India and Pakistan: looking beyond the rhetoric (part 2)

September 14, 2009

Following up on my earlier post about what is happening behind the scenes in the fraught relationship between India and Pakistan, it’s worth keeping track of this report that Islamabad is considering appointing former foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan to handle the informal dialogue with New Delhi known as “backchannel diplomacy”.

As discussed in this story there has been much talk about trying to get the backchannel diplomacy between India and Pakistan up and running again, both to reduce India-Pakistan rivalry in Afghanistan and to prevent an escalation of tensions between the two countries themselves.  So any forward movement on the backchannel diplomacy, if confirmed, would be important.

To recap (and with apologies to those who already know this), India and Pakistan have many different ways of engaging with each other.  They have a formal peace process known as the composite dialogue, started in 2004 and broken off by India after last November’s attack on Mumbai.  India has said it will not resume the composite dialogue until Pakistan takes more action against those accused of involvement in Mumbai.

Then there are Track II talks, in which politicians, journalists, administrators and others on both sides of the border meet in a private capacity to try to promote understanding between India and Pakistan.

Senior politicians also have a habit of holding bilateral meetings on the fringes of international conferences, as happened when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met President Zardari in Russia in June and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Egypt in July. The foreign secretaries, or top diplomats, of both countries are also expected to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this month, ahead of a meeting between the foreign ministers.

But of all the different ways that India and Pakistan have found to engage with each other, the backchannel diplomacy carried out away from the glare of the media has arguably been the most successful. In 2003, the two countries agreed a ceasefire on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir, and extended it to Siachen, where the two countries had fought a high-altitude war since 1984.

In 2007, Satinder Lambah, a special envoy to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Tariq Aziz, envoy to then president Pervez Musharraf, etched out a set of principles meant to allow them to work towards a resolution of the Kashmir dispute (Praveen Swami at The Hindu gives the details here.)

I’m told there is no evidence the deal would ever have worked – many crucial details had yet to be negotiated. And since the backchannel talks were held in secret, it has always been unclear whether either country could win over domestic constituencies which might resist or sabotage any peace deal. But the backchannel diplomacy, and the intellectual space it opened up even to consider an agreement on Kashmir, functioned as an important ”shock absorber” between two nuclear-armed countries which have already fought three full-scale wars since independence in 1947.

The tentative “roadmap” agreement fell apart as Musharraf’s own political fortunes deteriorated, and the backchannel talks have yet to find their feet again in any kind of structured format.

The signs are that many other informal discussions are going on. As discussed here, the Pakistan Army has moved a significant number of troops away from its eastern border with India to fight the Pakistani Taliban on its western border with Afghanistan. The head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) broached what is effectively Indian territory by attending an iftar at the Indian High Commision in Islamabad. And the Indian government is trying to work out how to engage the Hurriyat, the main political separatist group in Kashmir, and that is something it can only do with Pakistani acquiescence.

But these informal contacts have lacked the structure of the backchannel diplomacy, whose main aim was to work out a way towards peace.

Until this week, it was unclear who would handle the backchannel diplomacy on the Pakistan side to replace Tariq Aziz, who was an appointee of Musharraf. On India’s side, Satinder Lambah could remain as a special envoy to the prime minister.

So the suggestion that Riaz Mohammad Khan might be appointed to fill that role for Pakistan would be a major step forward.

That said, there are plenty of spoilers in both countries who don’t believe in the peace process. So if India and Pakistan find a way back into their secret backchannel diplomacy, we might never know.

(Reuters file photos: A child at the funeral of Benazir Bhutto; Prime Minister Singh and President Zardari in Yekaterinburg; the gates closing on the india-Pakistan border; and a soldier at base camp in Siachen)

Comments

@Singh, you said:

“Your leadership knows that the anti India false propaganda injected in you over many years has made you too blind to accept the truth, And this venom cannot be sucked overnight.”

–>Singh, you are right, janab. Pakistan is so drunk on venom for the last 60 years that they will be almost incapable of seeing things in another light or another way, even if it is the truth, it will bring their artificial world of hate crashing down and that they are no prepared to deal with the fact that the bartender in Pakistan has in fact been feeding them mental poison and pure lies, for the last 60 years. That is when they start making conspiracy stories, to explain away the unexplainable.

People like Umair, are children of the mind-slave propaganda machine, which feeds children religious venom and hatred from a young age, a steady diet of A-Allah, B-Bullet, C-….K-Kaffir, or Kalishnikov…Z-Zindabad and the remaining levels of institutionalized hatred against India from High School to Army Cadet Training manuals.

I don’t believe that the current educated Pakistani’s will be incapable of breaking this mindrape they have had from childhood. It would take an act of God to change the Education system there and the sanitized and reformulated history that is taught to people there.

Everything starts with Education. If a proper education across Pakistan was given to all children, free from Madrassa venom and institutionalized hatred of Amreeka and India, Pakistan has a chance of surviving. In its current state, it is on a collision course with the graveyard and only time will tell will when that happens.

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Singh,Umair,Myra :

It is Gilani, who has been saying that he is ready for an unconditional dialogue , when India has said they want a dialogue ? Do we really want an unconditional dialogue with a rogue state like Pakistan? Recent revelation by Khan has revealed evil designs of Pakistan. Like Nehru, Manmohan Singh also might have a personal agenda to have a dialogue with Pakistan, but whether Indian in general are interested in an unconditional dialogue? Right, the craving for peace on Indian side is far greater on Indian side, but post 26/11,whether Indians in general want delinking of terrorism from the peace process? what is happening in Pakistan, is not our concern, but to us in addition to our usual problem, security of the country is also our main concern be it in villages or in cities?

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Dara, you said:

“There is much that I admire about the American system, yet as far as their foreign policy is concerned it is an unmitigated disaster. The main trouble with it, according to me, is that instead of basing their policy on the fact that foreign policy must look after US interests they also feel that the foreign policies of other countries should also look after US interests. They will eventually end up telling the two countries just what to do, how to do it and how to react to each others concerns instead of being being facilitators.
- Posted by Dara ”

–>The U.S. is not perfect, as far as it foreign policy goes. Most U.S. wars have been started by the Right Wing Neocon machine, with their own agenda and without the consent of the American people.(ie, Bush, Dick and Colon, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Pearl).

But one thing that nobody here can deny, is that without democracy and its institutions, humanity would not be where it its today, technologically speaking. All human advancements in every field whether it be medicine, aerospace, engineering, IT, computers for home use and many other things, to numerous to mention here, were developed and conceived of in democracies and societies, that value the right of the individual and have rule of law and most of those are western countries.

Non-democratic countries have their own agendas, that do not provide any room for democracy, rights of the individual, secularity, pluralism and rule of law.

Instead non-democratic societies often have institutions that have totalitarianism(theocratic or otherwise), dictatorships, communism, military juntas, or just plain tyrrany.

Those non-democratic countries with such institutions have proven incapable of following the will of the people, have no human rights, but often follow the agenda of a core filthy few, who live off the blood of others. Those types of countries, must be told what to do and how to act, as time and time again, they have proven themselves to be liars, genociders and destroyers of human rights. Rogue nations that proliferate nuclear weapons technology are a clear example of this. It is the responsiblity of super powers to ensure that checks and balances are kept in place with regards to smaller nations that are non-democratic and have weapons of mass destruction. Superpowers also keep each other in check.

These types of non-democratic countries lack the ability to act responsibly and in the interests of peace, mankind.(North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Syria..), it is therefore the responsibility of superpowers to police them. Some of you from non-democratic societies will often call this:

“telling the two countries just what to do, how to do it and how to react to each others concerns instead of being being facilitators.”

Such nations will always find themselves on the wrong side, if they continually choose to not to follow and emulate democratic institutions. Democratic institutions produce the greatest happiness of the individual and society as a whole.

To function and remain cohesive, democratic societies do not require rampant propaganda, fear, paranoia, lies, tyrrany or religious hatred as tools of national unity.

Democratic societies have inherent checks and balances, that for the most part, make it extremely difficult for a cabal or religious group of people to rule and govern over the many, with absolute authority, tyrrany and fear.

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