Indo-Pak ties on the mend Dr M. Manzoor Alam (May 1, 2005)

Indo-Pak ties on the mend

Dr MOHAMMAD Manzoor Alam reviews the steady progress in Indo-Pak peace initiative

The latest meeting between Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and the Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf took place on April 22 in Jakarta at a dinner hosted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia in the honour of visiting Afro-Asian leaders on the occasion of a summit.

The ever-courteous Dr Singh is reported to have walked, along with his wife Ms Grusharan Kaur, up to Gen. Musharraf and his wife Sheba. Earlier Dr Singh had said that establishing good relations with Pakistan was the uppermost in his mind, a desire that was reciprocated by Gen. Musharraf.

In the previous week Gen. Musharraf was in India on a three-day visit. The mood was upbeat on both sides when on the conclusion of the visit a beaming Dr Singh declared that a “positive road” lay ahead for the two countries if “infiltration levels are under control, if terrorist acts are under control”.

The fact is that both “infiltration levels” and “terrorist acts” are under control. There are far fewer incidents of militant attacks within Jammu and Kashmir and almost none in other parts of India. Attacks outside J&K have virtually ceased. As usual, Pakistan has been denying involvement in terrorist violence.

Now there are no indiscriminate attacks in public places where unrelated, innocent civilians used to die in large numbers. Now they zero in on prominent public figures and military personnel, which means far fewer attacks and smaller number of deaths.

The ground situation in J&K today is like the Palestine of pre-Intifadah period when only occupation forces and Israeli settlers on occupied territory were being targeted, not people within Israel itself. Even though the US was supporting Israeli occupation diplomatically, financially and militarily, Palestinians were not (and are not) in favour of carrying the fight to the American homeland.

There are certain points to be kept in mind here. Most of the powerful militant outfits with a presence both in J&K and Pakistan are bitterly opposed to Gen. Musharraf and his military officials, to the extent that they have made attempts on his life. Naturally, he would not help such people in any way.

Despite the improvement, the basic Indian position on the issue remains intact, as Dr Manmohan Singh announced soon after Gen. Musharraf’s visit, that is, no territorial concession would be made to Pakistan. Conversely, the Pakistani position that J&K people are waging an independence struggle, too, remains intact, at least officially.

However, subtle changes in the two countries’ positions have come in that promise a peaceful, prosperous future for the region, including for the people of Kashmir on both sides. Among the major changes is Pakistan dropping its insistence on plebiscite and Gen. Musharraf’s clear advice to some Kashmiri hardliners to be realistic.

As more and more confidence-building measures (CBMs) are being announced by the two sides, Gen. Musharraf has admitted that the Kashmir issue would not be solved overnight. Moving away from his position at Agra he agrees that peace is a long “process”, which promotes a sequence of events that culminates in meaningful territorial negotiations and adjustments.

From this reckoning it is clear that things are moving along a “positive road”, to use Dr Singh’s phrase. His assessment of the situation is supported by foreward movement in talks on Sir Creek and Siachen. India, on its part, no longer insists that a talk on Kashmir is taboo.

Finally, a word of caution. A similar improvement in Indo-Pak ties was visible between 1989-1993. However, things started drifting again. At least this time round the two sides have to ensure that they don’t slide back into an abyss once again. To Keep the momentum governments on both sides have to sustain the growing people-to-people contacts and other CBMs, besides forging ahead with negotiations.g

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