New Delhi, Aug. 23 : The important aspect about India-Pakistan relations is to keep our borders secure and prevent terrorism. The important thing is not improvement of bilateral relations at all costs, which includes pointless talks.
If Pakistan is fighting terror inside Pakistan it is of their own making. So discussing terror with Pakistan has to be carefully nuanced. The reality of what they do to us and the fiction of what we do to them.
The surprise is that there is no surprise that the NSA-level talks did not take place. One is not sure which is a greater disappointment – the fact that they decided not to come and used the Hurriyat as an excuse or the talks had collapsed after Sartaj Aziz had come.
The Ufa joint statement clearly spelt out what the NSA talks would cover so the Hurriyat invitation was used as a ploy to scuttle the talks knowing how India had reacted last year. It is strange how many of us said that the government should have advised Pakistan on this issue earlier.
Everyone knew that this is how the Indians will react in case the Hurriyat were invited ahead of the talks. The Red Lines had been laid last year. We owe no explanation to anyone if we prevent separatists in our country to meet their mentors who spare no occasion to describe us as their adversaries. The accepted practice globally is to lock up separatists.
It was a pleasure to see and watch External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her press conference. There was no rhetoric, no hyperbole but plenty of firmness and clarity mixing sharp wit with facts.
The core issue as is often claimed is not Kashmir. At the time of elections in Pakistan, the ‘K’ word is no longer used because it only highlights continued inabilities to achieve their stated goals. At all other times, it is used for the international audience especially the U.S., which provides funds and weaponry. Even at the best of times Pakistan’s interest is not the people of the Valley. The Punjabi Musalman in Pakistan is only interested in the waters of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to irrigate his fields. He cares for the Kashmiri as much as he cares for the Baloch, which is not a lot. In twenty years time, Pakistan will run out of water and that is not far away.
All things considered, the core issue is the mindset of the Pakistan Army, which cannot stomach the fact that they have not been able to get the better of India despite everything that they have thrown against us. This army uses jihad as a weapon and Islamism to try to score their point. Both have begun to rebound.
It was both amusing and sad to see our Congress luminaries pontificating about the present government’s policies alleging that nothing had changed in the last 15 months while at the same time criticising the change of stance regarding the Hurriyat. The essential point they fudged was that they were in power for most of the time since 1947 and have little achievement to show vis a vis Pakistan.
It is, however, a pleasure to see some Congressmen now advocating an aggressive policy towards Pakistan, after years of futile conciliatory gestures
In the India-Pakistan context or for that matter in all such complicated bilateral relations, high profile engagements run the risk of premature collapse unless the ground rules have been clearly worked out in advance and a level of trust has been built. In the absence of this, both sides will play to the gallery.
In the present case, even the ground rules were being discussed on TV and in the media based more on speculation about unattainable goals, preconceived notions and pious hopes. No one was prepared to spell out the realities. It is far better to have discreet discussions away from the glare of publicity and issues discussed to the bone. It is only after this that the principals should meet. This might take decades but is unavoidable. Till then we should avoid too much official contact beyond the bare minimum.
At most times, Pakistan seeks strategic equality with India, forgetting that in international relations only sovereignty is equal, not power and accuses India of being the Big Brother. When cornered, it seeks concessions from a bada bhai. It will send mangoes to show honourable intent when the going is rough. Its purpose served it will revert to form and export jihad. Kind gestures and misplaced magnanimity are construed as signs of weakness and result in increased delinquency.
This in turn leads to an endless downward spiral that we have seen in the last six decades. This has to change and we need not play to the international gallery for what they call brownie points. No one in the real world is impressed with a country that believes in limitless generosity.
Another pointless charade has come to an end. We should accept that, as in our personal lives, it is not always possible or compulsory to have cordial relations with our neighbours. Nor can we mend our neighbours. We just have to learn to live with a less than satisfactory situation and wait for better times.
(The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Vikram Sood, former Secretary R and AW, Government of India, and currently an adviser to the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation). (ANI)