Opinion » Lead

Updated: September 2, 2013 12:37 IST

Dialogue is the only option

Satyabrata Pal
Comment (35)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

The best way to weaken anti-India forces in Pakistan is for New Delhi to commit itself clearly and purposefully to a peace process with the democratically elected civilian government there

The killing of five jawans at the Line of Control (LoC) has once again hobbled our already halting progress towards peace with Pakistan and shows that our soldiers have now become hostages to fortune: Pakistani naysayers and their Indian mirror-images know that the easiest way to stop a rapprochement is to kill an Indian soldier.

Under General Kayani, there has been a clear and very obvious shift in the use to which skirmishes at the LoC are being put. Sending infiltrators into Jammu and Kashmir is of secondary importance; the primary objective is to create incidents that would nip in the bud any attempt to make peace. In 2008, every public statement by Asif Zardari, proclaiming his intention to make peace was followed by an attack on a soft Indian target. When raids on Indian soldiers at the LoC did not work, our Embassy in Kabul was attacked, which did derail the process for several months. When the leaders nevertheless met in New York in the autumn and decided to resume the process, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) went further with Mumbai, attacking it on the evening that its Foreign Minister arrived in Delhi for talks.

Inverting past practice

Why are terrorists now attacking our troops at the LoC, when, earlier, infiltrators tried to evade them? It is because their primary aim then was to cause turmoil inside J&K, which could be passed off as local opposition to Indian rule. By definition, if armed men were fighting their way in, this fiction would be hard to maintain. Covering fire by the Pakistan Army let the infiltrators get in undetected as our forces kept their heads down.

The attacks now taking place are an inversion of earlier practice: the infiltrators only target an Indian patrol, kill a few and then retreat into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). This has nothing to do with keeping the insurgency alive in J&K. These attacks have a purely political objective, to create an outrage in India that will force the government to take a hard line on the Pakistan government.

Why, though, must the Pakistan Army turn to subterfuge, instead of making its government say that unless Kashmir is settled on its terms, everything else has to wait? It is because there are few takers for this line now in Pakistan. Most Pakistanis want a normal relationship with India, and will support their government on this. The Army fears peace, except on its terms, but does not want to be seen as the spoiler. Instead of trying to mould Pakistani public opinion, therefore, it is, with great success, moulding ours.

The challenge put by our media to our government, to decide if it wants dialogue or security, is the one the Pakistan Army would like to pose to its people, but now cannot. There is no choice involved. Every dialogue between nations is to promote their interests, which include security. Between nuclear-armed States, which cannot settle their differences through war, as the United States and USSR showed, steady dialogue is the proven way of whittling away at concerns over security. Dialogue promotes security; security is not undermined by dialogue.

We have tried coercive belligerence, which stops short of war, in Operation Parakram, but this did not pay dividends. After a year of being Trishanku, we marched our men back from the border and resumed a dialogue with Pakistan. That, of course, was with a general in power, and it will be argued that a dialogue with a civilian government is futile as long as its Army calls the shots. It is true that the Army is still immensely powerful, but it no longer has an entirely freehand vis-à-vis India, as the devious ploys it is using to block progress show. This is because of the growing strength of Pakistani democracy.

Consensus for peace

Though we sneer at it, the last two elections there have been a clear reflection of the will of the majority. Baiting India was not an issue in either. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) are publicly committed to improving relations with us. There is an implicit national consensus on this in Pakistan, which its Army has shown that it cannot ignore, and which we must not.

It will still be argued that talking to Pakistan after terrorist attacks would be rewarding it for bad behaviour, and therefore its government must first give assurances that these will stop. This demand is illogical, for three reasons. First, if we believe its Army does not obey its politicians, we cannot expect them to give us these assurances. Predicating dialogue on a condition which cannot be met is self-defeating, because the Pakistan Army gets its strength from an absence of peace with India. Stasis is what it wants. The more we show that we will press ahead, and the more this determination is reflected in practical, tangible benefits for the common man, the more the Pakistan Army will be weakened, and the government strengthened. It is only then that a civilian government there can crack the whip, not now.

Second, if we should not talk to, or do business with, a government unwilling to rein in terrorists who operate from its territory, we should remember that Iqbal Mirchi lived and died in the United Kingdom and Dawood Ibrahim spends much of his time in the UAE. The governments there were insensitive on a matter of the gravest national importance to us, but we have deepened our ties with them nevertheless, simply because that served our interests best. Why should we make an exception in the case of the government of Pakistan?

Domestic parallel

Third, we are trying to make peace precisely because we do not have it. The complete end of violence is the objective we expect to negotiate. It is unreasonable to impose as a precondition for a dialogue something that we hope will be its outcome. We have not done this in dealing with politically-driven violence within India. The insurgencies in Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam and Punjab would never have been contained had the government of India not had the courage to start a political process even while they continued. Sacrifices had to be made and lives lost, but the violence was isolated and neutralised through a political process which began with a dialogue.

Even now, in Assam, the Bodos whom the Army and police kill are described in their reports as cadres of the “NDFB anti-talks faction.” Our government should look on the Pakistan Army as the anti-talks faction there, but hold a sustained dialogue with the civilian government. Not talking to it, or putting the peace process in cold storage, plays into the Pakistan Army’s hands; it does not persuade it to change. We must make it clear to the generals that they cannot stymie progress towards peace.

From Rajiv Gandhi’s time, every government has tried to make peace with Pakistan, but has been thwarted by political problems there. Benazir Bhutto in her first innings was undermined by the Army, using Nawaz Sharif; when he saw the light, he was sabotaged by Musharraf, who, however, as President, made a sustained effort with Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh to make peace. That failed at the last gasp when he lost political support in Pakistan.

Now, however, between the PPP and the PML, there is a bipartisan consensus in Pakistan that peace with India is in its interest. When the time is propitious, it is tragic that politics has become so fractious in India that on a matter of national interest, party political differences dominate and inhibit our policy.

Moving ahead

It is important to stress, therefore, that talking to Pakistan does not mean that we are soft on it. Trying to make peace with Pakistan is not a sign of weakness. These are imperatives, which every government in India has acknowledged over the last three decades. The government that comes to power after the next election will do the same. It too will try to make peace with Pakistan. If it does not, it will be abdicating its responsibility and charting a course that diverges so completely from its predecessors that it is unlikely to get broad, political support.

This government must therefore reach out to the country and explain why it must continue to explore options of making peace with Pakistan. It is a given that if the Prime Ministers agree to meet at the U.N. General Assembly, there will be outrages at the LoC or in India, to torpedo the meeting and ensure that, if it does take place, no substantive discussions are possible. If the Prime Ministers do agree on the next steps, the provocations will increase. These are inevitable. We can certainly urge the government of Pakistan to stop these, but should know that, realistically, they currently cannot. We must nevertheless persevere so that they eventually can.

(Satyabrata Pal is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)

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why our diplomats have such perception that Pakistan civlian
government is not responsible for terrorism , infiltration on boarder
and disturbance created in Kashmir ?why always we think that only
Pakistan army is behind the scene only . it is true that Pakistan army
has vital role in politics in Pakistan in internal & external matters
but it is civilian government who in power and what this government
has taken to defuse the tension and what action this Pakistan
government has taken to reduce power of Pakistan army . Pakistan
civilian government is close allied to its army . If Pakistan civilian
government is really sincere to solve the problem ,it should stooped
the infiltration at boarder by deploying paramilitary force because
paramilitary forces do not come under army and hope they not deny or
disobey their civilian government orders and camps in Pakistan to
train the terrorist are totally in supervision of Pakistan government
.IT is Pakistan not amry or government behind scene

from:  ravin
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 18:48 IST

"purposefully to a peace process with the democratically elected civilian government there"! Does the writer know what the civilian exactly want from India? Did any editorial writers point out any time what is basic or main dispute between India and Pakistan. If the dispute is due to Kashmir, then the writers should point out on what basis Kashmir is claimed by Pakistan? geography(!) or ethnic or what?
Pakistan civilian constitution is based on what laws? Pakistani soldiers come from Pakistan population. What happened when civilian Mrs.Bhutto ruled Pakistan. "explain why it must continue to explore options of making peace with Pakistan" Then the writer should explain what options to explore. No one writes what to explore or what Pakistan wants or on the basis of what?

from:  sundaram
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 16:04 IST

Peace with pakistan is possible only through the barrel of a gun.I salute Indira Gandhi for creating Bangladesh. Since that date Pakistan never tried for a major war with India.Now pakistan is destroying itself. Protect ourselves with maximum possible strength. Jai hind.

from:  Babu
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 15:42 IST

Dear Sir,
But perhaps we must now consider another form of dialogue and give it another content ? Now it’s the time to reflect and imagine more concrete and particular solutions that bring together the peoples of two countries? Why politicians do not create a space for dialogue among members of civil society? Why not put in the center of the dialogue, Men and Women of Country 2 dialogue? The time has come for the two sides to let the heart speak. This approach may strike the bureaucracy of two countries. But maybe that dialogue has failed so far because we remain focused on what has hurt us since 1947. Sometimes utopia is necessary, including the realistic utopia.We can remember a famous song of John LENNON “Power to the people”…..

from:  Mayoura
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 15:40 IST

The author seems to have lost the 'plot' as it were. Appeasing an 'insatiable monster' like the Pak army and ISI will be seen as a sign of weakness. These institutions want to destroy India and its civilisation with a 'thousand cuts'. While the Pak civilian Govt has no control over the army, then a strong military response is the only language that should be meted out to Pakistan.

from:  Vipul
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 15:35 IST

The situation is not the same as that of the time of appeasement during
WWII because then the people handling political power (Hitler) were the
belligerents but here the army is trying to bully the govt and the
people into an enmity which neither of them want. Aggression will not
lead to peace. Both governments need to work together and address the
issue of the out-of-control militia and the harm it causes to people on
both sides rather than going for an eye for an eye.

from:  aparna
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 15:00 IST

Pakistan is a politically unstable nation, and on a broader perspective the only political authority there is the Army. How can one still stress upon pursuing grave talks intended for solemn consequences to the virtually powerless and rather ephermal civilian government.
Best India can do is defend the border with utmost effort, while still engaging in talks, visibly with the civilian regime, and actually with the army; the former point still should be the most stressed point.

from:  Anshuman Sharma
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 14:38 IST

Firstly be in condition of bargain. Retaliate in same way of guerilla war techniques. Let them also feel need of talk. Then we should go for talk. As we can bargain more strongly in such condition.

from:  Umesh Thorat
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 14:11 IST

From our past experience it is now fact that Zero dialogue is the only option.

from:  Santosh
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 14:11 IST

I wish to die one day rather than to die everyday.

Do people like Mr. Pal care to know the feelings who have lost/are losing/will lose their near and dear ones because of this appeasement policy. The terrorist Bhatkal has confessed that he has Pakistani ISI handler for every terrorist act he conducted in different Indian cities. All this took place when India was in courtship with pakistan.

from:  Sandeep
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 13:58 IST

Best article that actually outlines the ideas of a normal person who
doesn't give out a knee jerk reaction to every incident that happens
in the border or anywhere else pertaining to India. Best line " You
cannot impose a precondition on a dialogue process which is actually
the outcome of the process."

In general Best article. A rational person would say whatever maybe
the odds of a dialogue to succeed, it has to be taken. Because we have
no other alternative to it.

Many here speak about stick policy has worked, I don't know or cannot
understand the process it has worked. Not everything calm is safe and
not all storms are worse. The forces which want to derail the peace
process will be in full vigour only when the peace is near. When we
are showing the stick, they are actually silent because we are
actually doing their work, bringing in dissension, discontent upon
their population.

This situation suits the popular adage" If you are facing problems,
you are in right path".

from:  Kannan M V G
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 13:54 IST

APPEASEMENT FOR FOREIGN POLICY??? MAYBE WW-II would not have taken place had the world accepted Adolf Hitler's suzerity. If Pakistan army is the chief sabotier on LoC then it ought to be taught a lesson in its Rawalpindi backyard. Beacuse appeasement will only empower the chief sobotier. I am ashamed we have chickens like Satyabrata Pal in our foreign policy establishment.

from:  Anish Khindri
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 13:24 IST

Any amount of talk sessions with the elected government in Pakistan will not resolve the issue as the country is basically run by the military and the ISI while keeping a virtual government in place for international appeal. The talk has been going on since independence. But for some niceties during the talk much has not changed on account of it. Going back to it is an exercise in futility, much like the 'dog to the vomitus'! Position can only shift if the power base in Pakistan changes and that can only be a pipe dream! So, all these talks are to be taken with a pinch of salt. It is what one does when one has nothing else to do with the issue for just satisfying the political needs of the participating countries and its naive population.

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 12:36 IST

Good essay for Civil Services Exam.But inappropriate for the real world.

from:  Kunal
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 12:19 IST

Enough with the diplomatic niceties. No more handing with kid-gloves. We have lost many a young soldier and lost face in the international arena. If we don't take decisive action once and for all, even Male and Myammar would not respect us and we can kiss away peace in the sub-continent for ever.
The author who is an ex-diplomat should know that Pakistan (military, politicians and the populace) understand the stick better than discussion across the table. Their military regimes of the past and present are evidence enough for the Stick policy.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 11:56 IST

Should we engage in peace talks because of the set precedent and assumption that deviating from the precedent will not garner political support? Should we rather do it when all forces in pakistan recognize the need for paece with its neighbors..

from:  Pradyumna
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 11:46 IST

Mr Pal's arguments are logical and rational, however he has misdirected them to Indian whereas he should have addressed these to his friends in Pakistan. According to him, majority of Pakistanis want peace with India. What is his evidence for this observation? Zero! None of the Pak panellists who appear on TV have anything to comment but to deny all allegations and put counter allegations which are ludicrous to us such as India is encouraging Taliban to attack Pakistan, Indians are fomenting trouble in Baluchistan, Indian consulates in Jalalabad are supplying arms and ammunition to Afghan Taliban to stage cross border terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The truth of the matter which Mr Pal ignores to mention is that in Pakistan the right hand (Army/ ISI) does not listen to the left hand (Govt of the day) while the latter feigns not to know what the right hand is up to and conveniently blames non state actors for any transgression. So long as this charade continues, there is no hope of peace

from:  s mohan
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 11:44 IST

Though very few are the takers of the author suggestion that dialouge is the best options among the worst but as a true citizen having rational frame of mind, no body could afford to deny it. True, the dealing with Pakistan is as difficult as is to talk as most of our talks are driven by emotions, vengeance, deep distrust etc. If we do not talk to pakistan, it amounts to giving a shattering blow to a very delicate institution i.e Democracy , which has been in ICU since its inception. Do anti-India forces operating in pakistan want peace, whose very existence is premised on a anti- india architecture? Would n't they be emboldened further more. In view, at borders the army should play its role, while in Delhi policy should not be oriented towards the cessation of dialouge.

from:  Gopendra Dwivedi
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 11:21 IST

The former High Commissioner is eight just about everything from a logical point of view. However, if the Pak army fails to thwart talks by using firing at LoC, they know how to up the ante. Another Bombay type event is well within their reach. Also, nobody in the world knows how to settle Kashmir. So, unless India is prepared to concede the valley, there will be no progress. India could of course change their approach and bargain with Pak some other areas that are appealing to India. The status quo is foretold.

from:  Manjit Sahota
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 10:09 IST

This whole argument is based upon the assumption that Pakistan is equally enthused for a peace process as is India. Even after assuming that Pakistan govt has no hold on their army, it must take some steps forward to take Indian side in confidence. Pakistan is enjoying "Most Favored Nation" status from Indian side for years, but even today they are not ready to declare the same for India when the trade volume is around $2.5 billion between two countries. Even after ignoring attacks at LOC, at least some positive steps are required from Pakistan.

from:  vishwas
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 09:23 IST

All human interactions - esp. institutional ones - need talking with
eyes open. Unlike USA and USSR(erstwhile) we share geographical
boundaries as well as overlapping cultural and genetic ancestry so
emotions play a greater role here than they could in the other
situation.Both sides tend to feel aggrieved and cheated by the other
when such incidents happen. Listening to saner advice like in this
article is very helpful in such situations. Our armed forces and their
surveillance cum intelligence wings should also be trained to be more
professional in anticipating and preventing at least some of these
nasty surprises from across the border so that mass media jingoism
does not get reasons to be demonstrative.

from:  Shashi B. Roy
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 09:23 IST

My position so far has been that there is no point in talking to the
present civilian government in Pakistan (a) unless Nawaz Sharif can
demonstrate that he is in control and can deliver, (b) unless he
assures us and shows us that he means to stop terrorists from
operating against India, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere, (c) unless
he pursues seriously the prosecution of the guilty of Mumbai 26/11 by
ensuring that the court acts expeditiously, and (d) unless he hands
over to India people like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed, and others
that India has demanded. Now, in this paper Mr Pal is at his
persuasive best: I am prepared to concede that there is weight in his
formulations and that it is worth trying out the ideas offered by
him. It is possible that we may see results that we want. We need not
insist on preconditions.

from:  V. C. Bhutani
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 09:21 IST

So, In a nutshell, We need a political solution through dialogue with Pakistan. At present, though it seems like a distant dream, but that is the way forward as suggested by the author.

from:  Misfit Medico
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 08:43 IST

Let us be reminded of the fact that dialogue with Pakistan is also a
dialogue with the extreme elements like LeT and Taliban. It is of
course necessary to make efforts to have a dialogue even wish one’s
But one fact is that there are many politicians in Pakistan who are
unable to separate politics from religion and as a result they are
unable to convince us that the Islamic Pakistan wants peace. Terrorist
organizations like LeT and Taliban who operate from Pakistan are
openly supporting violence in the name of Islam. Saner elements in
Pakistan are too weak to oppose these outfits and actively contradict
extremists’ views.
Hence even if we want dialogue, we have to be realistic and should not
expect any significant positive results in near future. But if
dialogue paves way for less tension on Indo-Pak border, it is welcome.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 08:32 IST

Extremely well written article. The problem we face in the case of indo
pak relation is that. more than strategy, benefit etc we are leaded by
emotions. we must stay with our brave jawans who were the victims of
pakistan armies bloody efforts to stop negotiations.But as a farsighted
solution to avoid those casualties in the boarder , we should start
negotiations in all possible ways, this will in no way diminish the
respects to our jawans and their family and above all the emotions of
the people of India .

from:  salahuddeen.p
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 08:02 IST

Finally,an article devoid of jingoism or submission but one that must be put into practice by our government.We shouldn't let the Pakistani Army dictate Indo-Pak relation.Instead we should prepare our Army and intelligence agencies to retaliate effectively in the event of an attack by the Pakistani Army or militants . Simultaneously,we should extend the olive branch of dialogue to the democratically elected government of Pakistan.

from:  harsha
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 06:28 IST

The substance in the article is good. How ever author should make
Indians realize that If USA and USSR kept lines of communication opened
as super powers why can't Pak and India.

Denial is the root cause of ignorance. Author should accept and realize
most of Indian Nation has hatred toward Pakistan in such a magnitude
that they have forgotten civility. All one has to do is read comments
by Indians in print and online media to know ugliness and vulgar with
hate filled words indicates their soul is sick and does not reflect a
nation with virtues of peace. Don't worry about Pakistan if Indian soul
is not cleaned it will eventually lead them to downfall they will not
recover. Lets hope peace prevails but for that think before one acts or

from:  Akash
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 06:18 IST

Let us not get swayed by a large section of so called strategic experts supported by retired defence officers interested to keep the pot boiling to keep defence budget high.Common people want peace and tension free life to pull on their daily chores.

from:  atis
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 06:04 IST

Recently pakistan army breached cessation of fire,tough their politcal party assure to make peace with india is sheerly a prevericate norm.
Neither the pak goverment nor troop seem to praise peace.

from:  Kundan Malviya
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 05:19 IST

The very concept of peace means safety of human lives as the very minimum. How can
peace coexist with death, beheadings, and murder? But the author wants our citizens to be
prepared for more 'outrages' at the LOC and further inevitable provocations from Pakistan.
Once again we must be prepared to pay with our lives so that we can have more
meaningless dialogue sessions on peace to keep our intellectuals happy. It is astonishing
that these suggestions are coming from a former high commissioner. Would he make these
suggestions if his family was living near the LOC?

from:  Viswanath
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 05:17 IST

The writer is correct. Govt. of India, regardless of its political affiliation must pursue the course of dialog with the democratically elected govt. of Pakistan to arrive at a political settlement. There is no military solution to the Kashmir problem. A military solution will certainly not favor Pakistan and that is the point diplomacy in both nations has to firmy convey on both sides of the border.

from:  Anjali Fields
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 04:22 IST

Peace with India is not in the best interest of Pakistan Military. They
loose their special, above law, above accountability, above average
privileges. If India wants peace with Pakistan it has give people of
Pakistan strong incentive to stand up to the Military. In my view India
does not want peace on equal terms with Pakistan. India wants Pakistan
to submit, to accede, to Indian hegemony in the region.

from:  Naveed Khan
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 02:46 IST

meeting should must take place.

from:  mayank
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 01:36 IST

Kudos to the columnist for rationalising an imperative that policy-
makers and, more importantly, the 24/7 media needs to realise. We don't
have a choice when it comes to negotiating with Pakistan - that doesn't
mean we need to lay our guard down. We can very well engage in
negotiations without going soft on that front. It's time we realise that
suspending talks every time something happens only to get back to the
drawing board has led us nowhere.

from:  Rahul L
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 01:09 IST

The writer firmly believes that the people and politicians of Pakistan wants peace with India. But then why their politicians keep crying in public against India? Why the author believes that musharraf's visit was success, whereas it was termed shameful for India. He puts blame on bodo for Assam mess ,without considering state collusion and politically vested interest. He is a pacifist rather than a realist, Pakistan never wanted peace with India, how can they it's a country run by extremist groups, and India ideologically is a secular country.

from:  Sukant
Posted on: Sep 2, 2013 at 00:43 IST
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