India and Pakistan – yet again, past is prologue

June 22, 2010

raobashirGiven the row over General Stanley McChrystal’s comments in Rolling Stone magazine, the slow process of repairing relations between India and Pakistan is unlikely to get much attention. But there is some movement there, which is worth watching closely since the relationship between the two plays such a defining role in the attitudes of the Pakistan Army and by extension, in Pakistan’s perceived approach to Afghanistan.

Following up on talks between their prime ministers in April, the foreign secretaries and interior ministers of India and Pakistan meet this week in Islamabad to try to rebuild trust between the two countries and find a way back into more substantive dialogue.

India broke off the formal peace process, the so-called Composite Dialogue, with Pakistan after the November 2008 attack on Mumbai and sporadic efforts since then to resume dialogue have been stuttering at best. 

But since the start of the year, India – which had insisted it would not resume talks until Pakistan acted against the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for Mumbai – has shown some softening in its position.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, the country’s top diplomat, said earlier this month all issues were up for discussion, although she also stressed that Pakistan must take action against militant groups.  In a speech to a conference organised by the Delhi Policy Group she referred to progress made both in the Composite Dialogue and in informal backchannel diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir dispute — comments which were interpreted as an indication of India’s hopes of building on the achievements made before Mumbai.

The backchannel diplomacy in particular established a roadmap for peace in Kashmir under which there would be no exchange of territory between India and Pakistan but both would work to make borders irrelevant – a formula which had at least the potential to end a 60-year standoff over the fate of the divided former kingdom.

According to The Hindu newspaper, India wanted to find out whether Pakistan too was willing to build on the gains made in negotiations before 2008.  It quoted official sources as saying that if the civilian government in Pakistan acknowledged what had been accomplished through the backchannel diplomacy and was ready to take that process forward, this would give big boost to trust building. “We have to see if they are willing to do that,” it quoted one source as saying.

That is rather less obvious than it sounds. The roadmap for peace in Kashmir was agreed by former president Pervez Musharraf, and the new civilian government has long been reluctant to pick up where the former military ruler left off.  As recently as May, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated that Pakistan was returning to its historical stand on Kashmir — demanding the implementation of UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite – after “wavering” by the Musharraf government.

Nor indeed is the civilian government in a position to make the same concessions as Musharraf – any decisions on relations with India would need to be agreed with the Pakistan Army, which retains a tight grip on foreign and security policy.

At the same time, India is unlikely to get early satisfaction on its demand for action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.  Pakistani security officials say the country needs to focus first on fighting Pakistani Taliban militants on its border with Afghanistan rather than opening up a new front in Punjab, where the group is based.

As discussed before on this blog, the two countries might be able to make more progress in narrowing their differences over Afghanistan than in tackling the Kashmir dispute.  Both India and Pakistan are rivals for influence in Afghanistan, complicating the already – and increasingly – messy picture there. Yet both say they have an interest in a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, and both have reasons to be anxious about any early withdrawal of U.S. troops which could destabilise the region further.

Nirupama Rao meets Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir on June 24, and the two diplomats – who last met in February – are then due to prepare for a follow-up meeting between their foreign ministers. Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram is then expected to meet his counterpart Rehman Malik on the sidelines of a South Asian regional conference on June 26.  Dates to watch – if considerably less gripping than “the MacArthur-Truman” showdown between McChrystal and President Barack Obama.


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If recent trend is anything to go by – all they are going to agree upon is the date of next meeting, everything else is mere formality.

Civilian government in Pakistan is not in any shape to resume the thread where Musharraf left off. Indian government, on the other hand, would be foolish to offer any extra goodies in the present situation.

Posted by Seth09 | Report as abusive

Wait until the next Mumbai happens soon. Pakistan has many groups trying to run the country. It is like their cricket team. No one knows who the real captain is. India is dealing with one group that is supposed to be officially Pakistan’s government. But then their military has its own foreign policy and it periodically derails any peace process between the two countries. Then there is the ISI which runs its own agenda. Now there are many militant organizations with different goals – one wants to fight India over Kashmir. Another one wants to raise Pakistan’s flag in Delhi.

This is what must be done.

Let the Indian government deal with Pakistan’s elected government. Foreign secretaries meet, shake hands, pose for photographs, talk the same thing and go home.

Let the Prime Ministers meet. Again they can talk about the same topic with no changes, issue the same statements and go home.

Let the military generals talk to each other. Usually this is the most entertaining of all engagements. It rivals only the border ceremony between India and Pakistan where soldiers try to swing their feet all the way over their shoulders. Let the generals warn each other of the damage that they will cause to their opponents, their strategies and schedule for the next war games.

Let the RAW and ISI play their own hide and seek game.

Let the LeT deal with the RSS.

If each group engages with its corresponding counterpart, we can make sure that nothing improves and many generations come and go in the meantime.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@KPSingh: You always talk with substance and in a way convince your reader; but let us be hopeful for a little while, I believe that the relationship might improve, because new talks open new avenues and this brings new solutions. I hope the action against the militant groups will be initiated in the coming weeks and that might soften the stance of India.

Posted by SZaman88 | Report as abusive

A United Indo Pak is a Stronger Indo Pak.
But that is for the corruption to decide also.

Posted by namanasghar | Report as abusive

Only 40 years ago it was a very different Country India. It was a part of Bengladesh it was a part of Pakistan.
But after the freedom from British Rule. The British Monarchy has kept her sovereignty over this part of India which we now call Pakistan. Which was a part of Bengladesh. (By the way no one wants Bengladesh).
They share everything almost the same. Expect Pakistan is a Muslim country and India is Hindu country.
For it to be United in the form like European Union or Better or worse still Like United Kingdom.
It would require Tolerance from 40 year old ex Indiance accepting Hindus and Indians accepting Ex Indians. In reality India should not of allow the Arab Imperialists to invade their culture then again they perhaps should not of allowed the british to invade their culture.
But they did and old ways or new ways are not an improvement to its society.

Posted by namanasghar | Report as abusive

Most people are in Pakistan sufficating due to its own society. Every person is in a rush to come out of pakistan. That is how bad society is. No one wants to live in that society.

Posted by namanasghar | Report as abusive

So it has social issues which need to be conquered.
Their is a joke.
The british stand in India because the Indians made them think they were ruling over their nation.
In reality the Indians wanted them their to see how long they could tolerate their Society.

Posted by namanasghar | Report as abusive

Pakistan is a Sovereign state under the British Monarchy.

Posted by namanasghar | Report as abusive

Kashmir “problem” is not the reason behind India-pak tension. Some muslims living in Jammu Kashmir have Kashmir “problem”. Paks claiming to have Kashmir “problem” is manifestation of “Pakistan problem”.
“Pakistan problem” here defined as a failed state, a military terrorist enterprise, a rogue enterprise under Pakistan army/ISI that goes for a “country”.

Posted by Seekeroftruth | Report as abusive

Good to see some movement. It remains to be seen whether the real power in Pakistan (the PA) is really onboard.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

Good to see that some progress is being made. I am skeptical that the power behind the throne (the PA) is really on-side though.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

Nothing can be gained from these “composite dialogues” until there’s a paradigm shift in the ‘anti-India’ ideology of the Pakistani military establishment. Also, a lot has been said about the Manmohan-Musharraf plan to make kashmir’s borders irrelevant but given Pakistan’s history of agression in kashmir (Officially: 1948, 1965 & 1999, via Non-state actors: Since 1989), how will India be able to trust it’s intentions?
The best thing to do for now, would be to reduce the trust deficit & initiate confidence building measures by strengthening trade & cultural ties and when the time is right, the Kashmir issue will get resolved within no time. After all, it’s much easier to resolve disputes between friends than between enemies. So, lets work towards becoming friends first.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive


You said: “nothing can be gained from these “composite dialogues” until there’s a paradigm shift in the ‘anti-India’ ideology of the Pakistani military establishment. ”

–>This is also true of the educational system and the constitution of Pakistan itself. It is too deeply entrenched in religious exclusivity, that same sectarian supremacist philosophy that gave rise to Pakistan is the same philosophy that will destroy and disintegrate Pakistan.

It is not true of ALL Pakistani’s but most are full of hate against India and will justify almost any atrocious act against Indian to gain.

It seems as though if you give an inch, Pakistan wants a mile out of you. You act nice to them, you appear weak or appear that you are willing to concede out of some sort of fear of them…the only motivator is money and cash. You may be able to buy the love of Pakistani’s.

The joyless existence that Pakistani’s have will continue to deteriorate at an alarming pace, as the PA continue to drag their feet and drag the rest of Pakistan into the abyss for their own selfish and delusional goals.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive

[…] peace talks is seen as at least partly dependent on a reduction of Indian influence in Afghanistan. So this week’s talks between the foreign secretaries and interior ministers of India and Paki… could ultimately prove to be a more significant turning point – or more precisely, given […]

Posted by In the drama of the runaway general, don’t forget Pakistan « Read NEWS | Report as abusive

Pakistan Ideology Clarified (part-1)

Eliminating economic competition from Hindus (and Sikhs) was only one dimension of the Pakistan ideology…Saying this was the primary motive or the only motive behind Pakistan ideology misses the big picture……big time…..

The more important dimensions of Pakistan ideology are as follows….these were the pillars on which Pakistan ideology was constructed……………..

(1) Mindless confrontation against Hindus then …………and now against “Hindu “India on unequal terms…i.e. one set of rules for themselves and one set of rules for bhindhoos…

e.g. Sardar Patel, the savior asks pakis to take Muslim majority Kashmir and give up the claims on Hindu majority Junagadh and Hyderabad……Jinnah’s response….no we need all three on diametrically opposite, contradictory principles… circa 1947…

After producing a Hindu free Pakistan… 60 years later….lecturing on and ridiculing the inadequacies of Indian secularism …circa 2010

(2) Militarism+ terrorism…
Take your pistols out, get ready for direct action …circa 1946……done with good intentions…

Take your AK-47 out on the platform of Mumbai train station…reportedly villagers in Kasab’s home town felt he might have gone there with good intentions…circa 2010

Pakistan military is only a manifestation of paki militaristic mindset…it is not the other way widely propagated…paki population was solidly behind paki army’s all adventures including the Bengali genocide and Kargil….until the defeat came..

Posted by Seekeroftruth | Report as abusive

Pakistan Ideology Clarified (part-2)
(3) Supremacy of “Islamic social democracy “over evil Hindu society…..
Iqbal’s letters to Jinnah circa 1937…..non-practicing political islamist Jinnah’s speeches…

The evil Hindu society produced an egalitarian constitution and it has been working on development and economic progress…

If Hindu oppression was the reason behind muslim backwardness….muslims in pakistan (hindu-free zone) and Bangladesh (nearly Hindu-free zone) with smaller number of problems must have raced way ahead of India…

(4) Pan-Islamism, pan- political Islamism in the subcontinent pre-1947……….and aspiring to be pan-Islamist leader at the global level …….now the Emperor has no clothes……….

Last but not the least important of all

(5) Complete denial of Indic heritage…”your heroes and our heroes” are different…

thus Abdali who looted muslims in Delhi and Punjab, Aurangazeb oppressor of Shias are all Paki heroes (Iqbal’s heroes) since they killed Hindus (and Sikhs)…

All paki “liberals” have subscribed to these belief systems at different levels and with different shades……..
…The past and present are a continuum………

Posted by Seekeroftruth | Report as abusive

Even many Indians don’t understand the dimensions of Pakistan ideology fully…let alone Americans and Canadians.

Posted by Seekeroftruth | Report as abusive

India and Pakistan can go to hell
The way they have made our life of Kashmiris !!!
We do not want occupation by anyone and we want
The Independent Jammu and Kashmir.
Talking about what and who is talking with whom
Both have talked too much and too long
Stop steeling our sources in the name of your
Religion and also making dames in our mother land
Jammu and Kashmir.

A slave of you both

Posted by JammuKashmir | Report as abusive


Well put. Unfortunately, the only way Kashmir will stop being a pawn is when the Kashmiri people stop being pawns for others. Supporting the Pakistani war machine operating in Kashmir will simply delay the Indian exit even longer.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

^ and I should add does nothing to free the Pakistani portion of Kashmir.

Kashmiris who want an independent Kashmir should be pushing for it on both sides of the line. And they need to do it as peacefully as possible and using the democratic process.

Using cross-border terrorism won’t get you far.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive


Nice screen name, you surely would know the demographics of Jammu, won’t you?


Your focus determines your reality. You guys should choose better leaders and negotiate better, but in a peaceful manner.

Killing innocent civilians who are just like yourselves, burning Indian flags (ok hosting Pakistani flags, certainly), pelting stones on an armed military and calling it war and then expecting to win against state machinery is not taking you anywhere. Accept it!

Talks are the only solution but your leaders refuse the talks offers. You should find better representation among yourselves. Do some soul searching, ask yourselves that isn’t the talks only way out to get autonomy? If you don’t follow a democratic framework NOW to obtain your “freedom”, what’s the guarantee that you common folks would not sink into being slaves of another dictators, this time of your own making. Then you will be crying like present-day Pakistanis and will have no one to blame but yourselves.

Attaining “freedom” through armed struggle is quite fancy and all, but long before you common people (slaves, as you call yourselves) would get weary of fireworks and all, these individual separatist groups would begin fighting for power and probably settle on a dictatorship leaving you “slaves” as, well, slaves for centuries again.

Posted by Seth09 | Report as abusive

My sympathies for innocent civilians in Kashmir who face the cross fire between Pakistan sponsored militants and Indian security forces.

This article is about India-Pakistan diplomatic talks. Kashmir surely will be one of the issues, but not the entire issue. For India, Pakistan sponsored terrorism, Mumbai attack investigations, stopping terrorist training inside Pakistan will be the main issues. Other than these, the two governments might discuss about the water agreement. Kashmir will be on the plate too. Therefore do not hijack this discussion into an anti-Indian, Kashmir independence, Jihad mud slinging. Let us try to stick to the topic. There are enough articles and discussions on Kashmir which have only fueled more venom and hatred amongst people.

With McChrystal gone, things might change in the region. Both India and Pakistan will adjust their priorities based on what the Americans are going to do in the near term. This is because Pakistan’s military will be involved in the strategic maneuvers made by the US. As far as Pakistan is concerned, what matters is what its military does. This will leave Indian diplomats half way in the air. So India will have to play the wait and watch game all over again.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Myra, these Indo-Pak dialogues are nothing more than just a photo opportunity for the diplomats of both side of the border . As you have stated in your article, Pakistan is reluctant to tame India-centric terrorist groups, and ISI and Pak army will continue to provide all assistance to these groups to launch attacks in India . Pakistan will never deliberately control terrorist groups in Afghanistan, it is not in the interest of Pakistan to help establish peace in Afghanistan, in the event the peace is restored and legitimate govt is installed in Afghanistan, Pakistan will loose all the international aid. It is in the interest of Pakistan to prolong this war . Pak army and ISI never want peace in this region, they will loose their relevance . In order to restore the peace in this region, international community must disband Pak army and ISI , and also take possession of weapons of mass destruction in Pakistan to prevent its misuse .

Posted by manishindia | Report as abusive

You can’t disband the army of a sovereign parliamentary republic. Not without a coup d’état or a war and forced occupation of territory by another army. Any guesses on who the “international community” will elect to do that?

Anyhow, I guess evolution will have to take its course. Perhaps a few generations down the line, mindsets of the majority of the population will favour individualism over nationalism, young people will care more about their own comfort and success than some notional concept of national identity and the concomitant baggage, and diplomats will be able to do their thing unhindered. Perhaps Pakistan will peacefully negotiate a joint venture territories with Afghanistan and claim all those mineral deposits lying there before the Pentagon, and they’ll together decide that its more lucrative to pose a capitalist problem for India rather than a terrorist problem. Perhaps the two countries will become a little richer & busier so they won’t have the time to bicker so much, they’ll be too busy bickering with everyone else. See, that’s why Europe and America are so peaceful – they are a nice, big, happy community of bits and pieces of planet arm-wrestling with each other (nothing too violent, do note), mostly about economic maladies. Too many cooks spoil the broth but make for a happy planet. India is on the verge of joining the gala, albeit in a rather distracted way. Perhaps Pakistan will shift focus soon.

Hmm. Karl Marx won’t like this, but I’m pretty sure that’s where we’re headed. Either that, or the cave-way, when feelings of community, inclusion & exclusion were at their strongest.

I like the “borders lose relevance” part, but how would that work? You can sow on my land and I reap on yours? Or we mix up the demographics a little so no one can really know which parts are Muslim and which Hindu? How would the map of the subcontinent look? Nevertheless, it is a good thought – one that brings us closer to Lennon’s dream of “no countries, no religion… “

Posted by kirsat | Report as abusive

[…] Pakistan – engaged in what can arguably be described as a  proxy war in Afghanistan – have resumed talks broken off after the attack on Mumbai. But these are likely to move slowly, especially given the latest flare-up in violence in Kashmir, […]

Posted by Towards a settlement in Afghanistan; on terms and timing | Report as abusive