India-Pak talks: Focus shifts to official-level meeting
23 April 2012
PRIME Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto met in Shimla on July 3, 1972, after the war between the two nations in 1971 led to the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country. At the end of the war, as many as 90,368 Pakistani prisoners of war were in Indian custody and their fate was to be resolved by the two Heads of the State at Shimla. Bhutto had brought along with him his young daughter, Benazir, who was still studying at Oxford. Bhutto clearly wanted his favourite daughter to become the destiny's child in Pakistan history.
At Shimla, the Kashmir dispute was the main topic of discussion between India and Pakistan, and it was decided to recognise the 1949 UN ceasefire line as the new boundary, termed as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). It was agreed by both sides that either side would not seek to alter the LAC unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences.
The Indian side was keen to get Pakistan accept the LAC as a permanent border between India and Pakistan, thereby recognising Kashmir an integral part of India. The defeated country, Pakistan, with over 90,000 prisoners of war in Indian custody would have had no choice if India had persisted. Wily Bhutto, however, managed to convince Indira Gandhi and her advisers that he would prepare Pakistan's public opinion in favour of recognising the LAC as permanent border and India should not impose a solution on a defeated country. Eventually, however, nothing happened, and Kashmir remains a disputed territory.
The meeting on April 8 between President Zardari of Pakistan and Dr Manmohan Singh of India in Delhi is equally historic, coming as it did after 40 years. After three wars between India and Pakistan - in 1948, 1965 and 1971 - there had not been any full-fledged armed conflict between the two countries. Both countries are now nuclear powers and a major war between them is unthinkable. However, their relations have been anything but normal. Since Pakistan has treated terrorism as an instrument of state policy in its relations with India, there have been planned attacks in various parts of India at the instance of the ISI. The most serious of these incidents were the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008 by jihadi terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) with Hafiz Muhammad Saeed as the prime mover. Dossiers containing all the details of the role played by the LeT and Saeed have been given at various levels by India, but Pakistan has done nothing concrete to bring them to justice.
President Asif Zardari's wish to visit the dargah of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishty in Ajmer on April 8 was announced all of a sudden, but Manmohan Singh promptly rose to the occasion and invited Zardari to a meeting in Delhi for one-on-one talks between the two, followed by lunch prior to the President's visit to Ajmer. Zardari came with a delegation of 40, the most important member being his son Bilawal, who is the President of the Pakistan People's Party. He was designated as such after the assassination of his mother Benazir Bhutto. Bilawal is still a student at Oxford. His inclusion in the entourage of President Zardari and the fact that he was the only other member who was present during the one-on-one discussion between Zardari and Manmohan Singh on April 8 clearly shows President Zardari's plan to educate his son in the affairs of state, the most important part being relations between India and Pakistan.
The meeting between Zardari and Manmohan Singh lasted only 30 to 40 minutes. Nevertheless, Manmohan Singh brought up the topic of Hafiz Saeed and the need to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008 to justice without further delay. President Zardari was evasive and stated that the topic of Saeed had to be further gone into by the two sides, and the matter would be discussed by official delegations expected to meet in Pakistan in the coming weeks.
It does not require extraordinary analysis to conclude that Pakistan has no intention of taking any concrete action against the LeT perpetrators of terror in Mumbai. While External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had said that India had given to Pakistan every detail of Saeed's involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, a Foreign Office spokesperson of Pakistan said that there was no concrete and maintainable evidence in the material given by India, and New Delhi had not provided any hard evidence which could withstand judicial scrutiny. Needless to say, nothing came out of the discussions with President Zardari on the need to control terrorism. And what would be the outcome of the forthcoming official talks between India and Pakistan remains to be seen.
A US spokesman recently explained that in spite of patient diplomacy with Pakistan that India did not pose any threat to Pakistan's security, Islamabad was not ready to look at India as a friendly country and that Pakistan had no intention of giving up terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
However, it is now clear that focus has shifted to official discussions in the coming months and the eventual visit of Dr Manmohan Singh to Pakistan.
Even as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had brought his daughter Benazir for the discussions at Shimla, President Asif Zardari had brought his son Bilawal for his Delhi-Ajmer visit.
Rahul Gandhi, General Secretary of the Congress, was at the Prime Minister's lunch and he had one-on-one interaction with Bilawal, who also invited him to Pakistan. It was as well that representatives of the next generation leadership should develop good rapport between themselves.
Nothing came out of the Delhi meeting on April 8 even as nothing was finalised for the Simla Summit in 1972.
India should be prepared to face Pakistan's policy of using its ISI and terrorist outfits for terrorist attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country. In its annual report for 2011-2012, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has stated that Chinese footprints in India's neighbourhood and Pakistan terror camps were a matter of concern. On the Pakistan front, the existence of terrorist camps across the India-Pakistan border and continued infiltration attempts continue to pose a threat to security and stability. The MoD report claimed that India had also started building its capabilities to meet these security challenges. The nation has to be prepared to face Pakistan terror challenges without any let-up. India should also get its National Centre for Counter-Terrorism (NCTC) organised at the earliest possible time.
(The writer is a former Governor of West Bengal and UP, and currently an Honorary Advisor to ORF).
Courtesy: The Tribune