Sunday, July 18, 2010

Indo-Pak talks

1. The behind-the-scenes story.
2. The historical perspective.

From the Times of India:

Agra again: Qureshi kills peace talks

Put On Backfoot On 26/11, Pak Goes Ballistic

Rajeev Deshpande | TNN

New Delhi: A day after an extraordinary slanging match in Islamabad, the India-Pakistan peace process was in shreds, having suffered a huge setback with Islamabad virtually reneging on a painstakingly drawn-up engagement sequence aimed at normalising ties.
    The finger-pointing between the two sides continued on Friday, keeping ties on the boil as Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi carried on with the belligerence he displayed at Thursday’s press conference which he addressed with his Indian counterpart S M Krishna in Islamabad.  
    Picking up from where he left off, Qureshi lashed out at India for being “selective’’ and “not fully prepared’’ and reversing gears at the last minute. He even got personal with Krishna, alleging that the minister lacked the mandate and was being tutored on phone all through the negotiations.  
    Shockingly, the assault at a briefing Qureshi held for the Pakistani media in Islamabad came even before Krishna had left for New Delhi. The serious violation of etiquette drew a strong riposte from Krishna just after he reached Delhi. He quickly refuted the charge that he was unprepared for talks, asserting that the mandate given to him was clear and specific.

    More than the bad diplomatic behaviour, what preceded it was a serious blow to the peace process. Qureshi turned bellicose after Pakistan’s failed attempt to force India to discuss Kashmir even when it doggedly refused to meet the precondition: Strong and clear action
against all perpetrators of 26/11.

    Sources said the peace process is not going to be jettisoned because India does not have the “luxury of not talking to its neighbour’’. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said on TV that India wanted to continue the dialogue.

    The stated intent apart, the fate of the talks was in doubt in face
of Pakistan’s attempt to re-order their sequence. The Congress leadership chose the “action-on-26/11 first’’ approach because it is loathe to be seen as having forgotten the Mumbai attacks.
Times View

    The Times of India has actively championed the cause of peace between neighbours India and Pakistan, and continues to do so because it believes peace is in the interest of the two peoples. However, the path to peace cannot be strewn with bad faith and blatant misconduct—both of which Pakistan foreign minister Qureshi has displayed in ample measure. Minister Qureshi spurned India’s hand of friendship at the joint media briefing on Thursday when he equated terror merchant Hafeez Saeed with India’s home secretary G K Pillai. He did even worse on Friday when he called a press conference, at a time when his guest S M Krishna was still in Pakistan, only to ridicule the Indian minister by claiming that Krishna was not empowered to take
decisions, and was constantly on the phone with Delhi. This is simply not a peace-makers’s conduct. It is that of a schoolboy bully. Let alone furthering the cause of peace, Qureshi has only raised India’s hackles. And since neither President Zardari nor PM Gilani has rebuked Qureshi so far for his misbehaviour, it appears the foreign minister has not been out of line with the establishment’s thinking. In that case, India can wait until Islamabad gets more sincere about peace. Meanwhile, let the message sink in—there can’t be progress in the peace process unless Pakistan shows greater sensitivity towards India’s hurt and anger at the fact that 26/11 masterminds are not just roaming free in Pakistan, but are preaching murderous hate against India. There can’t be any closure on 26/11 until there is justice.

The Indian side was not mentally prepared for a dialogue. Pakistan wanted to be decisive and conclusive, India had a last-minute hitch.
The Indian delegation had no mandate to negotiate, the minister received phone calls continuously.

Indians were being selective, they had no flexibility in their negotiations.
If we focus on only one issue (terrorism) it will be difficult to move forward
S M Qureshi

We were fully prepared. My mandate was very clear. We discussed all core and burning issues
I did not call anyone. It is not unusual to consult the political leadership. But I was cut off from India
I don’t want to get into debating
points with him. I think we made some headway
Without progress on terrorism, all else is futile. Timelines are neither feasible nor plausible

S M Krishna