Indo-Pak Talks:The Insoluble Equation

27 Nov, 1998    ·   163

A. K. Verma says "it is going to be a long wait before the mood in Pakistan towards India undergoes a change. Another half century may not be enough"

The Indo Pak talks in November 98 have again demonstrated that their relations are doomed by an irresolvable equation. A genius will be required to resolve the complexities of India Pakistan relations. And the time factor will be remain indeterminate. Unfortunately, these complexities are becoming worse. New factors are creeping in that make the task more difficult.


The roots of the problem are to be found in the very basis on which the two new nations India and Pakistan were carved from British India. India evolved into a democratic and secular state. Its concerns are largely related to development and social transformation .Its parliamentary mechanism and constitution; guarantees allow dissent. In Pakistan , on the other hand, some of the fundamentals of a national architecture are missing. Its own choice to remain a theocratic state imposes on it anawesome burden


Kashmir , therefore, becomes the issue over which Pakistan cannot compromise. The fundamentalists in the country includes influential sections of the armed forces; they will not let any government in Pakistan stay in power if it appeared that a compromise on Kashmir was in the offing. The reactions in India over such a possibility would be no less explosives. Any government in India , which displays any responsiveness to the idea of a trade off, is likely to have the entire opposition at its throat. Nevertheless responsible political and military opinion in both the countries believes that concessions and adjustments are unavoidable to progress the relations between the two countries.


Today Pakistan is paying the price for its policies on Kashmir . Its military expenditure has long reached unbearable levels. Its pursuit of a nuclear deterrent can be traced to its sense of insecurity over Kashmir . Its nuclear explosions of May 98 were predicated by the same approach, and its consequent policies have landed it into a state of virtual bankruptcy. The American pressures are ironically compelling it to move further in the direction of religious fundamentalism. Yet, no government in Pakistan has teen able to dismount from the tiger of Kashmir for fearing of being devoured.


The costs to India are manageable and, therefore, do not impose an imperative for a change in policy. The Pakistanis can see all this but keep hoping that some miracle will alter the situation to their advantage.


The nuclear explosions of May 98, seen by the Americans as an affront to their non-proliferation policies, have given Pakistan a new opportunity to put Kashmir at the center stage of world attention as a potential area for tension. The reactions of the UN-Security Council, P-5 and G-8, apart from President Mandela of South Africa and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, have bolstered Pakistani spirits against this back


The Pakistani delegation for the November 98 talks could only had one brief viz. to harp on the need for peace and security in the context of Kashmir and not to allow progress on any other matter. And this is exactly what happened. The talks were not intended to have any results. Yet they would be continued for the benefit of international observers.


This is clearly visible from the reported discussions in November 98 on Siachen and economic co-operation. The stand off in the icy barrens of Siachen is to nobody's advantage and should be called off. Pakistan rejected Indian confidence building measures for stopping mortar and artillery exchanges.  The Line of Actual Control in Kashmir ends at point NJ 9842 and beyond that is supposed to run northwards. At one time, the Pakistani leadership was willing to abide by this imaginary line northwards byond NJ 9842, but is no longer willing to do so. Further, Pakistan is bound to extend to India the MFN status under WTO regulations. However, Pakistan has not responded to the Indian gesture of giving this status to Pakistan .


Perhaps the only positive gains from the Nov 98 talks were the agreements to allow a bus service between Lahore and Delhi and to examine the sale of power by Pakistan to India . But it should not surprise anyone if Pakistan ultimately finds itself without the political will to push through these two innocuous arrangements.


The other issues at the talks viz. Wullar Barrage. Tulbul navigation Project and Sir Creek only needed technical clarifications and adjustments. But the Pakistan brief was not to allow any headway. The remaining question was of terrorism and proxy war. As expected, Pakistan denied any role in it.


It is going to be a long wait before the mood in Pakistan towards India undergoes a change. Another half century may not be enough.