Time for India to start talking to Pakistan?

January 15, 2010

It has been more than a year since the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai and many commentators have been advocating restarting the peace process between India and Pakistan.

Is the time ripe?

The pKASHMIR/rocess that seemed to have restarted with Sharm-al-Sheikh statement stalled after the outcry in India over the statement’s drafting and the subsequent revelations about David Headley.

But a major development since has been Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan which involves a troop surge and announcement of a tentative withdrawal date around July 2011.

This has prompted some commentators to stress the fact that Pakistan will continue as a challenge for India much after the U.S. recalibrates its involvement in the region.

And therefore India needs to re-engage with Pakistan.

The argument roughly is that India needs to strengthen the moderate elements in Pakistan like its civilian government over hawkish elements like the ISI or the army who survive by scaremongering over India.

The argument for restarting the ‘peace process’ with Pakistan is hitched to an ideal picture: “Nothing will serve our interests better than a stable, prospering, democratic Pakistan, at peace with itself, looking inwards, and focusing its energies on its own growth and competing with us economically” as one commentator puts it.

The catch though is that the civilian Pakistani government talks in different voices.

President Asif Ali Zardari, perceived as a moderate, adopted a hawkish stance on India last week, calling Kashmir the “jugular vein” of Pakistan.

The argument for resuming the peace process assumes that India will be able to affect the outcome of internal dissension in Pakistan and by not doing anything it is playing into the hands of the extremist forces in the region.

Another commentator, even while calling for talks, writes it has to be assumed there will be another terrorist attack on India and Pakistan will continue to be turbulent.

This means that peace process or not, when it comes to guaranteeing the safety of Indians in India, we are on our own and won’t get much help from Pakistan.

The only thing India has a measure of control over is its internal security arrangements to prevent or mitigate another attack so that such events do not dictate terms on our foreign policy.

If the fate of India-Pakistan relations lies more with the home ministry than the ministry of external affairs, then is it too soon to start talking, too late or it doesn’t matter?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Vipul ,

Why must India restart negotiation with Pakistan ? What are issues with Pakistan ? Pakistan has done its best to blled India , sent its terrorists , illegal occupation Kargil which led to a mini war . With Pakistan, India has only issue : J&K : J&K has been divided in several parts – Ladakh Autonomous region, Jammu region, a major part of Kashmir has been gifted to China without approval of kashmiris, do you think these issues can be resolved ? Will China give up its claim on part of Kashmir under its occupation ? People of Indian occupied J&K has largely accepted Indian constitution by taking part of election process to elect a govt .Therefore Pakistani claim on J&K is another diversionary tactic to divert attention from more contentious issues of terrorism and global jehad. of which Pakistan is main sponsor.

Pakistan is like any other neighbour of India , if India needs to talk with Pakistan, why should not we talk to Sri Lanka on tacit Indian support to Tamil terrorists ? We should also talk to Myanmar and China on boundary settlement , at least these countries have a lot to contribute to Indian economy .

Pakistan has nothing to contribute to Indian economy . The biggest Pakistani export to the world is its terrorists and terror training school on its soil where the terrorists from the world over come to take lessons in terror techniques.

Pakistan is terrorist state , it is the duty of international community to take possession of its nuclear weapons to protect the world from another catastrophe.

Posted by manishindia | Report as abusive

The recommendation to continue the talks while Pakistani elements stage attacks against India looks ridiculous. This is tantamount to accepting the status quo and resigning oneself to fate. That kind of submissive attitude shows weakness. And it is this weakness that some of the Pakistani elements are trying to exploit. Reagan talked about talking peace from a position of strength. India must be firm in its requirements. If we respond to Pakistani initiatives only after some kind of attacks every time, then they will begin to believe that it is the only way to bring India to the table. That is like making a deal with the bandits who raid villagers and the villagers make a deal with the bandits that every full moon day they will send a girl with plenty of jewelry. Pakistan should be discouraged in using insurgency as an instrument of state policy. I know there are lot of mature and wonderful people there. However, they have no voice or say on anything in the affairs of their nation. India is right in telling Pakistan to end its support for all forms of terrorism and fundamentalism. By keeping these elements in the middle, no progress can be made. When we know no progress can be made, it makes no sense to start negotiations again.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Possibly a good idea but there is the question of who to talk to. We should talk directly to the Pakistan Army and circumvent the current regime. The ‘democratic’ government neither has the ability, antagonism or power to be a worthwhile counterpart.

Posted by amitsingh | Report as abusive

Well summed up in the last paragraph. This never stopping utterance of peace talks with Pakistan isn’t going to yield anything. We must protect out borders and strengthen our internal security. Expecting Pakistan to deliver on curbing anti-India activities on its soil is like expecting the sun to rise in the west. One year after 26/11, the masterminds are still at large and Pakistan is doing noting except paying the lip service. I don’t understand why Indian intelligentsia is so obsessed with Pakistan when we clearly know we wouldn’t get much. Why people easily forget the lives that have been lost in all these attacks. This whole talk stabilizing Pakistan is nonsense. No one can stabilize any country. People of that country have to stand up to the challenge. Better focus on building strong ties with other neighbours of India.

Posted by holywarrior007 | Report as abusive


you got anyone in your family who ever died in a terrorist attack? got anyone in the army? you a displaced kashmiri pandit?

Just curious to know..

Posted by Y.S.Sridutt | Report as abusive

My view is that India should go aggressively with talks and get the issues solved. The reason is simple, it is for India, Kashmiris and above all we have stuff to do; we are not waste like Pakistan that Kashmir is the only focus of India. Pakistan will not change, India has to change and move from its position at the right time (position of strength as someone said). This does not mean we drop our concerns and demands, but we got to shift gears; cruising like this is not a solution. We need to test the limits of Pakistan in peace initiatives.

But I also know that there are people higher up in Pakistan with multiple triggers and not everyone will put down their gun. Hardliner generals in PA/ISI have this pathological hatred for India and their motivation arises from religious fundamentalism. It is no secret now that there were people in Pakistan nuclear establishment—two scientists–talking to terrorists before 9/11, who at the behest of USA were thrown out. All such people in Pakistan’s various establishment is hardly surprising for a country like Pakistan which is off track for its own good.

Now this has infected Pakistan’s cricket team too.
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn -content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/colu mnists/19-nadeem-f-paracha-preaching-gam es-710-hh-07

A related article on peace:
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn -content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/colu mnists/03-where-peace-is-as-elusive-as-i ts-more-agreeable-definition-ss-02

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

@If the fate of India-Pakistan relations lies more with the home ministry than the ministry of external affairs, then is it too soon to start talking, too late or it doesn’t matter?”
—With the atmosphere post-26/11, there is never going to be a perfect time for talks. But talks are the solution. It takes two for the deal and India should go all out aggressively for solution via talks and get the issues solved. The reason is simple: it is for India, Kashmiris and above all we have stuff to do; we are not waste like Pakistan has become whose only focus is Kashmir and India. Pakistan will not change, so India has to do something and see things differently and make a move for talks or create opportunities for talks at the right time (position of strength as someone said). This does not mean we drop our concerns and demands, but there is need to shift gears; cruising like will not help anyone. We need to test the limits of Pakistan in peace process.

Pakistan has multiple triggers and not everyone will agree and those who do not are ready to spoil the show by triggering terrorism. Hardliner generals in PA/ISI have this pathological hatred for India and their motivation arises from religious fundamentalism. It is no secret now that there were people in Pakistan nuclear establishment—two scientists–talking to terrorists before 9/11, who at the behest of USA were thrown out.

India can use this time when Pakistan is busy in other missions and USA is breathing down Pakistani neck for US;’s own interests. Indians should show right constructive diplomacy and statesmanship and get Pakistanis on the table and test their limits. Million dollars can be saved and used for worthy causes than spilling blood.

A related article on peace where Jawed Naqvi does not see anything concrete on peace between India-Pak.
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn -content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/colu mnists/03-where-peace-is-as-elusive-as-i ts-more-agreeable-definition-ss-02

B.desh Pres was in India recently and India did well with on handling issues with Bangladesh for mutual benefits. PM singh’s main concern was not allowing B’desh to be used a territory against India and promised to give more than asked in return if that is agreed.
http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/17/stories/ 2010011761150800.htm

Why Pakistan is such an anomaly?

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

Is time ripe? Is time ever ripe?

Yes, it’s always time to talk. Sure, tempers flare, terrorists attack. Considering the alternatives, talking and engaging is the best strategy. History has told us to be wary and super-alert. But any moderating influence on the civilian government, assurances of trade and a better economic life for the Pakistanis is worth the risks attached.

What’s the alternative?
Just look at the Palestinian situation.
And the Kashmir deadlock? Grandfather Nehru(inexperienced as he was in the international arena) made two serious blunders; first was to go to the UN too early – he should have done that after driving the Pakistani army out of Kashmir in 1947-48.
Second was to ratify China’s takeover of Tibet – the Panchshila agreement with China.
Terrorism and the focal point of Muslim fundamentalism is moving East inexorably. Pakistan’s instability and divisiveness makes it the next major front. It’s also in China’s interest to keep India preoccupied with Pakistan.
Think long range like a chess master!
Think why America is instaling an anti-missile shield in Poland facing east. What’s the target?

Posted by Nehru | Report as abusive

India’s long term threat does not come from Pakistan, rather Pakistan is a pawn used by China and its puppet masters in Beijing. The sooner Indian people can see it through, the better it is.

Beijing does not like Islamists or even Islam within its border (read Xinjiang), but it is happy to see Islamism and Maoism in South Asia, so India can be bogged down and not reach parity with China in near future.

French, British and Germans all were sworn enemies, fought and killed each other, but now for pragmatism and mutual benefit, they are going ahead with EU, is India ready to do that for South Asia? The road to greatness will not be easy or without sacrifices, but that does not deter the brave and wise.

Can India take it as a challenge to win over Pakistan and take it away from the Chinese sphere of influence? Is India ready to play the shadow war with the enemy that does not show itself? I would ask Defense and RAW strategists, how is it that China strengthens its influence in India’s neighborhood and what India can do to negate them. India has one powerful tool which it is not using, its the SAARC regional group, I believe this can be an effective tool for Indian strategic plan to achieve great power status, while China will do everything in its power to scuttle India’s ambition. China knows it and wants to become a full SAARC member. SAARC membership should be reserved for countries that are willing for an eventual political union in the very long term, obviously China will not do it, but it wants to prevent SAARC from becoming an EU, that’s why it wants to nip it in the bud, by becoming a member. An EU like regional group from Myanmar to Afghanistan is China’s worst nightmare.

If India can show that it has a good plan to reach parity with China, then pragmatic US, EU, Japan, all of whom are afraid of a rising China, will come to the aid of India, in its effort to establish itself as a global power, rather than a regional power. As things stand now, India is not seen as capable to take on China, in any aspect, rather helping Chinese rise while shooting itself on its foot with current strategy. By the same token, nor is it looked at as a solution provider to create stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for which the unwilling US/NATO has to poke its nose and take a beating, because there is no alternative.

Posted by axindi | Report as abusive

@Can India take it as a challenge to win over Pakistan and take it away from the Chinese sphere of influence?”

axindia: good point! But it is not easy for you to convince me that my closest friend ABC is actually my enemy and that he is using me against you, especially when you consider me your enemy#1.

Self realization forced by circumstances is the way for Pakistan to discard destructive foreign policy. US gives them billions and people still see them their enemy. I see no way India can or even has the capacity to convince Pakistan to move away from terrorism. Pakistan did move against some terrorists (TTP), but they were moved by circumstances when the survival of PA/Punjab became an issue.

If Pakistan gets in their head that although terrorism is slowing down India’s progress, it is pushing Pakistan into the past.

Looking at other Muslim countries–even peaceful and rich– they may be rich with oil dollar but scientific progress and achievement has never be their national objective. That’s the bigger problem for a majority Muslim Nation Pakistan. They have nothing else to focus on than the obvious issues. Pakistan is a chaos and India does not have a leader with a vision at the moment that can think out of the box to solve this. Small windows of opportunities for taking a step forward are lost over nothings.

Policies in either case have been guided more by ego than by pragmatism. It takes a brave and a wise man to come out of the geopolitical shackles.

At least with Banglasdesh India is trying hard on these issues as is obvious from the current trip of B’desh President to India. India’s only demand from B’desh was is that B’desh must not allow terrorism from their soil against India. B’deah President promised and Indian PM went several steps forward to meet B’desh’s demands.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

Its definitely foolish, to start talk to Pakistan. India has already declared her terms for the talk. Now if Pakistan wants to talk, fulfill the terms and resume the talk process.

The again and again initiation of the talk process from the Indian end will be presumed as weakness of India. It will be presumed as Pakistan will do what it like, to disturb peace in Indian territory, and after few months the World Politics will pressurize India to talk again.

Posted by Ashish27071977 | Report as abusive