it provides mechanisms for outside intervention in case of water disputes. This option must be exercised.
- The threat posed by terrorism to India has very serious internal dimensions, and it is important for India to address these first before entering into a dialogue with Pakistan on terrorism. The role and powers of intelligence agencies for instance is deeply rooted in to center-state relations as laid out in the Constitution. To improve the agencies warrants a review of constitutional provisions as well.
- Given the tremendous pressure on Pakistan to take steps against terrorism – not only Afghanistan and India but even Iran has accused Pakistan of using its territory to incite trouble in Iran – it seems that Pakistan is more unable to fulfill its commitment. For this reason, it is pointless to wait for Pakistan to take action against Saeed.
- Bilateral dialogue has failed to achieve any purpose and it is time to bring outside powers, mainly the US, into the framework. The US has interest both in ensuring stability in the region and hence it would be mutually beneficial to all three powers.
- While the suggestion of third-party intervention is useful, the US may not be the right party because it has vital interests in the stability for the region and hence is not an impartial actor.
- Was there any discussion about the nature of education system within Pakistan that feeds a venomous anti-Indian sentiment?
- India and Pakistan should seriously consider assembling a set of historians from both sides to write a 50-page common revised history of India and Pakistan and this should be taught to children from the primary level itself.
India-Pakistan Relations: The Road Ahead
- The military is the biggest problem in Pakistan. It needs India and Kashmir to stay in power. India will have to deal with the Pakistan army forever and there is no solution to this.
- If Pakistan is serious about its relation with India, is there any sign of the direction of Pakistan military/nuclear doctrine having undergone any change?
- The rate at which India is growing, it can leave Pakistan behind by 5-6 years. India can afford to build fences at the borders with Pakistan against any kind of infiltration/intervention. However, successive governments in India should understand that there are constraints and the dialogue with Pakistan should go on. It is reasonable to put some issues on hold, but after 26/11 the mood in India has changes. There is zero tolerance for anti-India terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Yet, New Delhi should ensure that contacts with Pakistan are frequent and less dramatic without having to try to find a solution. New Delhi should state clearly that until Pakistan clears its internal mess (radicalization, education reforms etc), bilateral relations is not likely to head anywhere. India should be prepared for a long haul with Pakistan and it should not be over ambitious about its relations with Pakistan.
- There is hardly any support for President Zardari in Pakistan. On the other hand, Nazwa Sharif is very popular; however, the US is not keen to have Nawaz Sharif in power. Who is the US to decide this? Pakistan should decide how to manage its internal matters. Pakistan should be let to form whatever government it deems fit and the US or India or any other country should be ready to talk to that government.
Devyani Srivastava and Rekha Chakravarthi
Research Officers, IPCS