Hollowness of Zardari-Singh Meeting

By Sajjad Shaukat

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari who visited India on April 8 this year primarily to pay homage to Saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. After the meeting, signaling positive outcome, President Zardari and Prime Minister Singh said in a joint press conference that the two countries are willing to find “practical, pragmatic” solutions to a “number of issues” affecting the bilateral relationship. During the meeting, Singh accepted Zardari’s invitation to meet again in Pakistan.

On the same day, Indian Foreign Secretary Rajan Mathai, addressing the media pointed out that during the meeting, Indian Prime Minister Singh raised the issue of Hafiz Saeed, while President Zardari raised the issues of Siachen, Sir Creek and Kashmir, but their meeting was ‘constructive.’ In fact, in the backdrop of a $10 million bounty, offered by the US for information leading to Jamaatud Dawa Chief Hafiz Saeed for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts including the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna recently remarked that India has provided adequate proof linking Hafiz Saeed to the Mumbai carnage. On the other side, Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit revealed on April 7 this year that India had not given “any solid and significant evidence” against Saeed, and “action can only be taken on the basis of solid evidence.” Prime Minister Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also expressed similar thoughts.

Although both Zardari and Singh talked without any structural agenda, yet they discussed all the related issues. Indian media pointed out that this meeting which was readily suggested by the Indian prime minister will open up the possibility for strengthening Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to resolve Pak-Indian disputes.

However, like the past such meetings, present one has created only wishful thinking among the people of the two countries as New Delhi is employing shrewd diplomacy of emphasising more on CBMs than to pay attention for the settlement of real issues, especially thorny dispute of Kashmir. As regards the CBMs, Pakistan has taken a number of positive steps so that India shows paramatism to reslove the actual disputes between the two countires. In the recent past, Pakistan granted the Most Favoured Nation status to India—a move which boosted trade across the border and would mostly benefit India. In this regard, Pakistan’s high officials signed trade agreemens with their Indian counterparts. This is what New Delhi wants as it does not come towards the real issues.

Notably, on November 10 last year, Prime Minister Gilani and Prime Minister Singh met on the sidelines of the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Maldives. Singh called, Gilani ‘a man of peace’ pointing out, “The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of our countries.” Unlike, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani, his counterpart, Singh issued more optimistic statements in a joint press conference, remarking that talks took place in very friendly atmosphere. In this regard, they agreed to further expand their interaction at all levels to improve their bilateral relations especially in trade, more cooperation to fight terrorism for promoting peace, security etc. Both the rulers stated that all the issues like Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen, Wullar Barrage, CBMs, water etc. were discussed. Quite contrarily, two days after that meeting, Manmohan Singh stated, “I left Gilani in no doubt that if public opinion in India is not satisfied that justice is being done to those responsible to the barbarous attack of Mumbai, it would not be possible to move forward with the peace process…those who perpetrated the attack must be brought to justice.” He further revealed, “I told him (Gilani) that terror as an instrument of state policy has no takers in the world.”

In Maldives, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said about Pakistan’s position that Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the 26/11 terror-incident is a “non-state actor…should be hanged, so should perpetrators of the Samjhauta Express blast.” He also said that Pakistan Government was awaiting a visit of the Judicial Commission to India and to get some evidence that will help in prosecuting the accused of the 26/11 in his country, if we have “credible evidence.” Nevertheless, recently the Judicial Commission visited India, but it could not succeed in collecting evidence due to non-cooperation of the Indian concerned officials.

It is mentionable that on July 27 last year, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Indian counterpart SM Krishna met in New Delhi. They had also discussed all the related-issues—the dispute of Kashmir and progress in the Mumbai attacks trial. Krishna, while expressing satisfaction at the outcome of talks indicated that New Delhi and Islamabad would continue discussions to find a peaceful solution to various disputes.

India and Pakistan had resumed the new phase of talks through their home secretaries who had met on March 28 and 29, 2009. These were the first structured bilateral talks which led to Pak-Indian comprehensive dialogue at higher level. But every time, prime ministers and foreign ministers of Pakistan and India have ended their meetings with issuance of positive notes, and vowed that the same would pave the way for serious and sustainable dialogue in relation to the settlement of real issues, but the same failed without producing real results owing to Indian hidden diplomacy. In this context, Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had rightly stated that India “was not mentally ready for talks, as it wanted to discuss only selective issues.”

In fact, New Delhi has been playing a double game with Islamabad. In this respect, on the one hand, India has been emphasising that it wants to promote friendship with Pakistan by continuing the new phase of peace process, while on the other; it leaves no stone unturned in intensifying anti-Pakistan activities and a deliberate propaganda campaign against Islamabad. For instance, while acting upon the misperceptions of some US high officials, on May 25, 2011, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony had stated that India is concerned about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal after a group of terrorists laid siege to a heavily-guarded naval air base in Karachi.

Moreover, the fundamentalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including other similar extremist groups has always put pressure on Prime Minister Singh by opposing the revival of Pak-Indian dialogue. In August, 2010, BJP had questioned Singh’s statement on autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, remarking: “autonomy for the state would not be tolerated.” The BJP pressure could also be noted from Manmohan Singh’s statement, who had said on June 28, 2011 that Pakistan should “leave Kashmir alone.” His statement came after Pak-Indian secretary level talks concluded on June 24, last year. Besides, BJP has stated that the Congress government re-initiated the present Pak-Indian dialogue under the US duress. Singh had come under the pressure of BJP as his negative statement after meeting Gilani in Maldives displayed.

Again, BJP Chief Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, while already criticising the Zaradari-Singh meeting, said on April 4 that Prime Minister Singh must categorically convey to Pakistani President Zardari that “no normal dialogue is possible between the two countries till Pakistan stops sponsoring terrorism against India.” However, these accusations shows helplessness of Singh who also sometimes speak in their tone in maligning Islamabad.

Indian obduracy regarding Pak-Indian parleys is not without some sinister designs. In this context, US which signed a nuclear deal with New Delhi in 2008, intends to make India a great power of Asia to counterbalance China. For this purpose, India has been purchasing latest arms and aircraft from America. India which considers Islamabad an obstacle in its way is destabilsing Pakistan through multiple subversive acts arranged by Indian secret agency RAW with the assistance of American CIA and Israeli Mossad.

Meanwhile, New Delhi availed various crises so as to suspend the process of negotiations. For instance, in 2008, India suspended the process of ‘composite dialogue’ under the pretext of Mumbai terror attacks which were in fact, arranged by RAW in connivance with Indian home-grown terrorists. Again, in 2002, under the pretension of terrorist attack on the Indian parliament, India postponed the process of dialogue.

In view of Indian pretexts and delaying tactics, especially about the solution of Kashmir including their anti-Pakistan designs, Indian diplomats have always tried to make the longstanding disputes difficult, intricate and complex, challenging Pakistani stand, therefore, Pak-Indian real issues have remained still unsettled. India is only fulfilling the formality through the new phase of talks as Indian rulers also want to show to the US-led western countries that they are willing to settle all the outstanding disputes with Pakistan. Particularly, India is determined to keep its illegitimate control on Kashmir which is considered by it as integrated part of the Indian union. In these terms, Zardari-Singh meeting is just a show of hollowness.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com


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