Beyond Krishna’s visit

Published: September 10, 2012

The writer was Pakistan’s ambassador to the EU from 2002-2004 and to the US in 1999 tariq.fatemi@tribune.com.pk

Given the tortured history of Pakistan-India relations, any evidence of progress in their bilateral relations becomes an occasion for renewed hope.

That relations are on the mend is evident from the fact that without much fanfare, a subtle but significant change has taken place in Pakistan, where the government can take initiatives on relations with India, confident of support from the major opposition party, which had pushed for the normalisation process in the late 1990s and paid a huge price for this laudable objective. More importantly, the army that had reacted so very violently to the Lahore Accord has also modified its stance, demonstrating more appreciation of the global changes and their impact on the country.

Consequently, with little publicity, Pakistan has acceded to the Indian approach that understandings on trade, investment and consular matters should continue to proceed so as to ease tension and create an atmosphere that would hopefully lead to understandings on political differences. This was made clear by Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna when he said in Islamabad last week that though India appreciated Pakistan’s initiatives on the trade front, it would not be reducing pressure for prosecution of the Mumbai accused and for dismantling of the terror network allegedly based in Pakistan. Krishna stuck to this theme, emphasising that while India wants a strong and stable partner in Pakistan, it wishes to see visible progress on the issue of terrorism before it can contemplate meaningful dialogue on political issues.

This linkage was also evident in his response to the oft-repeated question regarding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan, when he emphasised that “the right atmosphere needs to be created for the visit”. Regarding issues such as Siachen and Sir Creek, Krishna emphasised that while India was committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan, “given the complexities of bilateral relations, we have to be patient as we move forward and build more trust and confidence in each other”.

This would explain why the peace process, resumed last year after a nearly two-and-a-half-year break following the Mumbai attacks, has registered progress only in the areas of trade liberalisation and people-to-people contact, whereas on issues such as the Wullar Barrage, Sir Creek, Siachen and Kashmir, there has been no significant movement. The common man desirous of seeing the two countries reduce, if not end, their acrimonious ties sees the signing of the liberal visa accord as facilitating closer contact and understanding. But the reality is that to the laundry list of differences that continue to plague the two countries, water-related issues and Pakistan’s concerns about India’s plans in Afghanistan have injected new urgency.

India’s insistence on maintaining the status quo on political differences may sell well in that country, but it would be unfortunate if it were to look at Pakistan merely as a market for its consumer goods and not as an essential element in the much desired and urgently needed regional cooperation, especially as a facilitator of energy imports. There can be no durable and sustainable understanding without some movement on political differences, notwithstanding the pious hopes of the two foreign ministers, both of whom emphasised that “we will not be held hostage to history”. And yet, Krishna could not help remind the Indian journalists that “we cannot forget (the Mumbai attacks), or gloss over it”. While Pakistanis respect India’s feelings on Mumbai, they are convinced that progress on doables such as Siachen or Sir Creek would reduce military presence on the international frontiers and provide a powerful impetus to the peace process which would strengthen the peace lobbies in both countries and give fresh hopes to Kashmiris on both sides of the divide. Krishna’s visit has had a positive impact, but India’s admirable economic growth and diplomatic successes should encourage it to offer bold and imaginative initiatives to Pakistan, rather than be satisfied with narrowly defined, transient objectives.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.

 

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Reader Comments (24)

  • BlackJack
    Sep 10, 2012 - 11:23PM

    India will move cautiously because it is afraid of paying the price (once again) for irrational optimism. Pakistani concerns on Afghanistan and water should be aired in the media with proof that is acceptable to the international community and not just the conspiracy theorists in Pakistan (i.e. saffron arm bands and vodka bottles just will not do). If India can convince other countries that Pakistan is the fountainhead of terrorism, the same kind of proof on India’s diabolical designs should work equally well in Pakistan’s favor. The issue here is that these concerns are mostly cooked up to maintain anti-India sentiment in a country that is unfortunately filled with highly gullible people. On Wullar barrage, India will do nothing that violates the IWT, and Pakistan can drag India to do the UN if they can prove their claims.

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  • John B
    Sep 10, 2012 - 11:36PM

    Here is a bold and imaginative suggestion: PAK can stop meddling in Kashmir affair and let go of PoK which created the problem in the once peaceful Kashmir. Saichen becomes irrelevant in this context and all outstanding issues are nothing.

    The present generation grew up watching Kargil and Mumbai and parliament attack on both sides of the border. Now who should provide bold and imaginative solutions?

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  • G. Din
    Sep 10, 2012 - 11:56PM

    “… it would be unfortunate if it (India) were to look at Pakistan merely as a market for its consumer goods”
    Is there any justification for this assertion? Even now Pakistan buys Indian merchandise, albeit through third countries, thus penalizing itself by way of paying higher prices for the same. If direct trade is facilitated, it is the Pakistani consumer that will benefit. Why is India obligated to offer concessions? Are we opening a new market?
    “… not as an essential element in the much desired and urgently needed regional cooperation, especially as a facilitator of energy imports. “
    Although India is all for energy imports through IPI pipeline, the whole project is snarled up in knots chiefly because of the shenanigans of Muslim powers participating in it. India can do nothing if you cannot get along with the world.
    *”…two foreign ministers, both of whom emphasised that “we will not be held hostage to history”. *
    Dream on! You can never escape History, especially when it is as sordid as it is between India and Pakistan. I am glad Krishna shot the hot air balloon there and then by reminding the host that “we cannot forget (the Mumbai attacks), or gloss over it”. Do not underestimate this warning!

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  • gp65
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:20AM

    @BlackJack: “Pakistani concerns on Afghanistan and water should be aired in the media with proof that is acceptable to the international community ”
    Where it comes to water, there is a dispute resolution mechanism that already exists within Indus Water Treaty IWT) i.e. arbitration, so no need for brainstorming about what forum to use. Pakistan has already complained and the results from the arbitration committee are expected in 6 months. In the interim, the own water commissioner stated that his concern was not so much that India was violating IWT but that it could violate it in future if the dams were built. Yet PAkistani media spins it as though India is already stealing water without taking into account that India honored IWT even during 1965, 1971 and Kargill.

    When it comes to Afghanistan anyone with google maps should be able to provide locations of the 19 Indian embassies in Afghanistan from which it is creating mayhem in Pakistan. The fact is India has 4 embassies – exactly the same as Pakistan and in exactly the same cities.

    So ofcourse if you ask someone to prove that they saw a pink elephant, can you see why that would pose a problem to them?

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  • antanu
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:41AM

    @John B:
    as a stronger….larger nation it is our duty…paakistanis are apprehensive of indias’s growing might…and if we can use our might to assure pakistanis of goodwill they will move forward. apart from this…mistakes have been made on both sides and accordingly peace can prevail if both get rid od holier than thiu attitude…and again as a large and stronger neighbour ..initiative must come from our end. however being a westerner…you would not like to see that for yiur vested interest.who will by 100 billion $ arms from you if the two neighbours become friends.Recommend

  • Salman Khan
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:50AM

    The Hawks strike back.

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  • gp65
    Sep 11, 2012 - 1:31AM

    @antanu: “@John B:
    as a stronger….larger nation it is our duty…”

    You lost me there. Stop pretending to be an Indian. We all know you are not.

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  • John B
    Sep 11, 2012 - 3:12AM

    @antanu:
    Taking a high road is laudable but India is taking the high road forever with nothing tangible from our mutual “friends” in PAK.

    Nothing seriously is going to happen from PAK side. There is a parallel govt in PAK whose legitimacy is in deepening the divide between India and PAK, and playing US and India.

    In the 65 years, PAK should be moving in the right direction to meet in the middle, otherwise fatigue would set in and all who worked hard hitherto will not have energy to see it through.

    The presence of US in the region is a blessing for India and I am not sure how long US can keep PAK in the reigns.

    It is time for PAK to ask if her foreign policy has been benefitting her. Every time India takes a proactive peace efforts, instead, the same old arguments are regurgitated from PAK. The disciples of 65 years of PAK foreign policy are not going away soon and so it will be another forty years for India to see any tangible progress.

    If PAK had vision, it would have converted Baluchistan into oasis and would be thriving as a trade center for central Asian countries. Alas…

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  • Anjaan
    Sep 11, 2012 - 5:12AM

    2014 …… is the magic timeline.

    Until then, all the talks between India and Pakistan are nothing more than tactical maneuvers.

    Peace between Pakistan and India is possible only when there is a genuine desire for a change in Pakistan, and not just tactical time buying under compulsions. This is likely only after US withdrawal in 2014 and its aftermath in Pakistan.Recommend

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Sep 11, 2012 - 6:29AM

    @gp65: It is not the embassies that we are concerned with , it is the consulates all over Afghanistan and specially the one in Jalalabad, why does India needs some many consulates, it seems no other country does , even US or Pakistan. I see nothing but bashing Pakistan in these comments and I wonder why you Indians are so interested in Pakistani papers anyway, personally I never ever look into Indian papers and please don’t label me anti-Indian or anything. If Pakistan’s concerns do not suit you then stop the process, Pakistanis should want friendship and trade relations with all the neighbors but on equal terms. The Problem is with you Indians , even if some one sneezes in India, it automatically becomes Pakistan’s fault. These accusations has been going on prior to terrorist attacks on Mumbai, you guys are just habitual complainers. Get a life.

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  • V L Rao
    Sep 11, 2012 - 7:18AM

    Since a rapprochement is impossible, let us go back to where we were : a state of undeclared and subterranean war. Is this what the writer says?

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  • Jim
    Sep 11, 2012 - 8:01AM

    ”… no durable and sustainable understanding without some movement on political differences…” is the mantra dinned into the bureaucracy by the Deep State. By that they mean India acceding to Pakistan’s version of a “fair” settlement. Ain’t going to happen. Whatever chance Pakistan had of a favorable settlement has evaporated because it took to terrorism, blackmail etc. Now it is hard-pressed to hold even the territory it has, forget Kashmir, Siachen etc. India will “offer bold and imaginative initiatives to Pakistan” only when it has completely given up terrorism, detoxified its textbooks, dumped its ideology of hatred and bigotry, and become a more civilized nation.

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  • Hassan
    Sep 11, 2012 - 9:15AM

    An excellent analysis and a perceptive piece that deserves to be read by decision makers in both capitals.

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  • Tony Singh
    Sep 11, 2012 - 11:41AM

    @naeem khan Manhattan,Ks:
    1. if you do not look at Indian papers that is your wish. No one is stopping you from going through them. You have made a choice. That is your headache.Should that stop people like me to look at Pakistani papers?
    2. The problem with Pakistanis is the world does not see it “fair terms” what Pakistanis see as “fair” in terms of trade. This is amply stated by my first point. What holds true in above point is also true in trade.

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  • gp65
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:37PM

    @naeem khan Manhattan,Ks:
    1. India has a total of 5 consulates/embassies in Afghanistan. Not 19 , not 103 or any other arbitrary number that one hears in Pakistani media. http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/afghanistan#4763 . If you believe there is a 6the embassy/consulate, please state in which city and what address.
    2. India has many socioeconomic problems including hunger, illiteracy and corruption. No-one blames Pakistan for that. No-one also blames Pakistan for Maoist insurgency. SO the notion that Pakistan is blamed for everything is simply not true. Pakistan is blamed for Islamist insurgency which its own leaders e.g. Hamid Gul, Musharraf and others have now admitted was part of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
    3. You accuse me of Pakistan bashing but I do not believe you can point to any post I have made which is unsupported by facts and date. If you disagree with the fact, please point it out. Maybe you disagree with my interpretation of facts, in which case I woudl welcome a different perspecive. Blanket pesonal attacks such as the one you did on me are uncool.Recommend

  • gp65
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:42PM

    @naeem khan Manhattan,Ks: “@gp65: It is not the embassies that we are concerned with , it is the consulates all over Afghanistan and specially the one in Jalalabad, why does India needs some many consulates, it seems no other country does , even US or Pakistan”

    I was inacurate when I said India had 4 consulates. It turns out India has 5 – in the exact same cities that Pakistan. These are Kabul, Herat, Kandhar, Jalalbad and Mazar-e-Sharif. So tell me why does Pakistan have a consulate in Jalalabad? http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/afghanistan#4763

    Please tell me a single city where India has a consulate /embassy and Pakistan does not.

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  • Polpot
    Sep 11, 2012 - 12:47PM

    Lets not gloss over the differences
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    On one side is Islamic Fundamentalism and the other is Secular Freedom.

    The two cant co exist.
    So movement in IndoPak relations can happen only after fundamental changes inside Pakistan ( if and when they happen)

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  • Polpot
    Sep 11, 2012 - 1:12PM

    “Pakistan is on the horns of a dilemma: how to deal with an institution that is constitutionally subordinate to municipal law but supreme in power in reality.” Today’s Editorial
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    When the Civilian Govt cant even convince the Military to prosecute retired Military officials for corruption undertaken while performing Civilian roles, how will the same Govt convince the Military re better relations with India?

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  • chandran
    Sep 11, 2012 - 4:27PM

    we want to open an Indian consulate in quetta and Peshawar and will you people agree with that?

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  • Hunter punter
    Sep 11, 2012 - 5:09PM

    @ author
    What has not worked for 65 years, will not work in 21st century.Timers have changed, Global issues and concerns have changed. Harping back on discussing kashmir as precusers to improved relations is passe.
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  • Polpot
    Sep 11, 2012 - 5:46PM

    “Krishna’s visit has had a positive impact, but India’s admirable economic growth and diplomatic successes should encourage it to offer bold and imaginative initiatives to Pakistan,”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Why? Statements without supporting logic…..

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  • G. Din
    Sep 11, 2012 - 6:47PM

    “India’s admirable economic growth and diplomatic successes should encourage it to offer bold and imaginative initiatives to Pakistan,”
    “”India’s admirable economic growth and diplomatic successes” are due to its own hard work and wise, sound policies. What incentive do you have to copy/excel that growth and those successes if you are always looking for concessions and handouts of every passer-by? You do not pass a chance to call yourselves “rivals” of all and sundry, India, Russia, China, US. Why don’t you for once put in some elbow grease to rival all those “rivals” in their growth and diplomatic clout? Recommend

  • Thoughtful American
    Sep 11, 2012 - 7:32PM

    Reading the article, I wonder. Pakistan has followed failed policies which have achieved nothing in over 60 years (except for making a mess of itself and Afghanistan and a liability for the rest of the planet). When it thinks of political differences, I would believe that the changes in political standing must come from Pakistan.

    Today, there is nowhere, including when I discuss with my Arab, North African and European friends a belief in Pakistan’s position. When will the delusion end?

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  • Manoj Joshi India
    Sep 11, 2012 - 10:55PM

    Tariq Fatemi is trying to project a duality about Pakistan wherein there are the common people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan who sincerely desire for peace and prosperity and want to live a life with full contentment. They are the people who are not at all interested in any kind of a discord with India. Kashmir, Sir Creek and Wullar Barrage issues are not of much concern to them. Then there is another Pakistan that is bent on keeping these issues alive while others who desire to promote peace with India and these are the elite and diplomatic circles of Pakistan. Although the writer is not wrong when he says that the bilateral issues between India and Pakistan should be resolved as that is necessary nevertheless promotion of economic relations between the two neighbours shall promote a better and a far more congenial environment of trust and amity which can prove helpful in the future in resolving outstanding issues. The writer has in the article ‘Beyond Krishna’s visit’ commented about the stand being taken by India with regard to Kashmir, Wullar Barrage and Sir Creek as an attempt to sideline these issues by India which is not all together appropriate as the issues are not as simple as they look and are replete with various nitty-gritties. The present is very different from the past as the political and economic conditions have changed with regard to India as well as Pakistan. In addition the writer has discussed about India viewing Pakistan as a market to export their finished goods which is very true as Pakistan is a fairly good market for India but how has the writer overlooked the fact that, India offers a much bigger market to Pakistan hence cordial and close economic relations will help in boosting the economy of Pakistan. Therefore Indo-Pak relations have a long and bright future on the economic front as the need of the present is towards economic nationalism which should now take on the driving seat.

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