Indo-Pak Relations: Congress continues to kneel
by Hari Om on 13 Feb 2012 19 Comments

Pakistan observes February 5 every year as the “Kashmir Solidarity Day” and reiterates its stand that “Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory” and that the Indian presence in this part of the state is “illegal and against the people’s will”. Pakistan has been observing this day as “Kashmir Solidarity Day” since 1990 to highlight the “Kashmir issue”. As expected, many rallies were held across Pakistan, including Islamabad and Lahore, on this day to mark “Kashmir Solidarity Day”, which is a public holiday.

India was targetted, abused and held guilty at these rallies, with radical Islamists threatening India of dire consequences in the event of New Delhi not allowing the Kashmiri Muslims to exercise their “right to self-determination”. The organisers of the rallies roundly condemned India and administered threats and these anti-India demonstrations were held under the nose of, nay with the connivance of, the Pakistani authorities. The very fact that Islamabad has declared February 5 as a public holiday should clinch the issue and establish that Pakistan would neither reform itself nor change its Kashmir policy. In other words, Pakistan would continue to bleed India with a thousand cuts…

The otherwise besieged Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani used this day to explain the contours of Pakistan’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Indian Jammu and Kashmir. Admitting that Islamabad “cannot afford wars” in the 21st century, Gilani said the “Kashmir issue would have to be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy”. “Four wars have already been fought on the Kashmir issue and the region still ‘is a flashpoint’, but in the 21st century we cannot afford wars”, he said, adding, “we want to resolve issues through dialogue, diplomacy, prudent policy and national consensus”. He made these observations at a convention at the Prime Minister's Secretariat to mark “Kashmir Solidarity Day” in Islamabad.

Gilani did not stop there. He went on to say that the “Kashmir issue remains the cornerstone of the country's foreign policy, as we are committed to continue with the moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris. The whole nation, including all the political parties, is united on the cause of Kashmir. Since Pakistan is a responsible country and a responsible nuclear power, it has to make responsible policies… Pakistan's policies should be made through national consensus and by the chosen representatives of the people, and not by individuals… The Kashmir policy has been the focus of the Pakistan People's Party-led government in line with the vision of the party's founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto”.

Gilani thus unambiguously sent a message to India that Islamabad would accept only that solution that vindicates its age-old stand on Jammu and Kashmir. He put the onus on New Delhi and urged it to take the required diplomatic initiatives at the earliest to resolve the issue and forge lasting peace in South Asia. His statement that Pakistan is a nuclear state was a direct threat to India. Similarly, his statement that his Kashmir policy is perfectly “in line with the vision of the party's founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto” vindicated those in India who believe that Pakistan’s foreign policy towards India is based on the premise that Jammu and Kashmir is an “unfinished agenda of partition”.

But what was New Delhi’s response to Yousuf Raza Gilani and what happened across Pakistan on the so-called “Kashmir Solidarity Day”? Did New Delhi take cognizance of the anti-India propaganda and the direct implications of what Gilani said about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Kashmir vision and his statement that “Kashmir issue remains the cornerstone of the country's foreign policy”? No, Delhi took no cognizance whatever. It overlooked all that Islamabad and radical Islamists did and, according to agencies, made a unilateral statement that it would ease visa regulation for Pakistan nationals! This was just two days after the radical Islamists spewed venom on India and threatened New Delhi of dire consequences.

The February 7 report filed by news agencies said: “In a bid to ensure more people to people contact, India is contemplating easing visa regulation for Pakistan nationals. With the cabinet note on the issue set to be tabled in a few days, it might be a couple of weeks before visa regulations are eased”.

The proposed new visa regime, when operational, would ensure that Pakistan nationals on a “visiting visa have wider access to the country; the new norms will allow Pakistan nationals access to five Indian cities as opposed to three cities earlier”. The new visa regulations would, unlike in the past when Pakistan nationals were not allowed to enter and exit India from different cities, ensure that Pakistan nationals can “enter and exit from different cities” in the country. Pakistani business establishments with a “turnover of half a million dollar or more” will benefit from the new visa norms. Earlier, India had unilaterally eased business visa rules for Pakistani businessmen. The proposed visa regulations and norms are also expected to help “students, senior citizens, businessmen, tourists and group tourists”. The new visa regime, however, does not amend any restrictions for religious tourists.

New Delhi went in for another unilateral concession to Pakistan, notwithstanding no forward movement by Islamabad on the issue of Hafiz Saeed, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and more importantly, the Mumbai 26/11 attack. India till date has not heard from the judicial panel from Pakistan which is probing the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks and Ajmal Kasab’s role in the episode, that was expected to come here earlier this month. A Pakistan official had earlier this year said that the probe panel will visit India on February 3.

This is not the first time that the present Congress-led UPA Government has acted in a manner that has promoted the Pakistani interests at the cost of Indian self-respect. It has been happening at regular intervals under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It happened at Havana (Cuba) when Manmohan Singh shocked the nation by telling the then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf that “Pakistan, like India, is also a victim of terrorism”. It happened at Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt) when Manmohan Singh went several steps further and signed a highly controversial, nay outrageous anti-India joint statement with his Pakistani counterpart Gilani. The Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement not only provided for the resumption of the stalled composite dialogue process between New Delhi and Islamabad, but also de-linked Pakistani-sponsored terrorism from the dialogue process aimed at resolving the Kashmir issue. Not satisfied with this, Manmohan Singh allowed his Pakistani counterpart to include a reference to alleged Indian involvement in subversive activities in Baluchistan.

What Manmohan Singh and his foreign office did at Islamabad, Thimpu (Bhutan) and Maldives is well known. They did all they could to appease and please Pakistan and brought shame to India by allowing Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to equate Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai with Hafiz Saeed. Remember that Qureshi had in Multan, his home town, said “we did not kneel; India knelt under international pressure and resumed the stalled composite dialogue process with Islamabad”. Remember, Islamabad not only abused, insulted and taunted India in Thimpu, Islamabad and Multan, but its Foreign Secretary took on India while in India after holding discussions with his Indian counterpart, Nirupama Rao, present envoy to the United States.

One can cite innumerable instances to prove that the Congress-led UPA at the centre has been pursing a policy that has all the potential of enabling Pakistan to accomplish what it had hitherto failed to achieve. Pakistan is slowly but surely pushing forward its anti-India agenda with the help of New Delhi, which is also at war with Indian civilisation itself. The main problem of the nation is that the Opposition is watching as a mute spectator when the government is promoting the Pakistani cause in Kashmir. Concerned Indians feel that the Congress and the Opposition are on the same page as far as their policy towards Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists is concerned. This must surely shake and alarm the nation and spur all good men to come to the aid of the nation, and fast.

The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research

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