Opinion » Lead

Updated: April 5, 2012 00:25 IST

Set a menu that goes beyond the lunch

    Humayun Khan
    Salman Haidar
Comment (27)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

India and Pakistan must ready themselves to take bold initiatives so that their relationship can rest on stable and permanent foundations.

Asif Ali Zardari's visit to India on April 8 — including a luncheon meeting with Manmohan Singh — may be an essentially private trip, yet the detour brings hope of a new phase in India-Pakistan relations. The expectation is that President Zardari will renew his invitation to the Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan, and that the latter will accept, setting the stage for the bold initiatives that are now needed to take matters forward.

South Asia is home to one fourth of the human race and has the largest middle class anywhere in the world. But the region also accounts for the majority of the world's poor, is hamstrung by sectarian and caste beliefs and spends a disproportionate share of its resources to meet non-productive ends. Most significantly, South Asia has not been able to forge a cooperative framework to match the European Union or the Association of South East Asian Nations. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, now more than 25 years old, remains dormant.

Situation not dismal

Relations within the region, particularly between India and Pakistan, have always been troubled, with three open conflicts and repeated near-war situations resulting in frequent breaks in bilateral engagement. Both countries are also conscious of the fact that they are now nuclear powers. And yet the situation is not as dismal as it might appear from the outside. Saner elements in both countries have consistently worked for better relations. There have been serious discussions on a No-War Pact and a Treaty of Peace and Friendship. A Joint Commission was set up in 1983 and a framework for composite dialogue devised. The first big break came in 1999 with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee boarding a bus to Lahore where he publicly acknowledged the reality of Pakistan and assured the nation-state that it had nothing to fear from India. Mr. Vajpayee's initiative showed that an imaginative leadership can push the envelope on India-Pakistan relations.

What followed Lahore is too well known to bear repetition. Suffice it to say that reconciliatory efforts resumed in 2001 with Pervez Musharraf agreeing to meet Mr. Vajpayee in Agra. Predictably the talks ended in failure. Peace efforts restarted in January 2004: Mr. Vajpayee signalled his willingness to hold a composite dialogue on all issues, including on Kashmir and Gen. Musharraf promised not to allow terrorism and cross-border incursions from Pakistani territory. The process suffered a jolt four years later following the November 2008 terrorist strike on Mumbai. India broke off the composite dialogue.

Two years were lost because public feeling in India was greatly aroused by Mumbai. The basic reality, however, remained. It was not in the interest of either country to depart from the path of negotiations. Eventually, a limited resumption was agreed by the two Prime Ministers in 2010. At the moment, these talks are proceeding well, though there have been no major breakthroughs.

The two most inflammable issues that could jeopardise the peace process are Kashmir and terrorism. There are hopeful signs that mutually acceptable solutions to both can be found. On Kashmir, the back channel made considerable progress. Unfortunately, the new elected government in Pakistan has, more or less, disowned this process. To move forward courageously on Kashmir and build on the progress already achieved must now be the main objective of both countries.

Settlement on Kashmir

The crucial point in reaching a settlement on Kashmir must remain its acceptance by the Kashmiri people. The settlement must aim to put an end to the violence and the abuse of human rights so that the people can live normally and in peace. The need for cooperation on terrorism cannot be overstated. Regrettably, a number of terrorist incidents in India have been found to have originated in Pakistan which has negatively influenced public opinion in India. Where the culprits can be identified, it is incumbent on Pakistan to satisfy India that it is making genuine efforts to bring them to book. India must do likewise. This a fight that has be fought jointly.

If dialogue is the key to resolving problems, how do we keep dialogue alive and how do we avoid its derailment, especially in the context of the changed circumstances? India's economic progress and political stability, together with its size, have lifted it to the status of a world power. But this will work to its disadvantage unless India earns the confidence of its smaller neighbours and reassures them that it does not seek to be a regional hegemon. Peace within the region is an essential requirement for India to continue on its upward path. It must make renewed efforts to convince its neighbours that it poses no threat to them. It still has to fully convince them that it is ready to honour their independence and separate personality.

In Pakistan

Pakistan, on the other hand, is dogged by an unhappy past marked by repeated military interventions that prevented democracy from taking root. Misgovernance and the fear of an aggressive and more powerful neighbour have driven it towards becoming a security State, further ensuring the dominance of its armed forces. The country is going through what many consider the most testing phase in its history and so it needs to be at peace with India to solve its domestic problems.

Given this, it is in the interests of both India and Pakistan to forge a permanent relationship of peace and amity. The time has come for imaginative policies, a change in fundamental attitudes towards each other. The present promising state of their relations seems a propitious moment to adopt a common approach on promoting their permanent interests.

So who takes the first step? It is obvious that Pakistan's need for peace is greater, but the weakness of its civilian government and its internal problems make it unlikely that it can take any bold initiative. India can live with the present state of affairs, yet it stands to benefit greatly from a transformed relationship. It needs to take the initiative and to lay at rest the fears of the military in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made clear his desire for peace and friendship with Pakistan. He has worked hard to improve relations and has revived the stalled dialogue more than once. But we are still some way from the major leap that could permanently transform relations.

What is needed now is direct engagement at the very top. Dr. Manmohan Singh must pay a return visit to Pakistan. It would be an occasion to announce agreement on some specific issues like Siachen and Sir Creek. More importantly, he could launch some major new initiatives, like reviving the offer of a No-War Pact and a Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Such formal agreements, duly supported by the international community, would effectively allay the fears of the Pakistan military.

To further allay apprehensions, discussions could be initiated on relocation of forces along the border and on regular meetings between chiefs of the armed forces and of intelligence agencies. The need for better understanding between the two militaries cannot be over-emphasised, because the security syndrome in Pakistan is the major obstacle in the way of progress.

Trade, terrorism, Afghanistan

On the major outstanding issue of Kashmir, a clear decision to resume both back channel and official negotiations is needed. Simultaneously, the Line of Control should be made truly porous for free movement of vehicles and trade. A settlement on Kashmir would be of great value in addressing the vital issue of water on which there has recently been a renewed focus.

The other major issue is terrorism. There remains the very real danger that, if another major terrorist attack in India takes place and its origins are traced to Pakistan, the peace process would again be endangered. The two countries have to address this issue as a top priority and agree that firm action will be taken against the culprits wherever they are found. There are encouraging signs that both sides recognise the need to cooperate.

The Afghan problem has the potential of critically affecting India-Pakistan relations, either in a positive or a negative way, and must be on the agenda. Similarly, the nuclear issue must be meaningfully addressed and the existing areas of agreement expanded. In the critical field of economic development, the decision by Pakistan to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India has been a major advance. It must be implemented in its true spirit. Economic cooperation is the strongest guarantee of peace.

Dr. Manmohan Singh's visit could be a decisive moment for substantive and meaningful progress. The visit needs to take place soon and intensive preparation will be required. Much can be achieved, provided both sides realise the time has come to put their relationship on stable and permanent foundations.

Official efforts will need to be supplemented by people-to- people contacts. The key to any lasting relationship is that the people on both sides should want it. People are South Asia's greatest resource and they are also the surest long-term guarantee of the region's stability and progress.

(Humayun Khan is a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan; Salman Haidar is a former Foreign Secretary of India.)

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We shouldn,t initiate any talks with them,as far as their civilian government is weak.......

from:  Abin R
Posted on: Apr 14, 2012 at 12:41 IST

Its very encouraging to see people like my father and Salman Haider consistently being balanced and positive about Indo Pak relations. Judging from most of the comments under this article, there seem to be very few Indians readers who even pretend to be balanced;lets face it, and many Indians may not like this but we have alot in common between our two countries: both suffer from mass poverty, both spend disgusting amounts of money on defence instead of alleviating the suffering of our peoples; both countries suffer from communal/sectarian violence, and both countries are victims of terrorist attacks, just to mention a few. Yes, Pakistan is certainly more to blame especially when it comes to terrorism. Surely we can address our common problems by getting along better? India will never be the world power she would like to be unless she can make friends with her neighbours. Someone has to be the'bigger'person here, why not India?

from:  Ayesha Humayun Khan
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 01:25 IST

This is a brilliant analysis and I commend the two respected authors. I fully agree that it is time for some creative and bold initiatives. These will only come from a position of strength, which India clearly has gained on the International stage. This is why even the Chinese President seeks support from Dr. Singh. India seems to have scored in all their matches except with Pakistan, who somehow cannot trsut the big brother. In the new World order, gone are the days of Military solutions. Hence, a Peace Treaty will formalize a relationship with Pakistan that allows the main priority to be addressed and that is, open borders for freer trade. India will gain huge dividents(not at the expense of China), by an open border on the East with Bangladesh and on the West with Pakistan.The initiaves with Sheik Hassina have worked. Now it is time for similar moves with Zardari.

from:  v v gita
Posted on: Apr 4, 2012 at 21:30 IST

No matter how much we may shout from the house top, unless the Kashmir problem is resolved first - a step that neither country wants to do - India and Pakistan can never close ranks and Pak sponsored terrorism on a hapless India will continue as ever. This problem was created by Nehru during the 1947-48 war by declaring a unilateral ceasefire and taking the case to the UN just as the Pak raiders were being chased out of J&K by the Indian army. Nehru's aim was to give a part of the Valley to Jinnah, as per an earlier deal. Subsequently, we put no pressure on Pakistan at Tashkent over Kashmir and tamely surrendered our superior military gains of the 1965 war. Worse, a spectacular military victory gained by our armed forces in the 1971 war including capturing 93000 Pak Ps-O-W was gifted by Indira Gandhi to Zulfi Bhutto at Shimla when we could easily have settled Kashmir on our terms. If we are really serious, then we need to equally unilaterally convert the LOC in J&K into a formal border

from:  JK Dutt
Posted on: Apr 4, 2012 at 12:40 IST

Pakistan has to close its terrorists camps and disarm the militants if they want any result oriented composite dialogues. The Kashmir insurgency and its support for Dr.Nabil Fai are utter counterproductive.
If Pakistan wants to keep India bleeding sending insurgents and fomenting terrorism through its ISI, it should know that India can also bleed them by fomenting insurgency in Baluchistan.
Let only trade prevail and let interaction between two communites bring peace.
India is a secular, democratic country and it cannot compromise on Kashmir, just because it has a majority in the Valley.Pakistan has to understand it.The two secretaries must know India has sacrificed more than his share and they have failed to India.

from:  Nirode Mohanty
Posted on: Apr 4, 2012 at 03:07 IST

The key thing is Kashmir, as we all know it, but the problem is to get down to it. The first war of 1947 started just because of this problem. The main question is: Pakistan wants something, India wants something, the solution is to arrive at a compromise.

One of the readers mentioned that terrorism is the main problem, terrorism partially starts because of political problems like Kashmir. I think India hopes that eventually Pakistan and its people will become weary of Kashmir aspirations and give up. History has taught us that, like in Palenstine, for example, it just goes on and on.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Apr 4, 2012 at 01:09 IST

About time the indian pundits&liberal media with paki soft&paki prone to be cognizant of the fact that EVERY TIME PAKISTAN is BACK to the WALL they climbdown from their high perch like the famous fable 'VIKRAMADITYA & THE GHOST' and once they reach a state of comfort all bets are off&business as usual is on.This cannot be allowed in 21st cent.INDIA has an obligation to its citizens&the world to be fair&tolerant but the LINE in THE SAND has been drawn by the MUMBAI MASSACRE.So the ball is in PAKISTANI COURT&it is now upto them to SHOW THE WORLD how they play.INDIA has reached its ability to DISCOUNT the PAKI NUISSANCE.

from:  bala srinivasan
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 20:38 IST

There is no possibility of peace between India and Pakistan as long as the army controls the foreign policy of Pakistan. And they do. The role of civilian government in Pakistan is to provide political cover to the objectives and the activities of the the Army. From all their actions it is clear to me that the Pakistani Military establishment has no interest in peace with India. If peace breaks out the Pakistani army looses its relevance and the prominent position it enjoys in Pakistan. Couple that with the new Madrassa generation growing up in Pakistan the possibility of peace are remote.

from:  Ashok K. Moza
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 20:16 IST

Media whether it is print or electronic tells/writes what people want to listen/read. Few years down the line there will be another Terrorist attack and the same situation will follow as was there after Parliament Attack and Mumbai.

from:  Simran Jeet Singh
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 20:03 IST

When are the Indians going to learn from the lessons of History? Making peace with pakistan only means making it on their terms.But the issue is how can you do that? The aphorism,'Speak softly but carry a stick' is very appropriate here.A country apparently run by a small group of people who rotate power between them,guided by selfish interests and go through the motions of democracy but in fact guided and controlled by hardline theocrats,how can we make peace with them?we can only be fair,but when you deal with people like the ones in power now peace looks a long way off.

from:  Jkomerath
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 20:01 IST

India-Pakistan relations have an enormous baggage that they cannot shake off easily. Among the several matters that need to be attended to first is the question of terror that Pakistan uses routinely and compulsively against India. As long as terror remains the principal arrow in Pakistan’s quiver there can be no improvement of India-Pakistan relations. For India’s South Asian neighbours, a place like Saarc is a platform for India-bashing whenever an opportunity arises. Where is the incentive for India to go the extra mile? These countries have to realize that together they cannot hope to bind down India any more than the Lilliputians could bind down Gulliver. India will go its way – a lonesome way, if necessary, with or without its neighbours. It is for Pakistan and others to re-think their choice. Otherwise India should be ready to say the requiem for Saarc.

from:  Dr V. C. Bhutani
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 18:39 IST

The distinguished writers should explain their assertion in greater detail when they put India in the same group as Pak pertaining to sectarian strife. Having said that, India must ignore Pakistan and not get into this habit of appeasing it like a younger brother. Pakistan must be diplomatically encircled and we must pursue the policy of shaming them for their not-so-hidden relations with terror groups. As for Siachin and Kashmir, they are both integral parts of India and Pakistan must reconcile to that reality.

from:  Rakesh Sharma
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 16:22 IST

OK negotiation is a good thing to resolve any heavy issue,but in case of Indo-Pak scenario it is looming large.How long only one side is going to come up with much enthusiasm to sort out these problems.Whether Atal ji ,Dr Manmohan Singh every one have tried their best & Manmohan ji still trying.On the other hand our counter partner is not much serious about all these issues.We have to think on it very seriously.When i was a kid,from that time i am hearing news on kashmir issue.When it will be sorted out knows.I pray to god for betterment of both countries.

from:  Mukesh Chauhan
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 13:17 IST

The article is good but could have been better if the had given details about issues and problems also. It was overview of problems which were suggested to be solved through dialogues. Only with peace and harmony we can prosper, progress and make a respectable place in the eyes of world. "Aag bhujti hai yahan Ganga mein bhi Jhelum mein bhi, koi batla de mujhko kahan jakar jal chadaya jaaye."

from:  Amit
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 12:54 IST

i would like to appreciate the way the author has brought detailed importance of trade,terrorism,about afghanistan to have peace process back on track.i would like to add that to curtail this above problems there should be trust among two nations which is very much important to start solving the problems.The security agencies of two countries should strive forward to setup a collective anti terrorism cell which would help to pass information easily .this would help greatly for both countries as people of both countries had the same problem against terrorism.

from:  santosh krishna pujari
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 12:28 IST

Clement Atlee, The post war prime minister of britain said that statesmanship and imaginative insight was required to address the issue of partition of India. Our leaders on both sides must put their wise heads together and ponder on what MR. Atlee said over sixty years ago and apply their statesmanship and imaginative insight to solve the outstanding problems between the two and bring a semblence of peace in the region so that the people of both the countries can live a normal life!

from:  Praveen Chopin
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 12:15 IST

Among above mentioned three problems, The most important one is
terrorism. it leads other problems. We can say, it's the root of all
problems. If both countries could make significant decisions to
eradicate this problem. Everything will be fine between both nations.
Pakistan's army and its secret agencies always seem involved in many
terrorist activities. It would be difficult for pakistan to get rid
off from its armies wrong doings. So we can conclude that it's really
very hard to create peace and brotherhood between two nations. If it
happens. It'll definitely be a all time historical magnificent

from:  Vipin
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 11:59 IST

Lot of things look good in newspapers, sadly the ground realities are
different. India has done a lot in the past decades to normalize the
relationship between the two countries. MFN status to Pakistan in
1996, CBM like starting the bus service to Lahore, back channel talks
and so on. Pakistan has failed to reciprocate on every count. It might
be the lack of a responsible (or free of military control) civilian
government or domestic politics but we have hardly moved ahead in the
past few decades. India has walked that extra mile twice over, its
time Pakistan did its bit.

from:  Vijender
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 11:22 IST

Problem with Pakistan is lack of self-confidence , be it in economy or defence or whatever. What would India get by creating or supporting disturbances in Balochistan? These apprehensions are due to the Bangladesh liberation of 1971. The first and foremost thing Pakistan government should do is change their school books and literature which inculcate negative and orthodox thoughts in citizens from the beginning, which eventually transform into extremism (some times terrorism) it can be against others or Pakistan itself.Let the rationality and reason be the guiding principle and not the fear. Pakistan can emerge as a strong and prosperous state, there is nothing wrong in cooperating with India that too when India has been approaching again and again. If the money that both the states spend in defence is used in welfare and poverty elimination, we can transform the whole region.

from:  brijesh
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 11:18 IST

"The crucial point in reaching a settlement on Kashmir must remain its acceptance by the Kashmiri people". Very truly said, this is the key to the India-Pakistan peace effort. Will India be willing to share?

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 11:16 IST

The first step to be done before expecting the bilateral relations to flourish is that those involved in 2008 terror strike should be punished suitably.The Pakisthan countepart should ensure no terrorism should be operating in their boundary against India.

from:  Gukan Kumarasamy
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 10:54 IST

Aren't the authors preaching to the Choir ?
They should preach all these to the folks in Defa-e-Pakistan/Pakistan
ISI/Army combine, which together conducts Proxy war against India.
Defa-e-Pakistan provides the foot soldiers/ideology and ISI support
communication equipment and other logistic support.

from:  Ganesh
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 10:52 IST

It is very surprising that Pakistan Military even after imposing 3
wars on India and continuing the proxy war, is "apprehensive" about

For confidence building all Pakistan has to do is simple, stop the
proxy war, dismantle the terrorist/militant groups getting indirect
state support.

It is India which needs it fears properly addressed. An unstable
democracy, a ready army indoctrinated with political Islam
conducting proxy war with state support (but called non-state
actors, and honobbing with Military.

It looks like some Pakistanis are foolish enough to believe their
media. Don't they ever question as to what actions Pakistan have to
show for this so called threat for the past 41 years (after 1971).
India on the other hand has been witness to direct acts of proxy
war by Pakistan.

Pakistan also should stop meddling in Indian state of Kashmir and
reverse the demographic invasion in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

from:  Ganesh
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 10:50 IST

Same blah blah blah that has been going on from the last 20 years!! Poor article with no concrete opinions. Whole article can be summarised in just one line. India and Pakistan need to make peace in between themselves for good for both!! Bonzai! And one thing I don't understand.. how can you expect traitors to make faithful promises? They gave us kargil when we offered them friendship ~ Why do we need to make friendship with people who are not worth the relationship? Can we really trust them?

And I am laughing away with these sentences "the Line of Control should be made truly porous for free movement of vehicles and trade" - no doubt this sentence is written by Humanyun Khan. He actually means we should allow free access to terrorists and their weapons along with dates and oranges. Despite of strictness followed on border areas due to various loop holes terrorist infiltration is present.

Pakistan is not worth our friendship. They cannot be trusted after 3 attacks.

from:  Saurabh Patil
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 10:44 IST

So for peace to prevail and India's growth story to continue; onus is on India to address apprehension of the Pak Army? And why? B'cos Pakistani army needs deal with its domestic audience and mullah lobby - while India, who is the victim of incessant terrorism originating from Pakistan has no obligation to its own people. Yeh right. India cuts the deal and Pakistan writes op-ed columns in return. Brilliant!
Btw, India can & will grow despite pakistan. Its for Pakistan to open its eyes to reality; and its society to come out of delusions & war hysteria - if any.

from:  yajsingh
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 09:29 IST

Pakistan's apprehensions about India's involvement in Balochistan must be addressed
for any meaningful dialogue to sustain. Whereas Pakistan should be encouraged to
settle it's internal issues peacefully none of the two countries should engage in
inflating the internal issues of the other to its benefit.

from:  Saleem Mir
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 07:39 IST

I agree with you people to people contacts are very important. Indians
and Pakistanis living abroad seem to get on very well. I have met many Indians ranging from students to professionals, never had any
disagreement on any issue. we agree priorities need to be changed, get
problems solved as quickly as possible and work with each other for good
sack of people. I wish for that one day when these two nations will
become symbol of peace, love and brotherhood. Inshallah!

from:  Asif
Posted on: Apr 3, 2012 at 06:15 IST
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