PM re-enacts Sharm-el-Sheikh at Thimpu
by Hari Om on 04 May 2010 4 Comments

Pakistan’s stand on J&K is unambiguous and Islamabad is consistent in its approach towards India. The approach is aggressive. There is no confusion at all. Pakistan considers India the root cause of all troubles in South Asia. It consistently tells the international community that J&K is a disputed territory and that it is for India to “go beyond handshake” and normalize relations with Islamabad.


Pakistan has been successful in putting pressure on India to the extent that both the United States of America and China, besides several other hostile countries, have on occasions more than one, directly and indirectly endorsed the Pakistani stand and caused an affront to the self-respect of the Indian nation, with the “meek” Indian establishment ignoring the foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs. 


What is the Pakistani stand? That Indian presence in J&K is illegal; J&K must become part of Pakistan because it is a Muslim-majority state; J&K is an unfinished agenda of Partition; Siachin is very important for Pakistan; India is violating the 1960 Indus Water Treaty and not allowing Islamabad to use the Indus waters to the extent it should; India is violating the Indus Water Treaty by constructing a power project on Kishanganga river in J&K; Sir Creek is very important for Pakistan; India and Pakistan are nuclear states and it is for India to ensure peace in South Asia; India is fomenting trouble in Baluchistan and India has to address Pakistani concerns in this regard; India is violating human rights in J&K; Pakistan, like India, is a victim of terrorism; if America wants Islamabad to eliminate the menace of terrorism in Afghanistan, it must persuade New Delhi to vacate J&K so that it could pull out troops from its eastern borders and deploy the same near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; and so and so forth.


Pakistan reiterated with full confidence its stand just on the eve of “bilateral” talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at Thimpu, Bhutan, on April 29. This was the first bilateral engagement between the two Prime Ministers since they last met on the sidelines of the NAM summit at the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh.


Talking to reporters in Thimpu on April 27, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said any meeting between the two Prime Ministers should address the need to “resume a full-fledged peace dialogue”. “It’s time for India to make up its mind whether it wants to engage or not. Engagement is the only way forward…We need to go beyond a handshake…It is time for India to move forward and stop demonizing Pakistan…We have had enough of exchanges of pleasantries, including the ones at Washington at the beginning of April this year (Manmohan Singh and Gilani had two brief encounters in April in Washington where both of them had gone to attend the Nuclear Security Summit)... We have to accept terrorism is a common challenge. It’s not us and you, it’s a collective effort… Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is willing to normalize ties with Pakistan but he is held back by his fellow Congress members...,” Qureshi told reporters, besides much else.


He emphasized the need to normalize India-Pakistan relations within the parameters of the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint declaration: “Dialogue should be on the pattern of the Sharm-el-Sheikh…agreement.” 


It bears recalling that Qureshi had in the second week of February this year abused and humiliated India by making a highly provocative statement at a public meeting in his hometown, Multan: “We did not kneel. India knelt. India was saying we will not talk with Pakistan. Now the same India is requesting Islamabad to resume talks under international pressure.”  


Qureshi came to Thimpu to attend a meeting of SAARC Foreign Ministers on April 29, along with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna, who urged member states to “rally against the forces of terrorism in the South Asian region”. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are members of the SAARC, which was founded way back in 1985.


Was there any ambiguity or confusion in what Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Thimpu? Not one whit. Qureshi not only reiterated the Pakistani stand explicitly, he made it loud and clear that India has no evidence to prove the involvement of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, which left more than 170 persons dead.


This is called diplomacy. Qureshi made it loud and clear that Pakistan would pursue its agenda with zeal and that it will not allow its geo-political interests to suffer, come what may. His formulations did not indicate even remotely any Pakistani intention to address Indian concerns in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country, which have been witnessing terrorist attacks at regular intervals, thus posing a live challenge to the unity and integrity of India, as also to its already sensitive socio-religious and politico equilibrium.


Earlier on February 28, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir had expressed similar views in Delhi after meeting his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao. He had not only reiterated the Pakistani stand on J&K, Indus, borders, Indian role in Baluchistan, and cross-border terrorism, but had also sought to humiliate his Indian counterpart by revealing things which, according to Rao, did not figure during her talks with Bashir.


Thus, while Rao told reporters that Kashmir was not discussed, Salman Bashir said Kashmir was on the top of agenda during the talks. So much so, he crossed all the lines when he told reporters that the three dossiers handed over to him by the Indian Foreign Secretary were no more than “pieces of literature” and contained nothing that could make Pakistan proceed against Hafiz Saeed.


Salman Bashir also told reporters that Pakistan could not proceed against Saeed on the ground that he had been issuing anti-India statements or instigating Pakistanis to launch a jihad against India. Hafiz Saeed is roaming about freely in Pakistan and engages in vitriolic tirades against India, openly urging jihadis to launch jihad against India and accusing New Delhi of stealing the Indus waters.


It was in these circumstances that the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met at Thimpu. The one-on-one talks between them lasted 50 long minutes. It was expected that India will “kneel” and it actually “knelt”. Dr Manmohan Singh said talks with Pakistan were imperative. Of course, he sought to tell Indians that he had put a condition for the resumption of composite/structured dialogue with Pakistan and the condition was that if India and Pakistan were to move forward, Islamabad had to take some concrete action against the perpetrators of 26/11 and demolish terrorist-related infrastructure in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.


Dr Singh was not really committed to what he said in this regard. It was a mere tactic employed to hoodwink and mislead Indian public opinion that is opposed to any concession to Islamabad. That Manmohan Singh didn’t talk about the February 1994 Parliamentary unanimous resolution that binds the Government of India to re-integrate territories under the illegal occupation of Pakistan since 1947-48, and that he focused his attention only on 26/11, establishes that he is all out to appease the United States, Pakistan and Kashmiri Muslim leadership, ignoring the national sentiment. 


It was also expected that Pakistan would stick to its decades-old stand and pressurize India to go beyond a “handshake” and it happened. The determined, confident and highly motivated Pakistani Prime Minister held his ground firmly and made the Indian Prime Minister, who perhaps wants to win a Nobel Prize, act in the manner he wanted. Reports from Thimpu suggest that the Pakistan Prime Minister did assure his Indian counterpart that Islamabad would surely proceed against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. But there was, and is, no taker for this assurance in India. Pakistan had given such assurances umpteen times after 26/11; all turned out to be hollow. How could Islamabad proceed against the likes of Hafiz Saeed who are an integral part of the Pakistani establishment and have been working in tandem with the Pakistani Army and dreaded Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) to annex Kashmir and dismember India?


The outcome of the bilateral talks between the two Prime Ministers was a resolve to carry forward the dialogue process even if Pakistan-based terrorist organizations and their India-based operatives continue to attack and bleed India and cause mayhem. The Thimpu statement gave everyone to understand that Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao would meet her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Pakistan after the ongoing session of the Indian Parliament is over. The statement indicated that the meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries would be followed by another meeting between the Indian Foreign Minister and his Pakistani counterpart. The venue of the meeting could be Delhi. However, there was no joint press conference.


The Thimpu meeting between the two Prime Ministers demonstrated that Pakistan was able to persuade/pressurize Dr Singh to move ahead as per the parameters laid down by the July 2009 Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement that had de-linked dialogue process from terrorism. That Islamabad would score yet another remarkable diplomatic victory over New Delhi and that India would not be able to withstand American pressure had become quite clear even before the two Prime Ministers met, with the statement by US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs Robert Blake in Thimpu on April 29 itself.


Blake told reporters, “The United States is hopeful of a positive outcome of the talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, which will be taking place later today on the sidelines of the XVth SAARC Summit… I think it is very positive that the two Prime Ministers are going to meet later today. The US always welcomes dialogue. We really commend the two Prime Ministers, and we hope that there is positive outcome”. It needs to be noted that Robert Blake was in Thimpu to participate in the SAARC Summit as an observer. Other observers included China, Australia, Iran, Japan and Myanmar.


It can be said with confidence that US Under Secretary of State Robert Blake went to Thimpu only to mount pressure on the “amenable” Indian Prime Minister so that he could come up to the expectations of both the United States and Pakistan, which, along with China, are quite busy in queering the Indian pitch in J&K and protecting and promoting further their geo-political interests in the strategic South Asian region.      


Dr Singh’s focused attention on 26/11 was intriguing because India has witnessed not one but scores of 26/11s in different parts of the country, including J&K and the Indian Parliament itself, before the Mumbai terrorist attacks took place. These 26/11s had resulted in gruesome killings of thousands of innocent civilians and hundreds of those involved in the anti-insurgency operations; leave aside the wholesale exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley, and migration of the non-Muslim minorities from Muslim-majority areas of Jammu province. 


Dr Singh’s insistence on 26/11 suggested that taking action against its perpetrators would be tantamount to reaching a resolution of the Kashmir issue. His approach raises many questions. One of the most vital is: Will our Prime Minister endorse the Pakistani stand on J&K, Indus waters, demilitarization, Actual Line of Control and India-Pakistan joint-management of J&K, or, will he grant semi-independence to J&K?


The answer to both these pertinent questions could be yes. One cannot deny the fact that the back channels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had struck a deal with Pakistan during the time of Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf.


The deal, according to Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, who served under President Musharraf for five long years as Foreign Minister of Pakistan and was privy to almost everything that had taken place, contemplated “full demilitarization of J&K” and a political status for J&K that would be between “independence and autonomy”.


It may be appropriate to reproduce here portions in this regard from a report that appeared in one of the Pakistani websites (, titled “Interim pact on Kashmir was for 15 years: Kasuri”. Babar Dogar filed this report from Lahore on April 28.


The report inter alia stated: “Kasuri…said that India and Pakistan had agreed to full demilitarization of both Jammu & Kashmir as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which Islamabad refers to as Azad Kashmir. ‘We agreed on a point between complete independence and autonomy’…Former Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has disclosed that the agreement on Kashmir, worked out through back-channel diplomacy, was an interim one, and was subject to review after 15 years… Talking to The News here on Tuesday in the backdrop of ‘Aman ki Asha’ - a joint venture of the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India, Khursheed Kasuri claimed the Pakistani and Indian sides at that time had the realization that in view of the history of Jammu and Kashmir dispute, no solution that they could think of would be an ideal one. He termed that agreement on Kashmir the best possible under the circumstances. ‘We were aware of the fact that there would be an overwhelming support for this agreement; but we also realized that there would be criticism from some sections in Kashmir, Pakistan and India,” he said, adding that it was impossible to offer a solution which could be acceptable to everyone… Kasuri said they decided that the arrangement they had arrived at would need a review after 15 years of its announcement. During this period, its implementation would be monitored by all parties concerned and, in the light of the experience this arrangement could further be improved”.


The report further read: “He (Kasuri) said the water issue was not discussed as a crucial matter at that time; the agreement on Kashmir was being negotiated. However, the management of water was one of the issues included in the joint mechanism. He claimed that the joint mechanism was a part from the Indus Basin Treaty, which was the basis of water sharing arrangement between the two countries”.


Earlier on April 24, The Times of India had carried a report titled “Kashmir Pact was just a signature away”. Filed by Ranjan Roy, it inter alia stated: “For most people, Kashmir is an intractable problem dividing India and Pakistan. What they don’t know is that the two countries have actually an accord on Kashmir ready and had almost unveiled it in 2007… Kasuri…on Friday (April 23) told The Times of India of this hush-hush deal that was cobbled together through secret parleys held in India, Pakistan and several foreign capitals for more than three years and could have resolved the sub-continent’s thorniest security and political dispute, had not the anti-Musharraf upsurge triggered by the sacking of the chief justice convulsed Pakistan… He has never spoken of this track-II success earlier, other than saying that he knew of a possible way to resolve the Kashmir problem that was acceptable to both countries… The negotiators from Islamabad and New Delhi had quietly toiled away for three years, talking to each other and Kashmiri representatives from the Indian side as well as Kashmiris settled overseas to reach what he described as the only possible solution to the Kashmir issue…”


Not to give any credence to the almost identical reports filed by Ranjan Roy, an Indian, and Babar Dogar, a Pakistani, from the same place would be to overlook what has been cooking up for years. There are potent reasons to believe that given an opportunity, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would barter away our paramount interests. The Pakistani Prime Minister and Kashmiri leaders are not fools to hail the Thimpu encounter between the two Prime Ministers for nothing.


That the Indian Prime Minister has assured Pakistan that he is with Islamabad and that he would walk extra miles to accommodate the Pakistani viewpoint on Kashmir and Indus waters can be seen from what Yousuf Raza Gilani told his Cabinet colleagues in May in Islamabad: “talks with his Indian counterpart will mark the beginning of a new era in relations between the two countries”.


As for Kashmiri leaders, both separatist and “mainstream”, including JKLF chairman Yasin Malik, APHC (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, National Conference president and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah and patron of People’s Democratic Party Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, each has hailed the outcome of Thimpu (The Hindu, May 2). Remember, Kashmiri leaders hail only those developments that have the potential to satisfy their separatist and communal urges. They termed the outcome of Thimpu talks as a “breakthrough” and “movement forward in the process of resolving all issues, including Kashmir”.


The reaction of Islamabad and Kashmiri leaders to Thimpu should leave no one in doubt that while Islamabad is reaching its goal step-by-step, New Delhi is willingly walking into the Pakistani trap. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh re-enacted Sharm-el-Sheikh at Thimpu.


But equally pertinent is the question: What is the main opposition BJP doing to prevent Manmohan Singh from playing with the country’s sovereign interests? Should its indifference be construed as approval of the Manmohan Singh doctrine? It can be construed as approval considering what transpired at Colombo in March 1999 between the then Indian Foreign Minister and his Pakistani counterpart. The Indian nation is in deep trouble and it needs a steersman who could control the Indian barge, which is “flapping aimlessly” and “drifting towards the rock”.                 


The author is Chair Professor, Gulab Singh Chair, Jammu University, Jammu

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