India-Pakistan Peace-Process and the Mumbai Bomb Blasts

Mohd. Sadiq

12 July 2006

In accordance with India's stature in South Asia, the then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had extended the 'hand of friendship' in April 2003 to seek a permanent peace with Pakistan. Since then a number of initiatives have been taken by India to restore normalcy between the two warring countries. These included a ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) which is holding even today though differences have emerged between the two countries due to slow progress in resolving contentious issues and continuing terrorist activities in India by Pakistan-based militant outfits. Though India has undertaken several confidence building measures to seek peace with Pakistan, continuing violence and terror attacks against innocent Indians clearly points out to a long list of Pakistan's betrayals on key promises it had made earlier.


An Unreliable Pakistan
Though Pakistan remained an unreliable and hostile neighbour ever since partition in 1947, the Indian leadership has always sought to establish peaceful relations with that country. However, Pakistan once again betrayed Indian hopes when it launched the Kargil intrusion in 1999 even though the then PM A.B. Vajpayee had taken a historic peace bus to Lahore. While PM Nawaz Sharif was busy receiving Atal Behari Vajpayee, Musharraf, then the Chief of the Army Staff was busy conspiring against India in Kargil. That is why none of the Chiefs of Pakistan's armed forces were present at the reception of Vajpayee.

Having failed to wrest Jammu and Kashmir from India, Islamabad has resorted to provoking communal unrest in Kashmir and in rest of India. In J&K, Pakistan has systematically communalised the situation by resorting to large scale massacre of Kashmiri Pandits which resulted in mass exodus of Pandits from the State. Clearly, Islamabad was under the impression that once Hindus were forced out of J&K, it would be easy to takeover the only Muslim majority state in India. However, contrary to its expectations, Pakistan has not been able to realise its long cherished dream of annexing Kashmir. Observers say that Islamabad clearly failed to assess the position of Indian Muslims as well as Kashmir's traditional inclusive culture.

Pakistan's policy of targeting the minority community in Kashmir did lead to results as Kashmiri Hindus fled the state in large numbers. Having tested the policy in Kashmir, Pakistan is now trying to apply its theory of communalising the situation in rest of India. Mumbai, capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra, is clearly an easy target for Pakistan as it is the commercial capital of India as well as a city which sees the flow of a huge migrant population in search of work. Terror attacks in India in recent years clearly establish that Pakistan-based militant outfits have timed these acts to cause largescale destruction of lives and material. The serial bomb blasts in New Delhi in October 2005 took place on the eve of Deepawali, a major Hindu festival in north India.The fact that the blasts were timed to take place days before Id, a major festival of Muslims, indicated that the main objective was foment communal unrest in New Delhi.

Despite the ongoing peace talks with Pakistan, violence has escalated considerably in Kashmir, especially after After 2006. Militant outfits carried out terror attacks especially against the minority community in Kashmir in order to foil the roundtable conference convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Srinagar in May 2006. Attacks undertaken by militant outfits before the conference were apparently to send a message that the ongoing dialogue process was an exercise in futility. However, the terror attacks continued and grew in numbers even after the conclusion of the roundtable conference. Militants began targeting tourists in order to convey a message that normalcy had not returned to the state as claimed by New Delhi. Several grenade attacks were undertaken by militants targeting tourists, which affected the economy of Kashmir that is dependent on the tourism industry. The attacks on tourists were also a signal by militant outfits that Kashmir is only for Kashmiris and people from rest of India should desist from visiting the place even for tourism purposes. Even before the RTC, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists tried to communalise the situation by resorting to selective killings of a particular community in Doda and Udhampur. Given the tenuous relations between Hindus and Muslims in India, Pakistan is clearly resorting to extending its policy of fomenting communal strife from Kashmir to Mumbai and other parts of India. Observers say that Islamabad is resorting to this strategy in order to force India for resolving the Kashmir issue.

In this context, the statement of Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, foreign Minister of Pakistan, should be taken into consideration. On the one hand, Kasuri condemned the Mumbai bomb-blasts of 11 July as a terrorist act. At the same time, he indicated in his statement that India would have to live with such kind of violence till it resolves the long pending Kashmir issue between the two countries. Kasuri's statement was a clear warning: either resolve Kashmir or face more attacks similar to 7/11.

Kashmir Remains A Obsession
It is evident that annexing Kashmir continues to be an obsession for Pakistani leaders. Every leader of Pakistan has exploited the Kashmir issue to his advantage and the present military dictator Musharraf is no exception. The man is on the last leg of his military rule in the country. He has to conduct elections for the country’s parliament in 2007 under international and domestic scrutiny. Musharraf is clearly seeking to step up the ante on Kashmir in order to retain power in the forthcoming elections though some observers say that his chances of doing so appear remote. Analysts say that since Musharraf has to abdicate his uniform before the general elections, he is raising popular fear over Kashmir in order to retain both the posts of president and that of the army chief. Musharraf's message to his domestic as well as international audience is that he is needed in order to resolve the core issue of Kashmir with India.

Following the Mumbai blasts, India has put on hold the ongoing peace process between the two countries. The foreign-secretary level talks, scheduled to be held in July 2006, have been postponed indefinitely. Clearly, Pakistan stands to lose significantly from this development as a failure to move ahead in resolving disputes with India would considerably reduce the legitimacy and claim of Musharraf that only he could resolve all differences with India including the Kashmir issue. A stalled peace process with India would also affect Musharraf's credibility in the international community and affect his relations with the Bush administration as well. At the same time, it would also hurt Musharraf's domestic audience who have been repeatedly told by the military dictator that he is Pakistan's last hope to resolve all disputes with India. New Delhi's position on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism got significant recognition from the leaders of G-8 countries during their summit in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. The G-8 summit condemned the Mumbai attacks and supported India's position on fighting global terrorism. Observers say that with such a strong backing from the G-8, India should now be firm in dealing with Pakistan. The first step in this direction would be to stop the ongoing dialogue process until Pakistan stops exporting terrorism to India.