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Back to square one?

By Hussain
Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

A predictable pattern whose contours can easily be


identified characterizes the relationship between
Islamabad and New Delhi. Following 14-month long
stalemate in its relations with Pakistan caused by the
Indian policy of no talk after the Mumbai terror attacks on
November 26, 2008, the Indian foreign secretary's
invitation to her Pakistani counterpart for resumption of
dialogue, though a welcome move, represents the
treading of a familiar road. However, unfortunately this is
a road which India has most often traveled without making
much of a difference. While the Pakistani foreign office
prepares the agenda for talks with India to be held
anytime this month, it is important to take stock of a
number of critical factors which underline the Indian
attitude and precede the offer for resumption of dialogue
with Pakistan.

First, the last high-level engagement between top


leaderships of both countries took place at the Egyptian
recreational city, Sharm el Sheikh, in July 2009 which
culminated in the issuance of joint communiqué. Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh clearly committed to the de-
linking of peace process from terrorism, a stance Pakistan
has been espousing all along. Secondly he also agreed to
address the Pakistani concerns about the Indian
intervention in Balochistan and FATA. The communiqué
betrayed the Indian readiness to engage in a bilateral
dialogue with Islamabad. However, he was quick to take a
somersault on the interpretation of the communiqué when
confronted with political storm in the Indian parliament
and strong protest from the opposition political parties.
The subsequent months saw hardening of the Indian
posture and gradual mounting of diplomatic pressure on
Pakistan. As in case of political and diplomatic standoff
between December 2001 and January 2004, New Delhi
tried its level best to portray her as the sponsor and
breeding ground of terrorism. The statements of the
former Indian National Security Advisor are a case in
point.

Only recently in December 2009, outgoing Indian Chief of


Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, threw light on the
broad contours of the Cold Start doctrine, which is now an
essential part of the Indian strategic policy. He boasted
about the New Delhi's capability to open two fronts
simultaneously with Pakistan and China by undertaking
target-oriented and highly calculated surgical strikes on
the important strategic locations of the adversary without
letting the situation escalate into a wide ranging military
engagement accompanied by the threat of the nuclear
weapons. According to the defence analysts, the Cold
Start doctrine was coined in 2004 with minute details after
India's failure to browbeat Pakistan into submission
despite its mobilization of around half million troops along
the Pakistani border in what came to be known as an
eyeball to eyeball confrontation between 2001 and 2004.
The Cold Start doctrine also explains New Delhi's threat to
target 'terrorist training camps' within Pakistan by way of
preemption to forestall any possibility of the Mumbai-like
attacks from these non-state actors.

As if this was not enough, the Indian government brought


its pressure to bear upon the management of Indian
Premier League (IPL) not to buy the services of the
Pakistani cricketers. Similarly, the Indian government also
did not allow its team to visit Pakistan last year to play
test series and ODIs against the home side. It also
successfully presided over the shifting of matches of the
upcoming Cricket World Cup from Pakistan, which were
previously scheduled to be held here by invoking the
security concerns. The purpose of this carefully calibrated
anti-Pakistan campaign is to isolate her from the rest of
the world and to prove to the international community
that the country is hub of terrorism.

Recently India also heightened border tension with


Pakistan when it resorted to violation of the working
boundary in the Lahore and Sialkot sectors besides
reported rise in the firing incidents across the Line of
Control. There has also been drastic reduction in the visas
to the Pakistani visitors with the result that the number of
cross-border visitors has fallen by 80%. The Pakistani
publishers and booksellers who wanted to participate in
the World Book Fair in New Delhi have been denied visas.
This Indian attitude runs counter to its proclaimed
objective to enhance people-to-people contact as a
Confidence Building Measure (CBM) to help create 'peace
constituencies' in both countries.

The Indian establishment also made American Defence


Secretary, Robert Gates who recently visited both India
and Pakistan, echo its favourite mantra that in case of any
other Mumbai-like terrorist attacks on its soil, the Indian
patience would run out. The implication was that the
terrorist strikes from the alleged non-state actors would
be considered to have full backing of the Pakistani state
and that Pakistan is still using the terrorist organizations
as its proxy to 'bleed India'. This evoked firm response
from the Pakistani political and military leadership who
made it clear to Secretary Gates that Pakistan did not buy
the Indian line and that any misadventure under this false
assumption would be countered with full force.

The above-mentioned narration of immediate background


of the India-Pakistan relations after November 26, 2009 is
important to understand the shift in the Indian attitude.
This would help in deciphering the Indian intentions
behind its policy U-turn on the question of talks with
Pakistan. While the exact nature and content of dialogue
is not yet known, it is important for the Pakistani
leadership to guard itself against any euphoria. We do not
know yet whether the Indian offer of dialogue is tactical or
substantive. The major question is: would the composite
dialogue process be resumed from where it broke off in
2008?

However, the informed leaks in the Indian media do not


suggest that New Delhi is interested in starting a broad-
based and wide ranging composite dialogue framework.
There is a talk of 'measured contacts' within the Indian
political leadership. In his article published in the Harvard
International Review magazine's latest issue, Shiv Shankar
Menon, the newly appointed Indian National Security
Advisor, gave an idea of things to follow when he wrote
that "from an Indian perspective, foremost among the
issues that divide India and Pakistan is terrorism. For
Indians the dialogue with Pakistan, and the entire
relationship, is predicated on an absence of violence
against India from Pakistan, a sense that has hardened
since cross-border terrorism began three decades ago."
He further stated that India has faced a series of attacks
from the territory of its neighbour, "with complicity of
official organs of that neighbour and that no other state
has responded to a sustained terrorist campaign of this
nature with the sort of restraint and patience displayed by
India namely without recourse to direct military options or
retaliation."

In view of the above, the Pakistani leadership needs to


carefully consider its options and calibrate its response by
seeking the input from all stakeholders. Pakistan does not
afford to be lured into a trap of meaningless dialogue as
has been the case in the past. Other than terrorism, there
are a number of contentious disputes including the core
issue of Jammu and Kashmir that lies at the heart of
strained relations between the South Asian neighbours.

(The writer is a PhD candidate at an Australian


University)