Making the peace process sustainable

Published: December 11, 2012

The writer was Pakistan’s ambassador to the EU from 2002-2004 and to the US in 1999 [email protected]

There is no doubt that relations between Pakistan and India appear to be headed in the right direction, with political leaderships in both countries reiterating their commitment to the peace process.

Likewise, this development has been welcomed in both countries, encouraging the international community to hope that the two South Asian neighbours may finally be embarked on a process that will make durable and sustainable peace between them.

What is remarkable is that in addition to the general public in Pakistan, there is a strong consensus among the political parties as well, in support of meaningful cooperation with our neighbour. This has encouraged Islamabad to offer concessions that would otherwise not have been possible.

It would be recalled that ever since 1997 — when the two countries agreed on the Composite Dialogue Process, which identified eight areas of disputes/differences and agreed on a format and mechanism for their resolution — the principle of simultaneous, though not necessarily similar movement on all tracks was envisaged. Even when interrupted by events such as Kargil and the terrorist attacks, the two countries returned to this framework , though it did suffer grievous harm after its resumption in January 2004, because of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s eagerness to wash off the sins of Kargil and wrap himself in the peacemaker’s mantle. To this end, he engaged in what he called “thinking out of the box”, proposing flawed solutions through the media while entrusting his confidant — whose records are reportedly not even available in the ministry’s archives — to engage in back channel diplomacy. Moreover, the authoritarian ruler’s willingness to abandon the UN Security Council’s resolutions as the basis for Kashmir’s settlement amounted to resiling from the country’s historic stand. Fortunately, India’s lingering suspicions about Musharraf’s motives, as well as his domestic troubles, saved the day for Pakistan.

However, India made it clear after another suspension of the dialogue process in the wake of the Mumbai attacks that there was no going back to the 1997 format. More importantly, New Delhi conveyed its strong preference for priority to be accorded to terrorism and trade issues. Pakistan’s agreement to this demand represented a fundamental departure from a position long espoused by it. Consequently, Pakistan has granted the Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status and also signed a visa liberalisation agreement. It has also agreed to the demand that cooperation on terrorism will be the litmus test of Pakistan’s sincerity as regards its oft-repeated expressions of goodwill.

It is, however, a matter of growing concern that Pakistan’s unilateral gestures that amount to major changes in long-held policy have gone largely unnoticed in India. While it is true that the baggage of history and complexity of issues between the two countries make it all but impossible to remain tied to the zero-sum game, there is no denying that the MFN status, coupled with the liberalised visa regime, is likely to greatly facilitate Indian penetration of the Pakistani market, along with those of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia.

There can be no quarrel with the policy of seeking reconciliation with India; it needs to be pursued vigorously and consistently. In this context, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s declaration that he wants to see Pakistan “strong, stable and prosperous” is to be welcomed. Nevertheless, there is no denying a trace of disappointment with the Indian media’s failure to highlight Pakistan’s initiatives. More worrying is the absence of reciprocal gestures from New Delhi. Of course, most Pakistanis recognise that Kashmir is a dispute that can neither be resolved easily or speedily. But there are other issues regularly described as “low hanging fruits” such as Siachen and Sir Creek, on which understanding remains equally elusive, ostensibly because the Indian Army believes that its strategic needs are not likely to be met by their early resolution. We need to rid ourselves of such myopic attitudes, as they are likely to adversely affect the sustainability of the peace process.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2012.

Reader Comments (28)

  • Singh
    Dec 11, 2012 - 10:15PM

    Please write some thing new. What you mention is old wine in old bottle.

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  • Hasan
    Dec 11, 2012 - 11:09PM

    Why are we crying once again? Same old wine… You talk about Kashmir. Is our army and pak as whole ready to accept UN resolution which mandates pakistan to hand over occupied territories to india before a plebiscite can take place in its original pre-1947 state? IS Pak army willing to withdraw all forces from occupied areas? Are we willing to resettle 10 million hindu pundits back, as UN mandates original demographic mix before plebiscite? I think its NO. We pakistanis invites 10,000 chinese troops to permanently reside in occupied kashmir. We gifted away portion of country to chinese. And you except India to not maintain forces in north? We have a state policy of poking nose elsewhere, and you want no reciprocation? First we should solve our problems, before crying like a baby.

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  • Maula Jut
    Dec 11, 2012 - 11:21PM

    @Singh:
    Cheers Bro! We can also propose sharbat ilaichi (cardamom syrup) in brand new bottles.

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  • Foreign Leg
    Dec 11, 2012 - 11:41PM

    Fortunately, India’s lingering suspicions about Musharraf’s motives, as well as his domestic troubles, saved the day for Pakistan.
    Nevertheless, there is no denying a trace of disappointment with the Indian media’s failure to highlight Pakistan’s initiatives.

    .
    Was looking for something new, but the author like some others on ET takes the well-worn route — put a spin on the relationship and strategize on how to tackle India. Does it occur to Pakistanis that the media of India’s other neighbours hardly publish any articles on India?
    .
    I will let you in on a little secret. The easiest way to normalize the relationship with India right now is to bring the schemers of 26/11 to justice. Kasab has spoken about his trainers, Lakhvi and an elusive Major General. Bring them to justice in either Pakistan or India and see the relationship automatically improve.

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  • dev maiti
    Dec 12, 2012 - 12:04AM

    The concessions were not unilateral. Trying to mix words and fool people won’t work. Frankly, majority of Indians don’t care about relations with Pakistan. As far as concessions go, India has reduced sensitive list unilaterally, removed objections on EU concessions including GSP issue, Improved visa regime, removed NTB related misconceptions through treaties and finally, promised vital energy resources that Pakistan needs. I fail to understand how the measures taken by Pakistan were unilateral?

    India will not leave Siachen. It has been made perfectly clear by our establishment. We plan to stay there for the foreseeable future! As far as Kashmir goes, it is an integral part of India and will remain so!

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  • Zillur Rahman
    Dec 12, 2012 - 5:40AM

    Pakistan’s ruling elite needs to shift priorities. It is far more important for it to ensure justice and security for minority Muslim sects like the Shias, the Ahmadiyyas and the Zikris than to “liberate” the Muslims in Kashmir. This alone will usher in a lasting change for Pakistan, in both internal and external affairs

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  • Wellwisher
    Dec 12, 2012 - 5:41AM

    Only on nuclear matters Pakistan did all things unilaterally. You can not site even a single incident of unilateral action in any other field in its history.

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  • Great Thinker
    Dec 12, 2012 - 5:44AM

    @Singh: A correction: Its Old Whine in an Old Bottle. Pakistan did not offer any concessions. It has not granted MFN yet and by the way as per WTO norms, pakistan is obligated to grant this. India had granted this way back in 96.
    On Visa regime, it is no favour. India too reciprocated. Its an agreement between two countries. So do not try to paint a picture as if you have made earth-shattering favours to India.
    First, hand over the ISI blokes and other terrorists who have plotted against India, withdraw from Siachen, take back the land ceded to China and hand over the PoK to India. Pay compensation for the harm caused to India since ’47 and apologise to India. These will be seen as genuine steps to have a cordial relationship with India. The Indian media will then take a note of it.

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  • F
    Dec 12, 2012 - 8:04AM

    Why do you feel that what you have is yours and what India has is myopic and yours too? The Pakistani army feels IOK is strategic and it needs to hold it. Indian Army feels the same about what it controls. In addition, you feel exporting and harbouring ” strategic assets” is not myopic at all. In fact is it state policy!

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  • Dec 12, 2012 - 9:02AM

    Why should India reciprocate any gesture? India has everything it wants.. It wants nothing from Pakistan.

    It is Pakistan which wants to change the status quo, with which India is pretty satisfied. Hence, it is offering concessions, which are actually logical steps to coerce the opposing side to change its stance. But, India should not change its stance. – Trade and Terror. Nothing else matters really.

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  • MicroCosmos
    Dec 12, 2012 - 9:45AM

    Yes it is an old wine in old bottle. Pakistani authors either they do not know the truth or they do not want the truth to be told to their own countrymen. This has been going on since 1947.
    I really wonder what they gain in fooling their own people. In fact there has been a tremendous loss to the Pakistanis as they have been fed lies since time immemorial.
    India has given MFN status to Pakistan long back and Pakistan is yet to reciprocate. Their NA has in-principle agreed to give MFN status to India but it is yet to materialized!!

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  • vasan
    Dec 12, 2012 - 10:30AM

    Shall we read something else and discuss other topics, for a change, please..

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  • Feroz
    Dec 12, 2012 - 12:36PM

    Peace is imperative for people to prosper but the road is littered with thorns. Life is full of obstacle but the resourceful have the will to overcome them and reap the benefits.

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  • Ghaznavi
    Dec 12, 2012 - 12:49PM

    No matter what Pakistan does, how much concessions Pakistan gives, even if Pakistan gifts entire Kashmir to India, India will still use all its tactics to delay, pend and keep asking for Pakistan to DO MORE. While Pakistan wants peace, India’s evades it.

    The fact is that today’s India is far from the ideals developed by its founding fathers Gandhi & Nehru. Its neither pacifist, nor socialist nor non aligned. It is now a capitalist country, a regional bully who is willing to rent her ‘services’ to her masters (whoever gives better ‘rent’)

    Ruled by a nexus of voracious religio-politico-corporate elite, this is Shining India!!

    We should withdraw all concessions we have given unilaterally. India does not deserve it.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Dec 12, 2012 - 1:36PM

    @author: ” … Nevertheless, there is no denying a trace of disappointment with the Indian media’s failure to highlight Pakistan’s initiatives … “

    At the back of our minds we know that every initiative that Pakistan takes/makes is part of a war strategy. You may say that we are a paranoid people. But we will tell you that paranoia is good. History teaches us that.

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  • Hunter-Punter
    Dec 12, 2012 - 4:12PM

    @Ghaznavi:
    Brother Ghaznavi, dont be disheartened.pakistanis are too emotional a people. India and China have decided that border issues will be tackled after 300 years Till then, both countries economic relationship be strenghthened and put on a fast track. Both countries have huge responsibilities to the uplifting the living standrards of their people, and border disputes are are better in cold storage. Pakistan must realise that if two countries of 2.5 billion people can think like this, pakistan is stupid to keep harping on kashmir , which is the single heaviest millstone around its neck. So better to trade and live in paece rather than get obxsessed by kashmir.

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  • Anonymous
    Dec 12, 2012 - 6:23PM

    ” But there are other issues regularly described as “low hanging fruits” such as Siachen and Sir Creek, on which understanding remains equally elusive, ostensibly because the Indian Army believes that its strategic needs are not likely to be met by their early resolution. ”
    Those “low hanging fruits” belong to our orchards; they are not free to be picked by a neighbour with larceny on his mind. India respects its army and its legitimate opinion shall form an integral part of India’s stance. It has been spot-on in the past as far as Pakistan is concerned in every encounter.
    “We need to rid ourselves of such myopic attitudes, as they are likely to adversely affect the sustainability of the peace process.”
    When shall Pakistanis get rid of the notion that India can be hoodwinked into that duplicitously brotherly “we” relationship? We really, really resent being thus associated. As one party to the obligatory two parties to “the peace process”, we intend having a say in its sustainability or desirability or otherwise. If you don’t feel like “sustaining” it, take your ball and go home. No problem with that from our end! Don’t ever believe that ManMohan speaks for India! We made it clear by trouncing him at the polls!Recommend

  • G. Din
    Dec 12, 2012 - 7:35PM

    @Ghaznavi:
    “…even if Pakistan gifts entire Kashmir to India…”
    Now, that is a laugh! Kashmir is not Pakistan’s to gift away. Precisely because it is so, you “gifted away” a part of it to Chinese. What you “gifted” was no skin off your nose, was it?
    Times have changed, my friend, since when your great-grand daddy visited us and perpetrated wholesale butchery and barbarism on then perhaps the most advanced civilization on Earth. Even his bones turned into dust a long time ago and the winds of Time blew that away!

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  • cautious
    Dec 12, 2012 - 7:44PM

    it is, however, a matter of growing
    concern that Pakistan’s unilateral
    gestures that amount to major changes
    in long-held policy have gone largely
    unnoticed in India.

    And what unilateral gestures are those? MFN status is required as part of an agreement where India gave Pakistan similar status – that’s not “unilateral” – and Pakistan has yet to take real action on terrorism (talks cheap).

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  • Jat
    Dec 12, 2012 - 8:52PM

    Mr Author, if you can prove that all these earth-shaking unilateral concessions are worth more than 100 Rupees (that too Pakistan currency), then may be, just may be the Indian media will take some notice.

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  • MSS
    Dec 12, 2012 - 11:59PM

    Dear Sir,
    Please have a new view of the world. Kindly change your glasses. Give youngsters a new lead, a fresh opinion.

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  • Ahmed
    Dec 13, 2012 - 8:31AM

    The author is absolutely right. Friendship cannot be a one way street! India has for far too long practiced this and when it cannot get away with this policy in its relationship with Pakistan, it places the blame on Pakistan.
    The comments from our friends from across the border testify to the fact that Indians believe that they alone have a monopoly on truth. Please abandon your prejudices and learn to accept your neighbors as equally independent and sovereign. Otherwise, India will never have genuinely good realations with any of its neighbor, other than of course Bhutan!

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  • Prakash Lal
    Dec 13, 2012 - 8:46AM

    Pakistan has not made any unilateral concession to India and Pakistan is showing the concillatory approach as it can not handle the pin prickfrom its eastern border from India , as it is embroiled on western border besides it want to look good in international eyes.

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  • Ghaznavi
    Dec 13, 2012 - 2:05PM

    @ G.Din

    Can you enlighten me what ‘your forefathers’ ever built in India, other than temples, temples and more temples which amassed all the ill gotten wealth from the innocent common people who were subjugated and blackmailed into submission by your brahmin clergy.
    All that is in India has been built by Muslims and British. And if you hate Muslims so much, tear down all the monuments thee same way your destroyed Babri Masjid. Tear down the taj mahal, red fort, GT road, your railway system, your british laws etc.

    For your information, your forefathers were rather grateful that Muslims conquered India as they couldnt even dream of a full stomach with brahmin samraj ruling the roost.

    As for your comment that India at that time was the most advanced civilization is totally laughable. Your guys were so advanced that it took a small cavalry of Mahmud Ghaznavi to reach all the way to somnath (which is thousand of miles inside India) and then thrashed it, not one or two times but SEVENTEEN times. You guys are still so advanced that all of mother India is a big toilet where anybody can defecate anywhere. Very ‘advanced’ indeed!!

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  • observer
    Dec 13, 2012 - 3:32PM

    It is, however, a matter of growing concern that Pakistan’s unilateral gestures that amount to major changes in long-held policy have gone largely unnoticed in India.

    Unilateral gestures? Which ones.

    If you mean MFN, India granted MFN long ago.

    If you mean curbing cross border terrorism, the export was ‘unilateral’ in any event.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Dec 14, 2012 - 8:01AM

    @Ghaznavi: For all your smart comments, have you thought of the possibility that you may be the progeny of invasion ? Very shameful, if you ask me.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Dec 14, 2012 - 8:14AM

    @Ghaznavi: ” … Your guys were so advanced that it took a small cavalry of Mahmud Ghaznavi to reach all the way to somnath (which is thousand of miles inside India) and then thrashed it, not one or two times but SEVENTEEN times. … “

    We rebuilt it SEVENTEEN time it means. Anyway, Ghaznavi – the king and kingdom have bitten the dust and we still stand and it is a matter of time before we rebuild all temples destroyed by Muslim invaders.

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  • JSM
    Dec 15, 2012 - 2:16PM

    @Ghaznavi:
    Yes Ghaznavi- in ancient times, we were advanced. Your forefathers were destroying while ours were rebuilding repeatedly. This gives us the strength to stand again after falling. In your mindset, what is more important- destruction or creation? Pakistan is a living example of Ghaznavi’s times- every one seems to be destroying; no one is creating anything. Following this policy, you will self-destruct.

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