[Mb-civic]     What India, Pakistan Won't Talk About      By J. Sri Raman

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Tue Sep 14 17:52:07 PDT 2004

    What India, Pakistan Won't Talk About
    By J. Sri Raman
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

     Wednesday 15 September 2004

     You cannot really describe them as talks to end talks. A dialogue to
dodge the most important issues - that would better sum up the series of
India-Pakistan parleys since the beginning of the year.

     The talks go on. The series have moved rapidly through official-level
rounds to talks in New Delhi on September 5-6 between the two External
Affairs Ministers, India's K. Natwar Singh and Pakistan's Khurshid Mahmud
Kasuri. The process is to culminate in a meeting of India's Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines
of the UN General Assembly session later this month.

     Marked by polite smiles and prolonged handshakes, the process continues
without making the least progress on the two life-and-death issues for the
sub-continent's people.

     The more frightening and fundamental of the issues has, in fact, been
forgotten, with both side tacitly agreeing to leave it untouched. The
ministers have not wasted time over the minor problem of nuclear weapons.
Their officials had disposed of it before, while discussing nuclear
"confidence-building measures" (CBMs). These "measures" - like notification
of each other before tests of nuclear-capable missiles - were somehow
supposed to create confidence that the people of the two countries were safe
even when such missiles stayed in military deployment and on hair-trigger

     General Musharraf has added his own reassurance in this regard.
Addressing officers and soldiers at a garrison in Quetta on September 11, he
reiterated his regime's resolve never ever to roll back its nuclear-weapon
program. He added: "My government has spent more money in the last three
years on enhancing Pakistan's nuclear capability than (spent for this
purpose) in the previous 30 years."

     The Indian government has not been forthcoming with a similar figure.
There is little doubt, however, that it swells with the same pride over its
own misuse of taxpayers' money to build mass-murder weapons. Or that it is
as sternly resolved not to reverse its own program against South Asian
peace. Remember, the joint document on CBMs desisted from mentioning
regional nuclear disarmament even as a distant goal. Instead, it recorded
the joint resolve of New Delhi and Islamabad to seek parity with the nuclear
powers - or to join the 'nuclear club'.

     Within months of India and Pakistan's nuclear-weapon tests in May 1998,
then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee surprised many with a bus ride to
Lahore to meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. The peace
mission turned out to be a public relations exercise. The aim was to
convince the international community that India and Pakistan could be
counted upon to conduct themselves as 'responsible' nuclear-weapon states.
The CBMs, too, it would seem, were meant to serve the same purpose.

     The talks have run an almost identical course on the other issue, which
both sides recognize as important and intractable.

     An immediately striking parallel is President Musharraf's equally
ringing statement on this issue in the same speech. "We will not give up
Kashmir," he told the soldiers. "We have fought wars over it. Pakistan will
have to ensure the interest of the Kashmiris." No such statement has
emanated from New Delhi thus far. No doubt, however, that Natwar Singh was
as uncompromising on India's 'national interest' as Kasuri was on
Pakistan's. And it appeared incompatible with the interests of regional
peace, in either case.

     The ministers ended their meeting with emphatic assertions of
irreconcilable stands on the issue. Singh identified the Kashmir problem
with "cross-border terrorism" and Kasuri with human rights violations. They
made no progress on the one proposal on people-to-people relations in
Kashmir. India and Pakistan had restored a rail link between Attari and
Lahore and a bus route between Amritsar and Lahore. But neither of these
passed through disputed territory. Political constraints acted as a brake on
the plan for a bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capitals of
India-administered State of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Azad

     Differences on the required travel document proved an insuperable
roadblock. India's idea of passports as such documents was unacceptable to
Pakistan, This, Kasuri and colleagues feared, would legitimize the Line of
Control (LoC) as an international border. The LoC was a result of the
Bangladesh war of 1971 and, therefore, a painful reminder of Pakistan's
dismemberment and rout by India.

     Clearly, the talks on Kashmir, on which neither side was ready to
compromise, were also targeted at an international audience. Days after the
ministers' meeting, both sides widely publicized a "secret" session of talks
in Amritsar between the National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan.
They were to discuss a document on Kashmir by UK Foreign Secretary Jack
Straw, and it is anybody's guess if the paper reflected the views of only
the Tony Blair regime.

     The talks will go on. The participants, however, cannot hear the voice
of the vast millions who want them to make genuine efforts for peace in
South Asia.



   Jump to TO Features for Wednesday September 15, 2004   

 © Copyright 2004 by TruthOut.org

More information about the Mb-civic mailing list