Monday, February 8, 2010

US Afghan Exit : Trigger For India to Talk to Pak?

India has invited Pakistan for the first high-level bilateral talks since it walked away after Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, according to media reports.

Although there had been a number of writers, columnists and peace activists in India demanding a resumption of India-Pakistan dialog, India had strongly resisted such calls until recently, while insisting on a series of pre-conditions.

None of the Indian pre-conditions for dialog have been met, and yet India has decided on resuming the dialog with its neighbor to the West. Why this sudden change of heart? Does it have anything to do with the rapidly changing dynamics in Afghanistan?

Well, it is not a coincidence that India's offer of talks came soon after global powers endorsed an Afghan plan at a conference in London late last month to seek reconciliation with the Taliban in which Pakistan is expected to play a major role.
The US and NATO nations' pursuit of dialog with the Taliban is a clear indication of their plans to exit Afghanistan soon.

The American and NATO plans are probably causing growing fears among the Indian elite of being shut out of a potential deal with Pakistan over the future of Afghanistan. Such a deal could bring back the dynamics of the 1990s, a situation unacceptable to India.

Some Indian analysts argue that Pakistan has an anti-India establishment which may be still hedging its bets on certain militant groups whether to keep India on its toes or to regain paradise lost in terms of strategic depth in Afghanistan.

The Indian analysts are probably correct in their assessment that at least a part of the Pakistani "establishment" does not want serious progress in talks with India. But I also believe there is a similar anti-Pakistan establishment in India that wants to thwart any possibility of peace with Pakistan.

I often hear references to India's "shadowy security establishment" and "agencies" by Indian columnists like Siddarth Varadarajan in The Hindu newspaper, and politicians like Mehbooba Mufti after a recent Srinagar hotel attack.

Similar questions about "power establishment" outside the elected leadership in India have also been raised by SM Mushrif in his recent book "Who Killed Karkare?"

Regardless of the anti-peace establishment in either country or India's incentive to return to talks with Pakistan, let us hope that these talks prove to be more than a tactical move. Let us hope that this dialog helps conclude the agreement on Kashmir that reportedly was very close when the secret three-year talks broke off. Removing Kashmir as an obstacle to peace in South Asia could open up a new era of stability and prosperity for all of the people of the region.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Facts and Myths About Afghanistan and Pakistan

A conversation with South Asia Scholars

Case For Resuming India-Pakistan Dialog

India's Sane Voice Warns Indians

Hindutva Terror to Spark India-Pakistan Conflict?

India Tops in Illiteracy and Defense Expenditures

UNESCO Education For All Report 2010

India's Arms Build-up: Guns Versus Bread

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

World Hunger Index 2009

Challenges of 2010-2020 in South Asia

India and Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Introduction to Defense Economics

Food, Housing and Clothing in India and Pakistan

Who Killed Karkare?

Talk to Pakistan, Stupid!

Secret India-Pakistan Talks


Anonymous said...


America requires some excuse to keep the arm industry work on full swing. So they will stick on to afghanistan as there are enough doubts about the 9/11 attack itself.

Further india and pakistan will never resolve the kashmir issue as giving up the same will result in a big backlash in the country. so the status quo will be there.

In the same fashion, usa would love to be named as not in a winning position to continue its war in afghanistan. It provides direct employment of soliders and indirect employment in the arms industry is required even for a dove like obama.

Probably i could draw a parallel, that kashmir issue will be resolved along with the palestine.

racism articles said...

Well , India is too anxious to play its 10 Steps , everytime , why India is too excited for attacking Pakistan.

Actually its the US policy to trigger Taliban

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting commentary by Soutik Biswas of the BBC:

"You don't have to fall in love to be a good neighbour; in fact romance can have harmful side-effects," says Indian analyst MJ Akbar about India and Pakistan. "But good neighbours do not pelt each other with stones (through media) or test nerves with sniper fire during their waking hours."

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. India and Pakistan are not two ordinary sparring neighbours - they are nuclear-armed estranged siblings with a history of three wars, brinkmanship and endless sniping.

Also, South Asia's defining conflict is rooted in religious differences and struggle for control over the disputed region of Kashmir. It is also an example, as Stephen Cohen says, of a "psychological paired-minority conflict" where key groups on both sides - even a majority - feel that they are the threatened, weaker party, under attack from the other side. The dispute is as knotty and intractable as that between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours. It is also energised by plenty of hate and distrust, some of it rather petty.

So a militant strike on Indian soil originating from Pakistan like the 2008 Mumbai attacks makes it difficult for any Indian government to hold back from spewing fire and brimstone on its neighbour and continue negotiations. And stones have to be pelted at each other through the media to satisfy tired domestic constituencies in both countries. It is all cheap triumphalism, and does little to mend fences.

Still the decision of the two countries to resume talks - the peace process has been in the cold storage since the Mumbai attacks - on 25 February is to be welcomed. Both sides know it is not going to be easy. Expectations are low. There are severe misgivings. India is not happy with the progress that Pakistan has made on cracking down on militants who plot and launch attacks on India. Pakistan believes it is doing all it can in its fight against the tyranny of terror on its own soil.

In fact, it appears that India took Pakistan by surprise when it offered talks earlier this month - the influential Pakistani newspaper Dawn found the offer surprising since India had indicated a willingness to move beyond the "one-point agenda it has clung to since the Mumbai attacks i.e. that Pakistan must shut down the terror infrastructure on its soil that allegedly poses a direct threat to India." Few will disagree with what the newspaper said next: "Looked at from any angle, the problems between India and Pakistan are simply too serious for them to avoid talking to each other."

Analysts often pontificate on how the peace constituencies - people wanting peace - in both countries have grown over the years. After all, a lot of people on both sides share the same language, food, music, cinema, and literature. But such heady exchanges - a virtual cross-border cultural love-fest sponsored by two newspapers was in progress in Delhi when India offered talks - are no substitute for serious, official interaction. Romanticising the shared cultural and personal ties, many believe, will not help in solving the real problems. They also cut no ice with the vast majority of Indians and Pakistanis.

Everybody knows that there is obduracy and denial on both sides in taking on the real issues. Everybody knows that there is a deficit of bold and innovative leadership. And as far as the so-called peace constituencies go, all it needs is another Mumbai type attack to return to the odious rhetoric of hate and risky hostilities. Already, naysayers in India have been pointing to the bomb attack at a bakery in Pune over the weekend as a good reason to call off the talks.

But talk the two countries must for their own good.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a recent Op Ed by Indian career diplomat M K Bhadrakumar on India's worries in Afghanistan:

...The big question is whether Delhi is pragmatic enough to accept that new thinking has become necessary. First and foremost, it does not help if India ignores the nascent processes of Afghan national reconciliation. Delhi on its own is incapable of calibrating the Afghan reconciliation process and the Indian and US approaches diverge. Enduring peace can only come out of an inclusive political settlement in Kabul.

Delhi lost much time quibbling over the "good" and "bad" Taliban while the international community and regional players moved on. There was initially some uneasiness that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai was seeking reconciliation with the insurgent groups.

But more worrisome for Delhi is the fact Karzai has begun seeking help from Pakistan. The fault lies entirely with the Indians in having failed to support him in recent months. Delhi backed losing candidate Abdullah Abdullah in last year's presidential elections on the facile assumption that Washington wished to see him in power. That was a disastrous error of judgment.

Karzai is expected to unfold a road map on reconciliation within the next six weeks. He hopes to hold a loya jirgha (grand council) on April 29 with a view, as he put it, to "get guidance from the Afghan people on how to move forward towards reintegration and reconciliation [with the Taliban]". And in his estimation, if there is greater participation by insurgent elements in parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in August, then further coalition-building becomes possible.

Delhi can anticipate that in all this, Karzai hopes for cooperation from Pakistan and as a quid pro quo he can be expected to factor in Pakistan's interests. The day after Menon concluded his visit, Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiani met Karzai in Kabul to discuss "matters of mutual interest". Karzai followed it up with a two-day visit to Islamabad that started on Wednesday.

Pakistan's assertiveness is bothering Indian strategists but Delhi seems to have overlooked that many factors work in Islamabad's favor. The Afghan elites in Kabul have close social and family kinships with Peshawar. The Afghan economy is dependent on imports from Pakistan. Pakistan has influence over Taliban groups and unlike in the past it has also cultivated the non-Pashtun groups of the erstwhile Northern Alliance. It also shouldn't be forgotten that more than 80% of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supplies for the war in Afghanistan pass through Pakistan.

And most of all, Delhi underestimated that Pakistan is the US's key non-NATO ally in the war and that implicit in this is Pakistan's expectation to be recognized by Washington as a regional power. In fact, the US has been harping on a fundamental theme: Pakistan has a choice to make, namely, whether it wants to have a comprehensive partnership with the US and NATO; and if so, that it must cooperate with Washington's strategies in the region.

The prevailing view in India is that the Pakistani military continues to play it both ways. But they may be in for disillusionment as there strong likelihood is that Pakistani army chief Kiani may have begun to explore the potential of the US offer.

Pakistan estimates that it is closer than at any time before to gaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan - and this time, Washington may acquiesce....