Understanding The Indian Mindset
14 December 2004
Amanat Ali Chaudhry
Lahore: By all accounts, much publicised India-Pakistan talks do not seem to make any headway towards final solution of their outstanding issues including the intractable issue of Jummu and Kashmir. After his first ever meeting with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Sigh, President General Musharraf was happy to see new light at the end of tunnel. It was this euphoria born out of his peace overtures towards New Delhi that led him to make a statement of fundamental substance in which he offered a three-point, region-based formula for resolving the Kashmir dispute. The fact, that the statement came from none other than the military ruler of Pakistan, indicated a turnaround in the Establishment's thinking over the strategic issues. However this mood of elation did not last long. Dr Manmohan's sticking to old stance of granting autonomy to Kashmir and engaging the Kashmiri leadership in talks served a damper on President Musharraf's zeal to move progressively towards solution of the dispute. This lukewarm response from the Indian side did not match the warmth and eagerness expressed by General Musharraf to make Sub-continent a conflict-free zone. The Indian stance put Pakistani leadership in a dilemma with the confusion getting confounded over its inability to convince India to find a solution of the dispute bedevilling their relations for some time. A few days later, there came a matching response from General Musharraf when he said in an interview with AFP that Pakistan did not jettison the UN resolutions and that he was losing the sight of light at the end of tunnel. This writer had already warned in a previous article that Pakistan would be faced with a moral dilemma if India did not respond in kind to Musharraf's flexible statement. As General Musharraf made it clear in his subsequent interviews and press statements that his proposed formula was only meant for public debate was a damage control exercise but it definitely weakened Pakistan's stated position on the issue. This is not to suggest that Pakistan should not offer imaginative solutions and stick to its old stance. What is being contended is that such a bold statement should and could only be made when both sides have made a considerable headway in their talks and the other side is also ready to go beyond its stated maximalist position. In spite of efforts made for peace during one and half years, the dialogue process does not seem to be moving forward between Islamabad and New Delhi. After Mr Vajpayee extended an olive branch to Islamabad on April 18, 2003, there has been structured and gradual movement towards solutions of disputes pursued by both India and Pakistan. The Islamabad Declaration signed on January 6 this year marks a watershed in the sense that it provided a new and vigorous impetus to efforts for opening a new chapter in the relations between both countries. Both sides introduced scores of CBMs in order to generate a greater amount of confidence between them and allowed people to people contact at a wider scale that brought the tensions down and made atmosphere more conducive. After having registered a lot of progress in their talks when it came to taking up the core disputed-Indian held Kashmir, the Indian side has resorted to its proverbial foot-dragging on any such efforts. The idiom, the more things seem to change, the more they remain the same, must have been said about the India-Pakistan context. It now looks certain that the Indian belligerency seem to rock the boat of talks between both countries. A student of sub- continental history of recent times knows it well that India has always adopted identical attitudes towards all efforts made by Pakistan for the solution of outstanding issues. Given the past attempts at reconciliation, one finds a similar pattern arising out of the Indian behaviour. That should serve as a lesson to those sections in Pakistan's ruling elites that are more than eager to establish friendship with India at all costs. The wish to resolve all outstanding disputes with India is no doubt commendable but that requires a similar attitude from the other side as well. The unrestrained flexibility on the part of Pakistan should not be considered a strategic weakness. If India were sincere, it was an ideal chance to rid the people of sub-continent from the plagues of all disputes. The situation is ideal in the sense that Pakistan's powerful military, that is said to have restrained the efforts of civilian governments for the solution of Jammu and Kashmir due to its strategic stakes, is on board and is itself spearheading the dialogue effort. Barring MMA, there is a consensus among Pakistan's political forces on the fundamental objective of establishing peace with India. There may be a bit of difference over modalities and approaches. The question arises what is India up to? Why it does not want to make a concrete progress to solve the mother of all issues- the issue of Jammu and Kashmir? The understanding of Indian game plan would be important for Pakistani policy makers for fashioning a pro-active India policy. Some points are instructive in this regard: Since long India has nurtured the desire of seeking a veto-wielding permanent membership of UNSC. For this purpose, it needs to give an image of a peaceful country, which has no dispute with any of its neighbours including Pakistan. That explains the Indian efforts to rob Pakistan's stance of connection of Kashmir with UNSC resolutions. All along, India has also considered a third party involvement as an anathema because that has the danger of giving the dispute a multilateral colour. It has always preferred bilateralism to multilateralism as an approach to find a solution of the dispute. As expansion of UNSC is already a talk of the town, given a wide- ranging debate over the UN reform, India regards it as a rare window of opportunity to get into the powerful world body. It already enjoys the support of the United States and European Union as well as Russia with whom it has established a long-term strategic partnership. The only minor hiccup pointed out by them is that India should try to settle or be seen to be settling all disputes with its neighbours including Pakistan. Since Pakistan also happens to be the US ally in its so-called war on terror, therefore, addressing Pakistan's concerns up to this much extent suits American interests. The US wants that hostilities between New Delhi and Islamabad should not exceed their limits so that its efforts for eradicating terrorism are not affected. Its role is confined to playing a part of a fire brigade defusing high-wire tensions when need be. In the light of these facts, India just wishes to keep Pakistan engaged in a dialogue without any result. It would surrender ground and show flexibility as long as that does not hurt its core strategic interests. Our Establishment's propensity to show more eagerness than what is warranted by the circumstances should be reconsidered. The feeling of over-dependence on the US' support should also pave the way for more sober and realistic analysis of its priorities. Only when we understand the Indian game plan can we rise to the occasion and address our external challenges.