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Talking with the Indians

Published May 08, 2012 12:15am


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THE impulse to write this Op-Ed piece has come from some readers of my article ‘Negotiating with America’ (Dawn, April 24) who suggested that it be followed up with ‘Negotiating with India’. India has often talked to Pakistan but hardly ever negotiated issues that bedevil relations. In fact, the negotiating habits of both the states have produced cyclical conversations with little forward movement.

Evidence for the dialogue in hand is, however, mixed. The two countries may work out mutually profitable economic and commercial relations. On the other hand, reports that India has actually hardened its position on the long-awaited disengagement in Siachen after the heartrending tragedy at Gayari suggest stasis in negotiating postures. Sceptics argue that India is interested in the former because it gains much while it blocks the latter as any successful outcome would dilute its grip on Siachen.

There are widely different perceptions in India and Pakistan why the bilateral dialogue — now on, now off — remains unproductive. In an objective analysis, some reasons hark back to the Partition of 1947 while others attained salience in the post-independence conflicts. I propose to write two articles to focus on these deep-rooted factors.

India was divided largely because of triangular interaction involving the paramount colonial power exhausted by the Second World War, the Congress, a powerful political organisation for decades, and the Muslim League that assumed comparable leverage only after the great mobilisation of Muslims for the last general election in undivided India. For the Congress and its allies, there was already an India, united or divided, with a time-tested apparatus of the state.

Its key provinces had more democratic experience than the provinces constituting Pakistan. Its leaders had a vision, an idea, of India notwithstanding the tussle between Mahatma Gandhi and Subash Chandra Bose, the revolutionary from Bengal; and, notwithstanding the incipient conflict between the scholarly Abul Kalam Azad so emotionally attached to the civilisational symbiosis of India as to accept the trifurcating zonal scheme to prevent outright partition and others like Vallabhbhai Patel who secretly preferred a surgical division to win the battle for the soul of their postcolonial state.

The fact that India already existed made for well-considered decisions backed by force; it gave India a most advantageous time lead over Pakistan. A coalition of seasoned political leaders and a functioning executive authority guided by V.P. Menon enabled India to act strongly on issues concerning Pakistan. Having made substantive initial gains, India became a status quo power; its Pakistan diplomacy geared to defending that status quo. Frustrated by entrenched Indian positions, Pakistan occasionally resorted to dangerous actions in the vain hope of changing the pattern.

Pakistan was being shaped and configured in those fateful early years while being literally on the road. The author Philip Oldenburg (India, Pakistan and democracy) speaks of Pakistan as “an insufficiently imagined place”, a telling phrase crafted by Salman Rushdie. In reality, ‘imagining’ the new nation was not just insufficient; it was also a contested process.

I was a member of a small committee under Yahya Bakhtiar tasked in 1990 to open the Jinnah papers locked away by Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah as too personal. Jottings made by the Quaid in a loose sheaf folder, mostly at odd hours of sleepless nights, contained amazing insights. There was an entry about asking Liaquat Ali Khan to speak to Nehru about retaining common customs despite the mayhem of Partition. There was a painful record of Jinnah’s growing disappointment with the parochial politics of a number of leading Leaguers.

Ayesha Jalal’s memorable description of him as ‘the sole spokesman’ has strengthened the view that the Quaid was an unquestioned guide and decision-maker. The fact of the matter was that the grip of the terminally ill leader was progressively loosening.

A rough and ready example was Kashmir. India went through an elaborate political process to overcome the Maharaja’s procrastination and then mounted a well-planned military intervention. Pakistan’s contacts with Sheikh Abdullah and others in Kashmir were amateurish; the military component of the effort was a chaotic tribal incursion. The contrast reflected a gap not only in strategic comprehension but also in the quality of available administrative machinery.

Again, Nehru had a firmer grasp of the idea of national sovereignty and the realpolitik with which to assert it. He had not obstructed the plan for three zones, accepted briefly by both the Congress and the Muslim League. But then, in a moment that changed the course of history, he brought about its precipitous collapse by declaring that an independent and sovereign India would be free to change the arrangements then being made.

As Mountbatten rushed the transfer of power and threw his weight behind India in implementing the plan for Partition, imagining Pakistan with precision became even more difficult.

Later, when Pakistan joined western military pacts, Nehru rubbished the UN resolution for a plebiscite in Kashmir by treating the Pakistani decision as an affront to the imagined sanctity, inviolability and sovereignty of the subcontinent; he reassured Sheikh Abdullah there would be no plebiscite.

One can cavil at Nehru’s flawed political morality. The fact is that he successfully outmanoeuvred Pakistani leadership in statecraft and realpolitik and pioneered an enduring diplomatic approach to Pakistan: talk from a position of strength, create and defend new ground realities, concede nothing and impose political attrition.

Pakistan’s internal inadequacies, perceived existential threat from India and its international alliances rapidly led to a bureaucratic-military ethos. Its consequences for Pakistan’s India policy were enormous. India continues to harp on it even though Pakistan’s military establishment is now ready for accommodation.

Admittedly, it remains apprehensive of politicians who may go overboard in ‘appeasing’ the Indian interlocutors who have arguably no intention of seeking equitable solutions and closures even in the ‘doable’ segments of the bilateral agenda.

This brings us straight to the question if old negotiating tactics are being given up. It is a complex issue that should await the next future-focused article.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (54) Closed

Sudip Seal May 08, 2012 01:38pm
Excellent article...
Hasni May 08, 2012 02:56pm
A brutally honest and down to rendering from a historical, political and practical perspective. Don't see why the Indians above see an issue with this... The author correctly lays out the genesis of Indian leadership superiority...which continues to this day....Pakistanis should wake up and smell the coffee...they are outgunned at every juncture.
nrmr44 May 08, 2012 02:14pm
A lot of words to avoid the practical reality - Pakistan has no relevance for India where its economy is concerned. And as Pakistan's economy goes down the tubes, its relevance as a military threat has all but evaporated. So how much attention can Pakistan command merely for its nuisance value? It's laughable to think that India will vacate Siachen based on Pakistani perceptions of the mutual advantages of demilitarization. At least that much has been ensured by Pakistani perfidy in Kargil. Think Economy and even your Military will grow. Keep thinking Military and both will go down the tubes. In the meantime, dump the psuedo-scholarship and get real!
BlackJack May 08, 2012 01:39pm
At one level you submit that India was a tried and tested concept while Pakistan was a nation in the making, and these differences led to immature decisions from Pak which were countered by master strokes of realpolitik from India. On the other hand you attribute most of these decisions to Nehru. Nehru and Jinnah were both statemen of united India and had been part of the political fraternity for decades before Independence - Jinnah more than Nehru. How is it that Nehru suddenly became this astute leader while Jinnah, after outwitting the entire Congress single-handedly, is supposed to have started floundering after getting his own country? The fact is that Pakistan has never looked inward to understand its own character; it has always been on the lookout for opportunities to assert its equality (or superiority) over India; each of its attempts have met with failure, followed by another round of brainwashing the general populace - this is why you still remain the same immature nation with a knee-jerk foreign policy and zero internal cohesion . If India's leadership was that much superior, India would be developed nation by now; apne gireban mein jhaankon - instead of searching for even answers to these questions in India.
p kumar May 08, 2012 02:10pm
When the author mentions 'old negotiating tactics' not being used by pakistan,are these old negotiating tactics themselves the reason for the mistrust between the two countries
ruchir May 09, 2012 08:57pm
Where is this notion of bullying comes from? As far as resolving dispute is concerned, both sides want the solution to be 100% in their favor? Is that not correct? Tell me which part of your position are you ready to compromise on? Please provide a list of issues that common Pakistanis would be ready to concede in favor of India? There are none. Then how fair is it to blame only India? Its always - you win some you lose some. you can't have everything.
Mohammed S. Khan May 09, 2012 12:42am
A deep and unbiased reading of the history of the parttion of the Sub-continent will explain the fact as to how things led to the divisioin. . Jaswant Singh had also endavoured in his book to bring some hard and undeniable facts to the notice of thepresent day readers.
Shakil Khwaja May 09, 2012 12:18am
While I agree with most of the content of the article, the statement about Indian leadership " have arguably no intention of seeking equitable solutions and closures" says it all. Its the Indian way. One only needs to look at India's dealings with its other neighbors. Dispute between India and Nepal involves Kalapani, where China, India, and Nepal meet. Aksayqin dispute with China is almost 50 years old now. My point is that the reason Indian leadership is not serious about resolving dispute with Pakistan, has nothing to do with Pakistan's current economic downturn, but rather the bullying mindset that prevails in Indian leadership.
@Saumil_Dave May 09, 2012 12:16am
An absolute piece of Biased and well drafted misinformation,, trying to portrait Indian leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru as master mind behind all that happened in Kashmir and putting the Kashmir situation as a well planned military intrusion just proves it.
Akil Akhtar May 08, 2012 11:50pm
So India occupying Siachen is jsutified but Pakistan occupying Kargil was a crime, how do you deal with such self centred people
Akil Akhtar May 08, 2012 11:52pm
You would not be satisfied with anything short of Pakistan disbanding its military. We are fed up with teh narrow mindedness and hate mongering of the indians
Akil Akhtar May 08, 2012 11:48pm
And we should trust india after Bangladesh and Siachen. try to see beyond the propoganda of indian leaders and the compliant media.
koushik May 08, 2012 10:17pm
The author links the everchanging geopolitic with some interesting historical insights. The logic posed as such is flawed due to ''all the water that has flowed in either directions''. Nevertheless the point to moot here is the inescapable feeling of victimization.....a psyche such...sad.
Anup May 08, 2012 09:57pm
So the leopard wants to change its spots?
Babloo May 08, 2012 11:37am
Its an absolutely biased, ill-informed piece of opinion on the subject. India Pakistan relations are what they are because of ingrained irrationality, belligerance and ultimate duplicity practiced by the powers that have ruled Pakistan since 1947.
Shubhodip May 08, 2012 09:34am
Well depth piece..loved reading
KJS May 08, 2012 01:40pm
Author states that Pakistani Military establishment is now in mood to accommodate ties with India but I hardly see any action in that regard or even any effort to create a conducive atmosphere.
Muthu,India May 08, 2012 09:50am
The author here has tried to portray the pakistani army as being accommodative regarding the border dispute while truth is just the opposite. India took the initiative during Mr.Vajpayee's regime and Mr.Nawaz Sharif responded positively. I have to stress here that the politicians in pakistan were sincere in working for peace but their efforts were torpedoed by the army brass. Kargil happened even without the knowledge of Mr.Sharif and india has been wary of any negotiations since then. As far as india is concerned the forces are under the complete control of the elected political head and the pakistanis know whom to talk to. But unfortunately that's not true the other way. India simply can't trust the words of pakistani political heads even if they talk from their heart, not after kargil.
Pradip May 08, 2012 08:55pm
The author is being a bit disingenious in accusing India by writing that "India went through an elaborate political process to overcome the Maharajas procrastination and then mounted a well-planned military intervention" and implying India took the military initiative first ignoring chronology of events.
ENCEE_NC May 08, 2012 03:03pm
It is good to a read a piece free from the usual cliches about Pakistan's relations with India. But I am afraid the writer misses the wood for the tree. Pakistan has not grown up into a resilient democratic state not because India has come in the way but because of the obsession of its ruling circles with religious obscurantism. Pakistan's leaders have tolerated, if not encouraged, fundamentalists for far too long. As a result its econoimy has failed to take off and the people remain mired in poverty, which is a formidable breeding ground for obscurantism and other social evils.
P N Eswaran May 09, 2012 03:34pm
It is inappropriate to compare Pakistans failure against Indian success. Pakistan's failure is not an isloated story but a part of the failure of larger Islamic world to the challenges of modernity. India went far ahead of Pakistan not because of its leaders but inspite of its leaders. Indian progress and Pakistan's decline has been aptly encapsulated by M J Akbar as “The idea of India is stronger than the Indian
Jawwad May 08, 2012 06:23pm
You know when one side states that fault lies with the other. That's your problem right there. If you cannot come to terms or comprehend that you might have problems on your side too then you are able to solve any issue let alone bilateral issues. The writer simply implies that Pakistan inherited weak and non visionary politicians which is where we stand on the negotiating table.
shan May 08, 2012 06:16pm
Article is well written and very factual for both sides. But for the sake of the people of pakistan and india. Lets get mature and we should give an take and settle our disputes.
gp65 May 08, 2012 06:16pm
You say " The fact that India already existed made for well-considered decisions backed by force; it gave India a most advantageous time lead over Pakistan. A coalition of seasoned political leaders and a functioning executive authority" I think the reason India had many leaders is because the independence movement from BRitish was mainly led By Indian National Congress. 100s of Congress people went to jail as part of freedom movement and their main leaders Nehru, Patel, Gandhi, Tilak etc. went to jail for many years. There is not a single member of Muslim League who went to jail for even 5 hours.
Kalyan May 08, 2012 06:14pm
The only practical solution I can see is a borderless south asia with common currency like Europe. I once travelled across Europe and was amazed that after so many wars between each country, it is so simple and easy to move around and do business. For this to happen however, extremists must be acted upon, people-to-people contact must increase and the elephant in the room, respect and tolerance for the other person's faith must be enhanced.
Zia ur rehman May 08, 2012 05:59pm
good aricle we need such articles written by writers on both sides of the border to close the gaps and bring people i harmony with each other. my request to readers if there is any point brought out by the writer which irritates your mind must convey your feelings but in a polite manner.
Afzal Mahmood May 08, 2012 02:45pm
The door for dialogue should always remain open. keep the ball rolling. Anti war discourse shall dawn.
Ash May 09, 2012 04:03pm
Dawn is censoring the comments. I was the first person to comment on this biased article. My comments does not have any vulgar or bad words but it was still not posted. Not expected from Dawn as I consider it to be one of the best newspaper in South Asia.
Saurabh May 08, 2012 06:05am
People like you exists on both sides of the border but dont worry all disputes between these two nations will be solved through dialogues.
Rakesh May 08, 2012 05:26pm
Mixing religion with politics has never produced a viable state. Multi ethnicity, multi culturism may appear chaotic but these do contribute towards long term peace and prosperity.
gulshan May 08, 2012 05:25pm
I could not said it better. Precise and to the point.
Purplehaze May 08, 2012 05:14pm
India and Pakistan were and will always be brothers. There is an unmistaken enviousness and fear towards the big brother India that has lead to many unfortunate and un-ncessary skirmishes and wars - you can read this fear/enviousness in this article. Pakistan has to learn to survive, grow and prosper without constantly worrying about India wanting its land or its resources. India has very deep rooted problems of its own; it is in no shape to have imperial desires towards Pakistan. The reason relationships do not improve is also because our bureaucrats from both countries do not want to take any risks to change the current and past state of mistrust. Only direct interaction and openness between the people of the two countries can gradually change the situation as I do not trust any of the Indian political parties or Pakistani political parties for that matter to do anything radical to achieve peace.
Rajesh May 08, 2012 05:09pm
Both Nehru and Jinnah and long dead. Stop living in the past. Move on. Look at current issues. Why does Pakistan refuse to investigate Hafiz Saeed?
Sandy May 08, 2012 06:28am
I dont agree with everything stated, but this is a a very well written article.
p kumar May 08, 2012 06:34am
'This brings us straight to the question if old negotiating tactics are being given up'.It's not quite clear what is meant by old negotiating tactics.Furtheron,there have been positive negotiations on some major issues in the past like that of sharing of river waters.
PRN May 08, 2012 05:07pm
A stable and democratic pakistan is in best interest of India. India gave MFN status to Pakistan a long time ago but only to be brushed off. Now, its military thinks that it may be a good idea. So, having a trade relationship will benefit pakistan much more than India. If indian really see pakistan as eternal enemy, then india should not worry too much in bringing them to the table..let they deal the way they want. The thing about Siachen is laughable. If you do not want to demarcate your position why would india simply walk out. Just because some pakistani soldiers died in the snow?
Sikander May 08, 2012 06:47am
A nice reminder to the head-in-the-sand aman ki asha wallas.
Silajit May 08, 2012 01:09pm
I don't understand this thing about Indian position "hardening" on Siachen. India's position is unchanged. Demarcate the actual ground positions. The only reason Kiyani/Pakistani army would not want to do this is if they want to take the territory that the Indian army holds. In such a case, it is all the more critical that the Indian army dig in. The other possibility is to show that an attempt was made to smooth things over but the Indians are just bad people.
Monty... May 08, 2012 12:57pm
The best of solving issues between India and Pakistan is to ignore them...
Rao May 10, 2012 01:00am
Pakistani politicians & administrators have always projected that Indian positions are unreasonable. What "Hardening" on Siachen is being talked about. India always maintained that troops can only be withdrawn only when "AGPL" is authenticated on maps by Pakistan, which Pakistan has refused to do it.
Khan May 10, 2012 12:48am
Let's look at all the issues not just one if we are really honest and sincere.
Khan May 10, 2012 12:43am
Are you talking about changes in Indian spots?
Khan May 10, 2012 12:45am
You are absolutely right. Live in peace and let others do the same.
Silajit May 10, 2012 04:30pm
Yes. That is because the Siachen area had an undefined border/LOC. The Kargil border/LOC is defined. And note that I'm not calling you self centered like you are.
krishna prasad May 09, 2012 01:40am
When the author quoted that " Military establishment" is in an accommodating mode, I want to ask the author "where was the Military Establishment" when Bombay was being burnt with a few radicals trained and funded by the same institution just a couple of years ago? Where is the Military establishment when the radical religious leaders exhort their communities with virulent speeches against India to benefit from the people's weaknesses? Why is it the culprits cannot be prosecuted and punished until now? How do I and we in India believe that the same mentality for the last 60 years which never changed has changed now suddenly? If so, is it for their own self-help? or is it a favor to India? Not on Siachen.
Gina May 09, 2012 02:50am
I enjoyed reading this article. For fellow Indians complaining of bias...this is the Pakistani perspective. We are not expected to view Indo-Pak relationship in the same way as our brothers from across the border.
Gurdeep May 09, 2012 04:55pm
It happens to me all the time!! :):)
Sri Nivas May 09, 2012 04:05am
Excellent analysis that should be read both sides of the border. It is said that Mr.Jinnah wanted the Hindu state to be called Hindustan so that both nations could continue their India heritage. Nehru would not have it and insisted that to maintain a secular identity his half should remain India. It is not clear though why as an avowed secularist and scholar of history he agreed in the first place to the partition of India on religious lines. Surely he should have known that divisions based on religion always lead to conflct. Further what has not been emphasised by the author is the role of Churchill and the British establishment in favor of a Pakistan which would serve western interests in the impending cold war with the Soviets in preference to a united India led by leaders like Nehru whom they did not trust.
Sami May 09, 2012 04:49pm
My question to all Indian readers who instead of acknowledging Pakistani point of view started bashing here as well. Why Indian state is not serious about resolving issues; First and and foremost being kashmir. Kashmir issue is most important and internationally acknowledged. Most important, kashmiri people are at stake from 60 years,more than 60000 kashmiris has died so far. What is stopping you to address it? On one side India make tall claims of being a greatest democratic country. How ironical is it ??? Secondly Siachin; when pakistan is showing willingness why isn't India taking a stand? Dragging such core issues where people's sentiments are attached will always produce crooks/terrorists who will do inhuman things. Why don't we address the issue instead of its repercussions.
saif May 10, 2012 01:34am
Salaam Akil Sahab, I am really sorry to inform you that not a single word quoted below is even close to reality.. "You would not be satisfied with anything short of Pakistan disbanding its military. We are fed up with teh narrow mindedness and hate mongering of the indians" The reality is we Indians respect your Sovereignty but do the pakistani estabilishment as a whole and military in particular do the same.. the answer is big NO.. When your own constitution is not been safe from the evils of your military rulers how come we expect that military suddenly has started respecting the Democratically elected govt.. continued...
Saif May 10, 2012 01:34am
continue........ The past experience with pakistani military has made us a doubting TOM.. It will take time for us to start believing in pakistani leaders word.. your democracy is reinstated a couple of years ago and there was almost a coup during this time.. first thing first.. make the world believe that a democratic system is actually sustainable in pakistan... curb fanaticism... no body in pakistan feels safe today... shia, sunni, ballochi, hazaras, hindus every one lives under constant fear of one thing or another.. We indian will be more than happy if there is peace and harmony in pakistan .. because it will be more helpful for us to grow, if the normal trade root is started between India and pakistan.. it will benefit both the country.. Inflation will be under control.. but all that can happen only when there is trust.. India has proven that with all the Odds its has a sustainable democratic system.. now its your turn.. and I know pakistani people will overcome this hatred against india and work for a larger brotherhood in subcontinent..
PRN May 10, 2012 02:25am
Well said! Everyone learns from their experiences! Do you think America will ever let its guard down because 9-11 incident happened a long long time ago??? So, are Indians. They have learned their lessons in a hard way. There is no need to show any sincerity with Pakistan. Let they start the process sincerely and we will reciprocate sincerely. The ball is in their court. It is not difficult to handover mumbai masterminds to India. Is it? No, then why not? Indians would be foolish to trade with pakistan until they act on them... Everyone seems to have forgotten the tragedy! What a shame!
ambijat May 10, 2012 06:52pm
selective memories and selective histories, thus shall be known the saga of Pakistan.
Pritam May 24, 2012 05:54pm
Thank god . It seems only you are the one who understood the article as well as wrote a comment. As an Indian this article gives me enormous delight.