Will India and Pakistan ever talk peace?

Harsha Kakar
There have been a series of articles in various publications and similar views echoed by politicians of this state that the only solution to improving Indo – Pak relations is to re-commence dialogue. There was immense hope prior to the NSA level talks, which subsequently collapsed. Since then Pakistan has used every forum, including the UN and their Prime Minister’s visit to the US to not only blame India for the failure, but also threatened India with the nuclear card and highlighted the involvement of RAW with the ongoing insurgency on its western borders.The possession of nuclear weapons and launchers gives Pakistan the assurance of its existence as a nation state, irrespective of its policies.
The varying perceptions of the two nations preclude any chances of easy re-commencement of dialogue.
The first difference between the nations stems from their insistence on the pre-requisites for commencement of dialogue. While India has been insisting that talks can and should only commence when terrorism ceases, or if they are to be held, then terrorism should be the main agenda. For Pakistan, the onus is only Kashmir, hence in their perception; talks can only be on Kashmir, terrorism being a part of the broader agenda.The Pakistan approach would push terrorism to the background, which is unacceptable to India and the Indian approach, would reduce emphasis on Kashmir, which is unacceptable to them.
Pakistan is willing and has been requesting every country for third party negotiation, whereas India sticks to the spirit of the Shimla agreement, which states, that it is a bilateral issue. Thus whenever Pakistan raises the Kashmir bogey, India counters the same.
The next issue is continuing terrorism. India blames Pakistan for fermenting and supporting terrorism. Pakistan on the other hand holds RAW responsible for terrorism on their soil. India has openly displayed Pakistani nationals, captured while attempting terrorist activities on its soil. Pakistan has only documentary proof of the involvement of RAW, which it claims to have handed over to the secretary general of the UN and also the US. It has no physical evidence. This has vitiated the atmosphere between the two.
The manner in which India approaches talks with Pakistan is unlikely to make any headway. India only talks to the elected government of Pakistan, whereas in reality, the elected government is subservient to the army. India expects the elected government to deal with Pakistan’s internal dynamics, which it cannot do. Hence most talks collapse even before they commence. By announcing the appointment of a recently retired General (Naseer Khan Janjua) as its new NSA,the army has cemented the fact that it is the one which has and would always continue to call the shots on matters concerning security and relations with India.
For India the talks and the resulting peace would bring about an environmentwhich would enable development and growth and reduce expenditure on defence, which the government desires. For Pakistan on the other hand, the talks would only threaten the military as the population would question the requirement of a powerful force, when threats have reduced. Therefore for the military in Pakistan, status quo has greater value than ensuing peace, hence peace would preclude.
The Indian public, has begun showing religious intolerance and in some cases apathy for even engaging in sporting or cultural activities with Pakistan. However, the government in spite of all terrorist activities has not advocated hatred against Pakistan. In Pakistan’s case, every leader has broadcasted support for the Kashmiri militancy and called for Kashmir’s amalgamation. Therefore, while the Indian public would support talks aimed at finding a solution, in Pakistan, any solution other than annexation of Kashmir would be unacceptable.
The ground realities however are very different. Both countries are aware that in the present nuclear environment and existing force levels, Kashmir cannot be annexed by either. Even in a dialogue no country would ever be willing to accept loss of territory. Therefore, any solution to the Kashmir issue would have to be within the frame work of the existing boundaries. This is unacceptable to the population across the border, as they have been fed a tirade of lies and promises over decades. Thus for Pakistan to progress talks and seek a solution would be tantamount to telling its own population, that past promises can never be accomplished.
India has never openly played the nuclear card nor threatened Pakistan with war. It has always openly declared its nuclear policy being’no first use’. Pakistan on the other hand, and especially recently has begun employing the nuclear card at every possible opportunity. Last week, the foreign secretary made a statement about its tactical employment against India’s military. This statement highlights Pakistan’s nuclear philosophy being the reverse of India and ‘first use’. This enhanced war mongering and nuclear threatening by Pakistan indicates their intention of compel India to talk under an umbrella of uncertainty and threat, which could never happen.
With such immense differences between the two countries, can we expect talks to commence and even if they do, can we expect results in a reasonable time frame. On a majority of the occasions it has been India which has proposed talks. Each time that a step forward is taken, an incident, Kargil, Mumbai, talks with separatists etc, leads to the relationship moving two steps backwards. The prevailing environment, differences in perception, leads me to believe that talks can only move ahead, when Pakistan’s leaders feel they need to build bridges. Therefore, unless they propose, India should allow status quo to continue.
(The author is a retired Major General of the Indian Army)


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