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ID: 86738    11/22/2006 14:06    06NEWDELHI7954    Embassy New Delhi    CONFIDENTIAL    06NEWDELHI7797    "VZCZCXRO6534 OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV DE RUEHNE #7954/01 3261406 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 221406Z NOV 06 FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0821 INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4457 RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 7888 RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 7960 RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1028 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 3709 RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 8609 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2071 RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0603 RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4105 RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 7381 RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 7508 RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 6046 RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 3259 RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 6712 RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 3869 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2974 RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 5286 RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI RHMFISS/HQ USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC"    "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 007954

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2016 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, PINR, PBTS, MOPS, KDEM, KISL, PK, IN SUBJECT: INDIA-PAKISTAN FOREIGN SECRETARIES LAUNCH COUNTER-TERROR JOINT MECHANISM, REVIEW SIACHEN

REF: NEW DELHI 7797

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Classified By: DCM Geoff Pyatt for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

1.  (C) Summary:  The November 14th and 15th India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary talks set up a joint mechanism for discussing counter-terrorism issues, although it is yet to be seen if the mechanism will allow India to keep talks going should terrorists strike again in India's heartland.  The talks were preceded by Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri's claim that an agreement was forthcoming on the longstanding dispute over the Siachen glacier, and all that stood in the way was India's political will.  The talks ended with rumors that Pakistan had made a concession on Siachen, allowing the Prime Minister to move forward his personal agenda of reaching an agreement, perhaps at some politically advantageous time in the future.  Kasuri's statements, however, go against longstanding conventional wisdom in India that an agreement on Siachen is unlikely anytime soon because the Indian Army and the hardline in the Congress Party would not be able to trust Pakistan enough to withdraw, regardless of how much Pakistan is willing to concede. Long time observers say that the Prime Minister will be significantly constrained in any part of his agenda with Pakistan in the coming months, especially in the face of significant opposition from within his own party and an emboldened BJP that views the joint mechanism as an opportunity to portray the Congress Party as soft on terrorism. The Prime Minister achieved a victory in the short term in simply holding the talks, especially in the context of ongoing public anger in India over Pakistan's unwillingness to curtail terrorist groups operating from its soil.  (See also reftel for more details.)  End Summary.

Joint Mechanism a Buffer ------------------------

2.  (C) Press reports say that November 14th, the first day of talks, went well between India and Pakistan, with discussion beginning on the modalities of the Joint Mechanism.  MEA Additional Secretary KC Singh and his Pakistani counterpart were appointed tohead the Indian side of the joint mechanism, acting as mediators between the two intelligence agencies, who many fear will be unable to work well together after decades of operating against one another.  (Comment:  The Pakistani High Commission confirmed that Pakistani MEA Additional Secretary for National Diplomacy Tariq Osman Haider would head the Pakistani delegation, and that each side would include three members.) National Security Advisory Board member Manoj Joshi told Poloff that the Prime Minister formulated the joint mechanism as a means of providing some political cover so he can move forward with Pakistan on other issues, even while terrorists continue their attacks in India.  Joshi further commented that at least when the bombs go off, the Indian government will be able to say they can confront Pakistan through a formal process.

3.  (C) Immediately, however, the joint mechanism became a political football for the opposition BJP, with press reports calling the Congress government “half wits” who don't understand Pakistan's true intentions.  The BJP has threatened to use the issue of terrorism as the backdrop for

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their efforts against the Congress in the just begun Parliamentary session -- calling for marches against the delayed hanging of Parliament bombing conspirator Afzal Muhammad as well as the talks with Pakistan to paint the government as soft on terrorism.

Siachen A Done Deal? --------------------

4.  (C) The rumors about Siachen began shortly after the talks ended:  Hindustan Times editor Pramit Pal Chaudhry told Poloff that Prime Minister Singh's media advisor, Sanjay Bharu, said that the agreement on Siachen was a “done deal.”  Further Manoj Joshi -- a longtime follower of the Siachen issue -- said the Prime Minister was pushing hard for a solution on Siachen, but was waiting for a point when it would be politically feasible in both India and Pakistan to release the agreement.  Press reports said Pakistan had agreed to demarcate points on the map, but that this did not satisfy the Indian side.

5.  (C) Pakistani High Commission Counselor S. Zulfiqar Gardezi told PolOff on November 22nd that his government had agreed in principle to note down each army's current positions, but only during technical level talks when the two sides determined the locations to which each army would withdraw.  He said further that Pakistan would be flexible about whether Indian forces would withdraw all the way back to Leh and Ladakh, or if the cease fire line would be much closer to the glacier/Saltoro ridge line.  Where each position would be demarcated, he said, however, would have to be worked out at the technical level.  He maintained that these positions, for Pakistan, could not be “prejudicial” or legally binding.  He added that the Indian side had responded positively, but had asked for more time to discuss the issue internally.

No Way in Hell: The Hardline Raises the Bar -------------------------------------------

6.  (C) Former Indian Ambassador Parthasarthy, who personally dissuaded Rajiv Gandhi from making a similar deal on Siachen in 1989, said this concession does not satisfy India's underlying concern -- that points be agreed to in advance so the Pakistani Army would be unable to simply march back in to the area and take the high peaks around the Siachen glacier that India currently controls. He said if Pakistan agreed to demarcate points on a map, this would still fall short of agreeing to an Agreed Ground Position Line (AGPL), because it would not amount to an extension of the Line of Control (LOC) or even a cease fire line (as the LOC area was called before 1972).  Amb. Parthasarthy further remarked that he had discussed the issue with senior Congress Party members, who have significant sway over Sonia Gandhi and Congress Party politics, and there is “no way in hell” that they would allow India to withdraw under disadvantageous conditions.  He added that the “Prime Minister won't get away with what he is trying to do.”  He said Musharraf's book had convinced many in the Indian army that they cannot trust Pakistan, especially when he could blame an invasion of Indian territory on “mujahideen.” (Comment: Amb. Parthasarthy is likely referring to Musharraf's statements that “mujahideen” started the Kargil conflict. End comment.)  In some ways, he

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said, it may be easier to find a solution to the broader Kashmir issue first, and then tackle Siachen.

An Intractable Dispute, But They Keep Talking ---------------------------------------------

7.  (C) Comment:  India has repeatedly come “very close” to an agreement on the Siachen issue in 1989, and again (less so) in 1993.  Each time the Prime Minister of the day was forced to back out by India's defense establishment, the Congress Party hard line, and opposition leaders.  The Indian Army is resistant to giving up this territory under any condition for a variety of reasons -- strategic advantage over China, internal Army corruption, distrust of Pakistan, and a desire to keep hold of advantageous territory that thousands of Indian soldiers have died protecting. Ultimately, the greatest positive in the talks was that the Indian side was able to meet with their Pakistani counterparts and conclude cordially this round of the composite dialogue.  While there is no agreed date for an Indian Prime Minister visit to Pakistan and formal dates for Foreign Minister level talks are still being firmed up, the most important CBM is that the talks continue, with the Singh government clearly committed to the broader goal of rapprochement with Pakistan. MULFORD "