Trust Does Not Come On Its Own by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (MAY 06, 2010)

Pakistan has lauded the brief opening at Thimpu with the rider that a trust deficit in Indo-Pak ties still remained. Trust will not come the way the two sides have been working.

Before saying anything on the quality and content of the much-hyped talks between Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in Thimpu one will be better advised to remember that diplomacy is the art of saying a lot without really meaning anything at all.

If we believe the “national” (meaning based in Delhi) print media, the whole country wants to adopt a homosexual lifestyle and all our bahu-betiyan are straining at the leash to walk in public wearing bikni.

On the success of Thimpu talks whatever the media has been crying hoarse about is mere hype and little substance. There is no commonality in the positions they have been taking on issues. At best what happened at Thimpu was that the two sides agreed to talk in near future.

There is no consensus on the format of the talks itself. Pakistan wants talks on a number of subjects ranging from Kashmir, water resources, terrorism and trade to other allied issues. Their leaders call it “composit dialogue” and would agree to any other name, like “inclusive dialogue” or whatever, as long as it addresses all issues. On the other hand, India wants to keep the focus on terrorism.

India, too, is not averse to talk on other issues, but the emphasis is always on terrorism, particularly terrorist acts on Indian soil directed from across the western border. For India 26/11 epitomises the focus of dialogue. On the face of it one can see it as merely a difference of detail between the two positions, but in diplomacy it is the nuance that matters: a change of emphasis changes the substance in the conduct of foreign policy.

There has been no effort to narrow this gap. India thinks that Pakistan is not serious enough about tackling anti-India terrorism emanating from its territory, while Pakistan feels India, by continuing with the Baglihar project unilaterally, is going to choke off its crucial water supply in coming years. In the coming decade’s severe shortage of water in India and Pakistan this looks like a great catastrophe to them. Their insistence on a composite dialogue is not about including Kashmir only.

Even on terrorism the stance of the two sides is diametrically opposed. By tackling terrorism they mean that India should stop helping rebels in Baluchistan, while India denies having any hand in Baluchistan at all. By stopping terrorism they also want action against people who bombed the Samjhauta Expressing going to Pakistan. The Pakistani position on this is that it was the handiwork of Indian terrorists, the Indian official position has been that some ISI-Jehadi nexus was behind it. However, investigations by the Maharashtra ATS under the late Hemant Karkare found Hindutva terrorists involved in the blasts.

With such clearly irreconcilable positions no dialogue is going to be fruitful even if we talk for another 100 years. The “trust deficit” will not be reduced this way. Now we are hearing about “change of format of the talks” for the future. Let us see.  

(Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam)

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