The Lahore Declaration

16 Mar, 1999    ·   177

Report of the IPCS Seminar on The Lahore Declaration, held on 5 March 99

A meeting of the Friday Group was held in IPCS on March 5 on the "The Lahore Declaration." It was led by Maj. Gen. Ashok Krishna and Mr. Anand Verma.



·                     Gen. Krishna noted the need in both the countries to assure the world that the nuclear deterrent is safe in their hands. The acquisition of nuclear capability, with its inherent risks, has made a dialogue unavoidable. Pakistan , with a per capita income of  $309, has a compelling economic imperative to forge peace as the effect of sanctions is affecting an already vulnerable economy. Besides, the leaders have appreciated the significant aspiration for peace by the younger generation who are not consumed by the hostile attitudes of previous generations. Businessmen realise that a truncated role for SAARC is beneficial to neither country. A large number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on both sides have worked together to create an atmosphere for improving relations.





·                     Concerning the Lahore Declaration (LD), Gen. Krishna noted the significance of nuclear CBMs that might create a climate where further progress is possible. There are, of course, some divergences which further talks should iron out: The steps outlined in the Lahore Declaration and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) amount to an excellent beginning which will go a long way in reassuring the international community that the nuclear dimension has added to the sense of responsibility of the two countries and their leaders.


Trade and Commerce





·                     Based on a shared vision of peace and stability we are likely to see a boost in Indo-Pak trade; relaxation of visa regulations; reciprocation by Pakistan of the grant of MFN status which India extended to her a decade ago; opening of a road route for trade; exchange of business information; as also increased cultural and sporting contacts. The South Asia Preferential Trade Agreement could now become a reality. An improved investor sentiment towards India and Pakistan is already evident with the warming of relations.





·                     The major impediment to any lasting peace process will be the Kashmir issue. Three previous wars have brought about very marginal changes to the original Cease-fire Line. The continuing proxy war of the ISI launched in 1988 has resulted in approximately 9,000 militants being killed and 34,000 being captured; 4,000 have surrendered and some 20,000 weapons have been seized by the Indian side. About 9,000 Kashmiris civilians have been killed. Indian security forces have suffered over 1,000 dead and about 3,500 wounded. Pakistan spends about Rs. 80 to 100 crores annually on the proxy war and India has to spend a much larger amount to counter it.




·                     He felt that the army should be given more leverage to deal with the mercenaries. Only a single-minded conviction to root out the militants can get both sides to the negotiating table. He believed both sides need to solve the Kashmir dispute without loss of face to either. In this context, the present Line of Control or the present Line with minor modification to follow clearly demarcated landmarks like rivers and crest lines offers a fair solution, and perhaps the only one under the circumstances. It has been seen that agreements when signed from positions of strength endure. What better time than now when both India and Pakistan have acquired nuclear strength, Krishna felt. The other outstanding territorial issues - Siachen,  Sir Creek, and the Tulbul Navigation Project-can be solved with maturity and understanding, as was done in the case of the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960, which has stood the test of the time, and has never been violated by either signatory.


A. K. Verma began by stating that an evaluation of Vajpayee's Lahore visit ought to keep the evolution of Pakistan as a nation-state in mind.



·                     Pakistan is no longer a secular, democratic, integrated, welfare state that its founder envisioned.  Not having evolved along those lines restricts its political options and Indo-Pak relations thereby remains a hostage to this phenomenon. Pakistan 's mode of governance has taken a very heavy toll of its polity. Political institutions are weak and power resides with an oligarchy dominated by civil and military officers. The Pakistani decision-making elite in the defense and security establishment is not ready for any compromise on Kashmir because it would be anti two-nation theory and anti-Islam. As political institutions remain weak, this establishment will call the shots.


·                     ISI will continue to operate unbridled especially in Kashmir .  A new vision on Kashmir will not come about without a generational change. And, yet, both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto belong to this category as did the late Zia-ul-Haq in the last years of his life.  Their vision and action will not, however, will not be effective so long as political institutions remain weak.


·                     Nawaz Sharif is the most powerful Pakistani Prime Minister ever.  Despite triumphing over the President, Chief Justice and the Army Chief since becoming PM in 1997; it is still unclear where the locus of ultimate power resides in Pakistan . While this bleak scenario rules out any substantive progress on the Kashmir question, the have exhibited admirable prudence in ruling out a nuclear war between the two countries, now that India and Pakistan are both nuclear weapon states. Implicit in the Lahore Declaration is  a desire to formalise a doctrine of mutual restraint. Particularly significant is the commitment to engage in bilateral consultations on security concepts, nuclear doctrines, disarmament and non-proliferation issues.


·                     The areas chosen for cooperation, such as visa relaxation and travel-related regimes are such that their political motives cannot be misconstrued. Thus each PM reserves his country¡¯s position on Kashmir but looks for ways and means to set in motion a cooperative spirit hoping that, in time, it will develop a momentum that will  be difficult to thwart.


The criticisms and observations that came up in the discussion included:



·                     There is nothing substantive about Vajpayee's visit except that dialogue has been resumed. India should go in for a no-war pact if only to test Pakistan 's resolve in the matter.


·                     The talks were no exercise in spontaneous goodwill, but a clear response to American pressure, which preceded the build-up for the visit in the media. The bus idea, which was on the anvil, came in handy to lend a symbolic touch to the proceedings.


·                     A step by step approach to peace is counter-productive for India which tends to confuse the issue of disputed territory and the matter of the international border. The illegal trade between the countries will go on irrespective of the frosty relations. The border is not the issue. Militancy is. The Algiers solution ought to be considered by the Army which was a ruthless counter-insurgency policy employed by the French against the Algerian nationalists. There is a need to prosecute an all-out war against insurgency in Kashmir .


·                     Article 370 creates a problem since it provide a special status for Kashmir and yet is inadequate when it comes to implementation. There is little sense in treating Kashmir like a protectorate and yet insisting on its special status.


·                     On the CTBT, one discussant stated that the conditionalities mentioned by Vajpayee in his UN speech for signing the Treaty have not been met. These include ratification of the Treaty in the Duma and the US Senate. The critical issue in India is that it has no comparable ratification process which requires the approval by the Parliament. This is a major lapse in India 's constitutional system. A constitutional amendment must be enacted immediately to rectify this lacuna. America is attempting to persuade India to sign the CTBT, since it does not have a ratification system.


·                     A discussant related the findings of opinion polls in Kashmir that he was involved in compiling stated that the alienation of the population towards the Indian state is undeniable. An overwhelming majority of Kashmiris favor independence. Army sources acknowledge that the youth who go over to Pakistan are clear about their objective, which is independence. The militants seeking refuge in Pakistan either intend to buy arms or seek training to return to Kashmir and fight. There is scarcely any militant prepared to do Pakistan 's bidding.


·                     Another discussant suggested the possibility of negotiating an addendum to the existing Indus Water Treaty between the two countries that established a modality to distribute the Indus waters by dividing its six major rivers between India and Pakistan . Despite these conflicts, and the adversarial relations between the two countries since the Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960, neither country has even contemplated its abrogation. The time might be propitious to negotiate a more ambitious proposal for the optimal development of the Indus river water basin, and include this proposal in the discussions scheduled to be held between India and Pakistan . This would bring great economic benefit to both countries apart from muting the Kashmir problem, the discussant felt.