Excellent analysis as always by ZH:
Building trust between India and Pakistan
We will know soon enough whether Mr Krishna is coming because he was pushed by the Americans or whether India is genuinely interested in forging a partnership against terror
The Indian foreign minister has been at the forefront of those rebuffing Pakistan’s efforts for resuming the peace process. But consider what he said the other day: “How long are we going to keep on fighting? I think we will have to talk to Pakistan and come to an understanding with them because that will be in our interest...Terrorists can strike any country anywhere and...at will...So I am sure Pakistan will be looking at terror perhaps in the same prism with which India views it.”
It amounts to a complete reversal of policy so stark and unexpected that one can justifiably ask whether the Indian foreign minister has become rational or a rational man has become the Indian foreign minister. But although what Mr Krishna said should be music to our ears, it is not, because there is little that remains in the relationship after the battering to which it was subjected after Mumbai, that is even remotely emollient.
Still ringing in our ears is the hysteria directed at Pakistan in the aftermath of 26/11; Manmohan Singh’s repudiation of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement no sooner than it had been concluded; and a maverick Indian general’s discussing plans for waging war against Pakistan (and China) even as the Indian cabinet was debating its response to Mumbai. But what grated most was the withholding of Pakistan’s share of waters at precisely the time of the year that crops downstream would suffer the maximum damage. It was heartbreaking to see thousands of poor farmers have the fruits of their labour destroyed by a callous and illegal act motivated by mindless rage.
Mr Krishna’s earlier remark that India had considered all options — general war, limited war and a local war after the Mumbai massacre — and then decided against all three because it could have escalated into a nuclear conflict is no doubt true. But it is so couched as to suggest that India made every attempt to go to war but, to its considerable disappointment, finally had to concede that war was not an option. Perhaps Mr Krishna should have spared us the truth. It is said that in diplomacy a truth told too early is often as damaging for the outcome of negotiations as a lie told too late.
Of course, that is not to suggest that India had no cause for anger. The sight of burning buildings and innocent people murdered is tragic and can scarcely be forgotten or forgiven. But a moment’s pause before laying the blame at Pakistan’s door and reaching for the gun would have allowed Delhi time for reflection and, perhaps, to ponder why Pakistan should continue to patronise terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) variety who now form an integral part of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and blow up our police stations, schools and hospitals, kill soldiers and innocent civilians, only so that they may, now and then, visit similar mayhem on India. But then logic is so often the first casualty in India, especially when it comes to believing the worst about Pakistan.
And to be fair, India is not alone in instantly pointing the finger at Pakistan whenever a terror attack occurs. Hillary Clinton’s reaction following the Times Square incident was identical. It seems that leaders of large democracies react instinctively until, that is, better sense prevails. In Hillary’s case, the clarification came immediately, explaining that she had been quoted ‘out of context’. From India it took a year and a half and only after discovering that waging war on Pakistan — the preferred option — was not really a sensible idea.
If Mr Krishna does make it to Pakistan, he will find his Pakistani interlocutors a confused lot. Having bankrupted the economy, they have been compelled to importune the IMF for a bailout and, in return, to uncomplainingly accept a host of impossible assignments, one of which is to keep the mujahideen out of Occupied Kashmir, and the other, the Taliban out of Afghanistan. But when they succeed in preventing the jihadis from crossing over and the terrorists remain milling around in Pakistan, the regime is accused of harbouring the terrorists and, when it fails, of exporting terror.
This ‘heads I win tails you lose’ approach over a period of time has inured our mind to criticism. And, at a time when the military is making huge sacrifices in a long drawn out campaign, it is enormously counterproductive. Worse, it deflects attention from the root cause of both problems, namely, India’s failure to reconcile with the Kashmiris and the US’s woeful performance in Afghanistan.
If Mr Krishna were to understand this phenomenon and restructure India’s stance accordingly, hope would rekindle. And if, by some miracle, he can also grasp the elemental truth that it is in India’s interests to make it easier for Pakistan to tackle the extremism that it faces, that would be gilding the lily, but if he cannot or will not, platitudes about ‘building trust’ will not suffice.
We will know soon enough whether Mr Krishna is coming because he was pushed by the Americans or whether India is genuinely interested in forging a partnership against terror. And that should be relatively easy to tell.
Scheduling quick follow up meetings on issues of vital concern to Pakistan such as water, Kashmir, and thinning out regular Indian army deployments on the borders and perhaps, if only for symbolic reasons, fishing out Pakistan’s two decade old proposal for a No War Pact, which is gathering dust in Indian archives for want of a response from Delhi, would signal a plausible commitment to peace. Just as meaningful steps by Pakistan to prevent further terrorist attacks on India would probably encourage Mr Krishna to be more receptive to our urgings.
However, if all Mr Krishna seeks is photo ops to please Washington and to deliver his tiresome sermon on terrorism and then depart with a fatuous ‘See ya’ wave of the hand, as the Indian Foreign Secretary did in Delhi earlier this year, while seeing off her Pakistani counterpart, Mr Krishna may as well stay at home.
The writer is a former ambassador. He can be reached at [email protected]
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