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Make Indo-Pak Talks Relevant!
|by Rajinder Puri|
Addressing editors last Monday one of the issues Prime Minister Manmohan Singh touched upon was the Indo-Pak dialogue. He stressed on the advantage of pursuing it. But for the first time there was a visible change of emphasis on the rationale that he offered. He accepted that China could be exploiting the Kashmir issue “to keep India in low-level equilibrium”. He said that continuing differences between India and Pakistan gave countries like China opportunity to exploit and impede progress in South Asia . He said: “ China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality.”
This is very encouraging as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. If and when he resumes the dialogue with Pakistan the PM should go all the way and bluntly lay down the minimum precondition for meaningful results. It is a precondition that this scribe has been insisting upon for over a decade. Only recently after Pakistan allowed China to substantially beef up its presence in Gilgit-Baltistan was he sufficiently discouraged to speculate that pursuing a lasting agreement with Pakistan had become futile.
The precondition for Indo-Pak stability is simple. Namely, that India and Pakistan must agree on an institutional arrangement to ensure that their bilateral relationship is closer than what either may have with any third nation. Once the two most militarily powerful nations of South Asia agree to this other neighbours would in the natural course follow. This view is premised on geography, history and shared culture. It affirms that a very special relationship is required to create a South Asian identity that prevents exploitation in the region by any big power. An end to such exploitation would benefit enormously both nations. In his latest remarks to the editors the PM acknowledged as much. He must follow up this sentiment with its natural corollary.
While talking with Pakistan all contentious issues such as Kashmir, terrorism, river waters and the like can be resolved on generous terms provided India is assured of a special, stable and lasting relationship with Pakistan . After establishing such a relationship the whole of South Asia can have excellent ties with China . Without such ties the prevalent situation in which Pakistan allows itself to be exploited to destabilize India is unacceptable. This is what the PM should make crystal clear to Pakistan .
The implications of seeking such clarification are obvious. The policy of expanding Chinese presence in Pakistan to the detriment of Indian security is impelled by the Pakistan army. Unless there is a basic change in the mindset of the Pakistan military establishment which perceives India as the main enemy and threat any dialogue with Pakistan would be a waste of time. The PM should bluntly convey this to the leaders of Pakistan the next time around. Enough time has been lost. If the Pakistan army is willing to change, mutually acceptable solutions to the differences between both nations can be reached. If the Pakistan army remains rigid it is time that India ends the dialogue and pursues other options to safeguard its security.
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