The cancellation of the meeting between the national security advisers of India and Pakistan – after a disagreement over the agenda and a controversy over inviting Kashmiri leaders for a reception at the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi – is a fresh blow to mutual relations that were already on a steep decline.
Scheduled for August 24, it was one of the three follow-up meetings that prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi had agreed to convene when they met in the Russian city of Ufa last month. Meetings between directors general of Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers and the directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan were also planned, to improve the atmospherics, lower tensions, and thus lay the basis for a normalization of mutual ties. But the cancellation of the very first meeting has also put the BSF-Rangers meeting, planned for September 9-13 in Delhi, under a cloud.
Foreign Office Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah says he has no updates, but the meeting has not been canceled. A military spokesman, meanwhile, said that representatives of BSF and Rangers had met earlier this week to discuss the agenda for the meeting. Even if the meeting does take place, one has to be very optimistic to expect a significant outcome.
The two sides are yet to fix the date for the big meeting between the DGMOs. They were expected to discuss ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary. The two countries have accused each other of violating the ceasefire for about 100 times recently, because of which about 20 people have died (most of them Pakistanis living close to the Working Boundary).
Skirmishes on the LoC and Working Boundary have lately been a major irritant and were the primary reason why India suspended the dialogue that had resumed after the Mumbai attacks – a stalemate that the two countries are still unable to overcome.
The negativity generated by the bickering and the ultimate cancellation of the meeting between the NSAs has left little incentive for both sides to seek another engagement of the two prime ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session next month. Diplomats on both sides will consider the fact that their prime ministers have met twice in the last 14 months, first in Delhi after Modi’s inauguration, and then in Ufa on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, but each of those interactions were followed by canceled follow-up meetings.
The joint statement after the Ufa meeting was poorly negotiated
The reason behind the cancellation, on both the occasions, was Pakistan’s desire to consult Kashmiri leaders of the Hurriyat Conference before these meetings. This time, India also criticized Islamabad’s insistence on expanding the agenda from just terrorism to a review of the implementation of decisions taken at Ufa and exploring the roadmap for future discussions on outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Creek, and Siachen.
With Modi coming to power last year and the RSS ideology taking the center stage in Indian policy making, Delhi has undoubtedly become more aggressive towards Pakistan. But, Islamabad has also made mistakes.
When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif skipped a meeting with Hurriyat leaders during his trip to Delhi to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony, Indians misread it as Islamabad’s willingness to put Kashmir behind. From then on, a senior Pakistani diplomat said, they have been strongly opposing Pakistan’s engagement with Kashmiri leaders, which has been a longstanding practice.
Then, ahead of the meeting in Ufa, the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi canceled an iftar reception that was to be attended by Hurriyat leaders, reinforcing the perceptions in Delhi that Pakistan could compromise on its political contacts with Kashmiris. But apparent pressure at home compelled the Pakistani government to invite Kashmiri leaders to a meeting ahead of the talks between the national security advisers.
New Delhi has been using an interpretation of the Simla agreement – that the Kashmir issue should be discussed bilaterally – to oppose Pakistan’s meetings with Hurriyat leaders. Islamabad’s argument – that Kashmiris are not a third party in this dispute, but primary stakeholders – comes too late to compensate for its earlier missteps.
The government’s flip flop on meetings with Hurriyat leaders may also be an indicator of civil-military differences over ties with India. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj hinted at that in her press conference, saying more than once that her government had also resisted domestic pressure.
Then there was the disagreement over the agenda. The two prime ministers had agreed in their Ufa meeting that the national security advisers would meet to discuss terrorism concerns, India says. But, when Pakistan accepted the invitation for the August 24 meeting, it also proposed a discussion on modalities for future dialogue on other outstanding issues.
The problem here is a poorly negotiated joint statement after the Ufa meeting. Pakistan says the reference to the two prime ministers agreeing to their collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development, and expressing readiness to discuss all outstanding issues, allowed for a broader discussion.
The Indians take a stricter view of the statement, saying “the operative part” that provided for a series of three meetings was what had been agreed on, and it would not allow Pakistan to bring other issues on the table.
Islamabad says that while it did not intend substantive discussions on Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek at the meeting, it only wants to get an understanding on how and when these issues would be discussed. In other words, it wants to explore the prospects of resumption of the stalled bilateral dialogue that has been on hold since January 2013.
Apparently, both sides are to blame for the cancellation of the important meeting – Delhi showed its traditional inflexibility towards Pakistan, while Islamabad tried to make up for some of its earlier bloopers in dealing with the Modi government by taking a more liberal view of the Ufa understanding and force on to the table some of the things it could not emphasize in Ufa.
“What is really frustrating is that there is no clarity at home,” said a Pakistani official who had been involved in the decision.
The blind alley in which the two neighbors now find themselves is a result of the fast shrinking common ground.
In a talk at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, former Chief of General Staff Lt Gen (r) Waheed Arshad explained Delhi’s lack of interest in pursuing peace with Pakistan. “There is no common point… there is no common agenda on how to progress,” he said, adding that Delhi’s policy making was now dominated by a narrow Hindu mindset rather than Indian nationalism.
Modi’s move to hand over the Pakistan file to Ajit Doval and appoint ex IB chief Asif Ibrahim as a special envoy made it clear that his Pakistan policy would now be formed by former intelligence officers who are deeply anti-Pakistan.
One takeaway for Pakistan is that it needs to have a more disciplined policy towards India and should stop taking things for granted. For now, Islamabad should focus on managing the situation and avoiding further escalation.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad
On one hand you have a quote saying that the transition is towards a “Hindu” mindset, and you mention the appointment of a Muslim Indian officer as a special envoy. Do you not see the contradiction?
It is more accurate to say that a Nehruvian liberal mindset has been replaced by a nationalist one. Indian Muslims with nationalist leanings are very much part and parcel of the new administration.
The Lt Gen is right to say that there is no common agenda – we don’t believe that there is any interest in socio-economic cooperation in Pakistan, and we know there is no interest in giving in to Pakistani demands on Kashmir. There really isn’t much to talk about.
The ceasefire on the border stopped back in 2003, when your military chief gave an order to do so and it stayed in place, presumably till the present chief gave the order to break it. India is not a revisionis power, and has no interest in proactive ceasefire violations.
Pakistan has already has in its possession one third ok Kashmir with teeming troops everywhere, non-Kasmiris buying lands etc., how come it does not talk about rights of “Azad Kashmiris” any more. How about withdrawing troops from that land?
If state of Kasmir were to become a independent state, that Muslim state won’t have any minorities and will be free of any non-Muslims. If a new partition were to take place , it will be a blow to Indian secularism.
So, Zi suggest, LoC should be the dividing line and new international boundary. This will solve the problem.
Kasmir is certainly not common agenda, if that means changing status quo in Kasmir. If Pakistan is ready to accept continuance of status quo, there is chance of discusing modalities on Kashmir and Siachin. If two decide to put Kasmir on back burner, problem of terrorism will vanish. Then two can discuss other issues including sir .
Here is the Ufa statement, how it can be misinterpreted is beyond me.
Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and his Pakistan counterpary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry issued a joint statement in the Russian city of Ufa, after a bilateral meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif.
Here is the full statement:
The Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India met today on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Ufa. The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. The two leaders exchanged views on issues of bilateral and regional interest.
They agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues.
Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia.
They also agreed on the following steps to be taken by the two sides:
1. A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
2. Early meetings of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by that of DGMOs.
3. Decision for release of fishermen in each other’s custody, along with their boats, within a period of 15 days.
4. Mechanism for facilitating religious tourism.
5. Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated his invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Pakistan for the SAARC Summit in 2016. Prime Minister Modi accepted the invitation.
A SCHOOL GIRL ESSAY BY SYDA MAMOONA RABAB; SHE NEEDS MORE PRACTICE RATHER THAN PICKING FROM HERE AND THERE.
What has happened is not hindu or jew or some other sinister mindset. What has happened is a realization that Pakistan’s army’s way of war is not victory against India – it is not even Kashmir. they just want to keep india engaged to justify their existence in pakistan and their need for an increasing share of the budget.
Each time a politician or bureaucrat calls their bluff he is called anti pakistan, a raw agent. From Haqqani to Hamid Mir – everyone has been shut up – Sabeen mohammed was only the latest.