Wednesday, December 9, 2015

[Editorial # 9] Securing the pace of India-Pakistan Talks

Securing the pace of India-Pakistan Talks

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s touchdown in Islamabad marks a decisive moment in the Narendra Modi government’s Pakistan policy. While she is in Islamabad ostensibly for a conference on Pakistan, it is clear from the flurry of meetings that bilateral engagement is back on track. After 18 months of starts and stops, New Delhi has taken a considered position to re-engage with its most difficult relationship in the neighbourhood, a decision that must be lauded. It is also clear that some lessons have been learnt from the past. 

First, the meetings have been held without hype or announcement, with expectations being kept low. Second, after the Paris meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as the Bangkok meeting between the National Security Advisors and Foreign Secretaries of both countries, the joint messaging in Islamabad and Delhi has been kept unified and simple. Finally, both sides have managed well the opposition within their own flanks over the reasons for the re-engagement; very few discordant voices have been heard from the military establishment in Rawalpindi or the BJP’s headquarters and the party’s Sangh Parivar allies, the kind that marked previous engagements. 

It is to be hoped that all talks from this point onwards will follow the same path, building from one meeting to the next, until they produce concrete results. A start would be the announcement of a structured set of meetings to be held on a regular basis between officials at different levels that will protect the process from disruptions. Next, it is important that the confidence-building measures already agreed to, on trade and visa liberalisation, are implemented at the earliest.

Finally, the way forward on Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism, the two lasting issues between India and Pakistan, must be charted out. This is by no means the first government to attempt to do all of this. Others, including some with more experience, tried and failed.

The Modi government would therefore be well-advised to strike a different path and be more forthcoming, in public, on just why they are meeting and what they hope to achieve. Despite his famous speech on “breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul”, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn’t articulate just where his talks with the Pakistan government on Kashmir had led, until it was too late to shape public opinion about them. 

Mr. Modi must explain his vision for peace with Pakistan and what has spurred this new round of negotiations, especially since none of the conditions for talks that he and his Cabinet Ministers had spoken of over the past few months has been met. In Pakistan, the way forward should be even clearer: end support to all terror groups, especially those who seek violence against India. While it is hardly possible to put behind the decades of bad blood between the two countries any time soon, it is possible to pause, and to envisage a new chapter in relations.


1. What are the disputes between India and Pakistan?
2. Why is it important to have good relations with neighbouring countries?
3. What is the history behind the troubled relations between India and Pakistan?
4. What are the major events which had contributed towards deterioration of ties between India and Pakistan?
5. What is Kashmir issue? What are the stands of India and Pakistan over this issue?
6. Is there any area where both the countries have displayed maturity and have kept it unaffected by bilateral differences?
7. What type of political establishment does Pakistan have? How is it different from India?
8. What all terrorist organisations are operating from Pakistani soil? 
9. What is LOC?
10. What is the impact of the disputes on the population on both sides of LOC?
11. Who is the current National Security Advisor of India? What is his role?


  1. 1.) The key disputes between India and Pakistan are a.) The dispute over possession of Jammu & Kashmir. India asserts that the entirety of Jammu & Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is an integral part of the Indian Union, basing this assertion on the validity of the Instrument of Accession, signed by Raja Hari Singh, the legitimate ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, sees this claim as invalid on account of the fact that the territory of Jammu & Kashmir is Muslim-dominated in terms of population, and that the partition of India was on the basis religion.

    b.) The issue of terrorism and asymmetrical warfare.

    The radicalisation of elements in the NWFP (Northwest Frontier Province) of Pakistan dates to CIA-sponsored training and radicalisation of individuals to fight as part of the Mujahideen on the side of the Afghans in the Soviet-Afghan war. This was part of the greater cycle of proxy wars between the US and USSR that include the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Bay of Pigs Invasion among other conflicts. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mujahideen fighters found themselves without a holy war to fight. The violence was quickly directed inwards, resulting in the overthrow of Afghanistan's civilian government and the installation of the theocratic Taliban regime. Pakistan's armed forces, apart from its nuclear capabilities, are grossly outmatched by India's. Pakistan has lost every war it has fought with India, from 1948, to 1965 and 1971, to the Kargil War in the latter half of the 90s. military confrontation not a viable option for resolving the Kashmir issue. Moreover, foreign observers appear indifferent to Pakistan's call for foreign mediation, with the American State Department spokesperson asserting that it is an issue "for the two parties to work out." As such, the only viable option available for Pakistan, other than dialogue with India, is to engage in asymmetric warfare using the stable of radical Islamists trained in the NWFP since the Cold War. The advantage of exploiting terrorists to forward its Kashmir agenda is that Pakistan enjoys a degree of deniability. The fallout for India, however, is in horrific incidents like the 26/11 attacks, and added instability in Jammu and Kashmir.

  2. 9. The term Line of Control (LoC) refers to the military control line between the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of the former princely state of Kashmir and Jammu—a line which, to present day does not constitute a legally recognized international boundary but is de facto border.