So where do Indo-Pak relations stand, following the New York meeting between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif? Was it no better than a photo session? Was it just an effort on the part of Nawaz Sharif to show that in asking for a meeting, he was serious? How serious could he have been?
In the first place, he is reported to have told two media people – one an Indian, another a Pakistani – in a private conversation that he thought Manmohan Singh was like a dehati aurat (a village woman). Subsequently he has denied saying so. But it reveals a frame of mind that is shocking. Isn’t Sharif taking Manmohan Singh seriously and is only exploiting a situation to get world approbation? But, as can only be expected, Indian officials called the talks ‘useful’, while the Pakistan team dubbed it “very positive”, whatever that means.
Let us look at the possible aspects of the meeting. One, the two leaders accepted invitations to visit each other’s country. Big deal! No dates were fixed. Two, both sides agreed that improvement of the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) was the pre-condition for forward movement. So there was an understanding that the Directors General of Military Operations of both countries would meet. No greater farce has ever been played on this issue, considering that just three days before the joint Prime Ministerial meet, Jammu was victim of a twin terrorist attack at Kathua and Samba. Actually there has not been a single day in the past few weeks when the Line of Control has not been violated by Pakistani troops or their terrorist proxies.
All it shows is that Nawaz Sharif has no power whatsoever where terrorism is concerned. It is either the Pakistani Army that is operating directly against India, or it is just as directly supporting the jihadis to cross the LoC when and how it pleases them to wreak havoc in Jammu. Even internally poor Sharif is helpless considering that a car bomb killed at least 29 people and left ‘hundreds’ injured in Peshwar, no less a Muslim city, as late as on September 29.
The Pakistani media itself had little to commend on the Singh-Sharif get-together. Even taking for granted that Sharif if genuinely interested in improving relations with India – he is thus quoted as saying that ‘both countries have been spending heavily on defence which should have been ordinarily spent in social sectors – that is saying only the obvious. The reality is that in Pakistan, foreign policy – especially approach towards India – is decided by the Army and the ISI. That is the reality which, surely, Sharif is aware of.
As a senior Pakistani columnist, Ghazi Salahuddin noted, what was required was a “paradigm shift” in Pakistan’s (surely meaning Pakistan Army’s?) approach considering that “we don’t know how to deal with history” and war was no option. One report from Pakistan notes that indications have been given “in having a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India on the lines of the one Islamabad signed with Indonesia”. Words, words, words. Officially, Pakistan is still unwilling to give India Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, despite pressure from business, commerce and industry sources, so keen to expand trade with India on a large scale. The truth is that for Pakistan, Kashmir is the ‘core issue’ and nothing else matters and unless that is settled, no talks of peace, cutting down of defence expenses, keeping the peace at the LoC will ever have any meaning. To argue that nevertheless talks must continue, as some of our liberals do, is only fooling ourselves.
As Rahul Gandhi said about the Ordinance, it is all nonsense. Nothing will ever come out of talks. And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his address to the UN General Assembly made it clear that Jammu & Kashmir belongs to India and cannot be a subject of negations, in the circumstances of what use can any talks at whatever level be when discussion on Kashmir is a closed subject?
Whatever Omar Abdullah might say for public record, the plain truth is that neither India nor Pakistan have come to terms with history and history tells us that Muslims in the sub-continent are unwilling to feel that they are “ruled” by Hindu. Only the other day, a Kashmiri Member of the State Assembly charged Kashmir with being a ‘colony’ of India! Indians have their emotional approach towards a ‘secular’ nation of which a majority Muslim state can surely be part of.
One has to read a book like Occupation And Resistance edited by Fahad Shah to get a true feeling of Kashmiri Muslim feelings. These are never spoken of in order not to face embarrassment. There must be a way to settle NOT a political issue but an ‘emotional’ issue, which Jammu & Kashmir really is, but India refuses to face. India has a case, let us not forget it. If once the right of one religious group to have azadi is acknowledged, there is no saying where it will all end. India’s secularism is genuine, no matter what its enemies have in mind.
Considering how Britain faced the North Irish issue (clash between Catholic and Protestant Irish), Greece and Turkey came to a settlement on the Cyprus issue, India must learn to face up to making an acceptable settlement on Jammu & Kashmir not with Pakistan, but with Jammu & Kashmir itself. The best thing that India can do is to call an all-Party meeting in Delhi and discuss the Jammu & Kashmir issue threadbare, with no holds barred.