India and Pakistan: finding the right forum for dialogue

February 23, 2010

agra“Peace,” said Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw ”is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.”  Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao begins that arduous process on Thursday when she meets her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir to try to break a diplomatic freeze that followed the November 2008 attack on Mumbai.

 Rao, speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said she hoped to “build, in a graduated manner, better communication and a serious and responsive dialogue to address issues of concern between our two countries”.

In her speech, she insisted Pakistan must act to dismantle Pakistani-based militant groups blamed for attacks in India and Indian Kashmir. “The greatest threat to peace and stability in our region emanates from the shelter terrorists find in the border of Afghanistan-Pakistan and in Pakistan itself,” she said. ”Terror groups … continue to recruit, train and plot attacks from safe havens across our borders.”

In answer to a question about whether Kashmir would figure in her discussions, as sought by Pakistan, she acknowledged this was a subject that must be discussed bilaterally. India’s concerns about terrorism would find “essential focus”, she said  — with emphasis on the word essential — but that “obviously we would like to keep the door to dialogue open”.

The problem, as discussed  in this story, is how to structure the dialogue.  With India’s Pakistan policy decided in the prime minister’s office, the foreign secretaries can do little more than provide a supporting role in preparing the groundwork for another meeting between the two countries’ leaders, possibly on the fringes of the SAARC summit due in Bhutan in April (see pdf of the invitation from Bhutan)

Like his predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants peace with Pakistan. He is likely to move cautiously after being criticised by his own party for giving too much ground in talks last July with Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of a non-aligned summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

And while many people believe that real progress will require bold steps by the two countries’ political leadership, they are a long way from the kind of summit talks which might make a breakthrough possible. A summit between Musharraf and Vajpayee in Agra in 2001 ended in disaster after the Pakistani leader tried to strike a deal directly with the Indian prime minister in an attempt to leapfrog the time-consuming preparations of their bureaucracies.  Neither country is seen as being particularly keen to repeat the experience.

Yet the composite dialogue, or formal peace process, is beginning to look a little bit tired. Since this was relaunched in January 2004 — and then broken off after the Mumbai attacks — other contentious issues, including rivalry over Afghanistan and sharing Himalayan river waters — have risen to the top of the agenda. Meanwhile, less contentious issues covered by the composite dialogue, such as resolving territorial disputes over the Siachen glacier and Sir Creek, have already been discussed at length and are more or less awaiting a leadership decision and the right climate of trust to move forward. That raises the question of whether the composite dialogue has outlived its usefulness.

Back channel talks,  secret meetings between diplomats held away from the glare of the media which made progress in sketching out a roadmap for peace in Kashmir under then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, appear, for now at least, to hold out little promise. Musharraf, speaking in London earlier this month, said these talks had “operated extremely efficiently” and he had been close to a deal on Kashmir. The new civilian government has always been reluctant to pick up exactly where Musharraf left off,  and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has since virtually disowned the deal.

While Qureshi has  appointed diplomat Riaz Mohammad Khanas a special envoy for talks with India, there are mixed reports as to whether he has held any serious discussions with his Indian counterpart Satinder Lambah, and no signs that they have begun substantial negotiations on the Kashmir road map.

This leaves an unsatisfying picture on how the two foreign secretaries are supposed to find their way back into the arduous business of peace.

(File photo of Musharraf and his wife before the Agra summit in 2001)

10 comments

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/

I think these talks should restrict themselves to working out a mutually acceptable agenda for a subsequent meeting(s). In trying to discuss any specifics, both sides will stick to their pet, rather “core” positions, Terrorism – Kashmir. Both need to be discussed but under a clearly thought out format in a phased manner. Unless of course the exercise is being undertaken merely as a token of meeting under the same roof to appease onlookers.

I really have not understood what the difference is between bilateral talks, talks, negotiations, composite dialogue and any other kind of dialogue. Shouldn’t they all have the same goal in mind? So why all the fuss about what the dialogue should be termed? Pakistan wants it be called or be a part of the composite dialogue, India says we’ll talk but not a composite dialogue…… sounds immature, as if its all about scoring points and one upmanship. One wonders whether either side is really expecting to move forward or they want to be seen going through the motions to meet international and national compulsions.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Useless talks nothing will change. Both countries have learnt to live with it. With this status quo, India’s progress in the world stage will always have a limit and will not reach its full potential. Pakistan will suffer in its own way.
In my view the best solution of Kashmir is that it is made a visa free zone, an autonomous territory. Thats it. Finish the conflict or live with it.
As with terrorism, let both countries be on peaceful terms and Pakistan will do whatever it can to cooperate on this. With currently Pakistani state fighting against terrorists posing direct threat to Pakistan, Pakistan becomes the priority not the terrorist groups focused on India.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive

@Myra,

Myra, Mr. Keithz has several times posted UNSCR 47, which stipulates Pakistan’s responsiblities with regards to Kashmir, which it is violating, which it does not teach in Pakistani schools and its citizens completely ignore on this blog.

I urge you to step back and consider using the UNSCR 47 as a topic unto its own and give it its full due credence and attention on the international stage and it should also be brought up at any bilateral talks between the two countries.

In fact, it should even be amended to stipulate that any state fueling terrorism and separatism, should forfeit any claims or grievances.

A – RESTORATION OF PEACE AND ORDER

1. The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours:

(a) To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and
Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purposes
of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of
material aid to those fighting in the State;

(b) To make known to all concerned that the measures indicated in this and the following
paragraphs provide full freedom to all subjects of the State, regardless of creed, caste, or
party, to express their views and to vote on the question of the accession of the State, and
that therefore they should co-operate in the maintenance of peace and order.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

[...] signs of regional cooperation. The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan hold talks on Thursday to try to break a diplomatic freeze which followed the 2008 attack on Mumbai. And Pakistan and Iran may have cooperated on the arrest [...]

“Pakistan’s responsiblities with regards to Kashmir, which it is violating,”

Here we go agian Pakistans responsibilties and which part of this resoultion is India adhering to?

So its always Pakistan must do this first and that..how about being a little mature as a bigger bully neighour why not lead by example. Take half of your army out of Kashmir that will leave the Pak admin with no choice and they have to do the same.

On one hand you say Pakistan should implement by letter that resoultion can you answer which part has india followed. Has india implemented its part of the commitment. Without even looking i tell the part india commited to and follwed.

Oppress the Kashmiris by any means… murder, stage killings, dummy admins, anything that can be done to shut these fools in vthe valley. What have you achieved opposite dont belive me go and see and hear for yourself. But then you rather bury your head in the sand when you hear anything agaianst india. You idiots need to have bigger better heart to admit first you have done wrongs to kashmriis that would be start. Ti this day I have never heard any idiot even utter a word for a mother whos child killed, husband murdered, daughter raped and hope of better life taken away from them.

I guess according to g-w thinking India is saint and always follows every UN resoulution word to word and its spoilt Pakistan that does not. g=w you need to grow up yes mentally lol.

By being biggger neighour it brings bigger responsibilties rather than saying… we will hold “talk about talks”. What?!

Posted by Magic786 | Report as abusive

Magic786:

FYI:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdi-HlK46 so&feature=related

Kashmiris in Pakistan speaking against Pakistan’s policies.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

Magic786 said:

” You idiots need to have bigger better heart to admit first you have done wrongs to kashmriis that would be start. Ti this day I have never heard any idiot even utter a word for a mother whos child killed, husband murdered, daughter raped and hope of better life taken away from them.”

–>Fine, take note, I as an Indian feel horrible for any attrocities committed by the Indian Army presence in Kashmir. Are you happy now?…has anything changed..NO!

You must take note though, the problems in India Kashmir, if any, started once Pakistan started its active support, supply, arming and training of succesionist rebel jihadi Proxy war armies into Kashmir in the 80′s, prompting the Indian Army to address the security deterioration in Kashmir. The Indian Gov’t has an obligation to protect India’s security and territorial integrity. Ordinary citizens are always caught in the middle, in any war, when Armies are taking a footprint amonst civilians…look at what the U.S. Armies did to the Phillipinos and Vietnamese…this has nothing to do with religion, you fool.

Now that you call Indians Idiots for being in Indian Kashmir, by any international I can call you Pakistani’s “DEMONS” for genociding 2.5million HIndus and 500,000 muslims in East Pakistan.

The sheer number of deaths in the Bengali Holocaust overshadows the Kashmiri deaths by almost 30times, yet you Pakistani’s are all curiosly silent and don’t want to engage this topic, you all just magically have amnesia and quietly sit there, never answering.

You have a chance to show that Pakistan is remorseful towards the genocide, would you like to take a stab and admit some remorse for the organized systematic slaughter and murder of 3million humans in such a short time frame?

The world is waiting for your answer, we have waiting since 1971 for Pakistani’s to admit remorse, anything, at all for the sytematic murder and extremination of 3million humans

I have never seen one Pakistani admit that genocide and I have been on these blogs for a couple of years now.

If you hate India so much for its human rights violations in Kashmir, which you claim, you must wish that your country goto Hell, for what your punjabi army did in Bengal.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

Just let me clarify in my above post. I am not calling Pakistani’s any thing here, I am just making a contrast to you magic, you are calling Indians Idiots for Kashmir, what would any sane person call you for the slaughter of 3million unarmed citizens of Bengal.

Please tell me how you view the history of your country propating that genocide and the genocide of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, almost 60,000 of them in Kashmir?

Again, if any Indian soldiers harm an Kashmiri’s, muslim or otherwise, they should be punished for bad behavior and tried. Do you think Pakistan should be admonished or reprimanded in anyway for the death of 3million?

As usual, I will get no answer from any Pakistani’s here, Umair or yourself, Why so silent, has the cat got your tongue?

That is a pity, even Germans today are remorseful for the Jewish Holocaust of 1940′s in WWII. But I am sure that you are also a holocaust deny er.

You hate India so much for 1971, the truth is that you hate yourself so much more and can’t stare at your own face in the mirror, because you wouldnt be able to deal with it.

True power, strength and wisdom lies in admitting mistake and fault.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

GW:

Keep on hammering Magic.. this guy Will not respond to anything sensible. I have asked 10 times already all this. His central nervous system fails each time you ask something meaningful.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive

“are asleep? Oh!” fiddle with the fire of the stick in the hands fling, maple carefully approached the night huddled under the full moon mulberries and Los dance.

Which means that, Game master Jari Kurri, You never know a tiny little somethin in regards to playing golf some of the most important send align, Would be the actual other hand seat because within your click box and can run the ahead long run along with even when an additional admin functions safety the. The 4th guide this standard may possibly be the goalkeeper. Finland was being the on the innovative feeling goalkeeper motor coachs for everybody clubhouse competitors so this is smart.