Islamabad Conference

By M.K. Teng

August 2010

The sudden outburst of anger with which the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Syed Mohamood Qureshi, reacted to what happened in the Foreign Ministers’ Conference in Islamabad, needs to be considered more seriously. The acrimony which pervaded the conference has brought to surface, very wide differences in the perspectives of Government, of India and Pakistan, in respect of South Asia as a regional complex of inter-state relationships and the future Asian balance of power, which is taking shape with the emergence of China as a major Asian military power. The two countries also differ in their strategic outlook and seek to achieve diametrically diverse objectives from the dialogue they have so eagerly continued for many more decade now.

Pakistan has been insisting upon the structurisation of the composite dialogue between the two countries in a way that ensures the priority of the issues which it considers vital to its interests, within a time-frame, it believes, Pakistan has a right to lay down. Obviously the Foreign Minister of Pakistan felt uneasy, when S.M. Krishna stressed upon the need to tackle the problem of terrorism on a basis of priority. Perhaps Qureshi did not expect Krishna to do that. And he had good reason to do so. Infact, India never took a firm stand on terrorism, which the Jehadi war groups in Pakistan waged the Jammu and Kashmir and in the other parts of the country. India always resorted to invoke good neighbourly relations with Pakistan and sought the cooperation of that country to put a curb on the terrorist regimes operating from its soil.

The Indian Foreign Minister did not invite the jibe from his counter-part the Foreign Minister of Pakistan on account of the statement the India Home Secretary had made. For Qureshi, the comment made by the Home Secretary was not so uncommon a statement and was a repetition of what the Indian officials of various stations had been telling Pakistan, right from the time the terrorist violence struck Mumbai. Qureshi felt angry, because everyone in Pakistan was angry on the insistence of India on the urgency to deal with cross-border terrorism. The government and the people of Pakistan never budged from their stand that the settlement on Jammu and Kashmir could not be subjected to the fulfilment of their commitments to fight terrorism. Everyone in Pakistan told the Indians in unmistakable terms that a settlement on Jammu and Kashmir, which was acceptable to them and the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, was a precedent condition for the successful conclusion of the war on terrorism they were waging in Afghanistan and their own country alongside their allies.

One fundamental aspect of the cross-border terrorism, the Jehadi war groups have been incessantly carrying on in India, has received much less attention in this country. The terrorist violence Pakistan has been exporting out of its borders, right from the time it joined the Muslim resistance against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan to the time it commenced the militarisation of the Muslim separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, as well as the war of subversion the intelligence agencies of that country has been waging in the other parts of India, during the last two decades, is an organised military campaign committed to the Islamic Jehad. In Afganistan, the Jehad was ideologically committed to the liberation of the Muslims in Afghanistan from the Soviet army of occupation. In Jammu and Kashmir and the other parts of India, the Jehad is ideologically committed to the freedom of the Muslims in a Hindu dominicated India, where they are sub-servient to the law and order of a society, which is not based upon the theological imperatives of Islam.

Jehad is not a political struggle. It is a more profound and subtle prescription for social change than a political struggle is. It is an ideological commitment of the whole Muslim Umah to a social and political order, which is based upon the law and precept of Islam.

The Jehad in Jammu and Kashmir, the leadership and the people in Pakistan including the so-called civil society  believe, cannot be subjected to the process of a dialogue between India and Pakistan, which is aimed at the settlement of the issues between the two countries. For any Islamic state, including Pakistan, Jehad transcends all limitations on national power imposed internally or externally.

For the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mohammad Qureshi, the priority therefore was not the end of the cross-border terrorism the Indian Foreign Minister sought to take up for consideration. The priority was the discussion on Kashmir, where the Muslim separatist mobs were actively engaged in an anti-India agitation. Qureshi sought to send the Muslim separatist mobs a message. He did that effectively. The Muslims in Kashmir quickly erupted, into a widespread ding dong battle with the Indian security forces and left about thirty five protestors dead. S.M. Krishna, who bore the insult hurled on him by Qureshi with a stoic indifference, rued the indiscretion of the Indian Home Secretary unmindful of what his counterpart had accomplished.

The intolerance of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, to the Indian way of carrying on the dialogue, manifest in his anger, reflected his eagerness to pin down India on Jammu and Kashmir. For Pakistan, the composite dialogue with India is aimed to achieve one political objective : secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India and its eventual inclusion in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Once India is pinned down to a discussion on Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan will repeat its star performance to coax India to handover Jammu and Kashmir to that country on account of the Muslim majority composition of its population, or more conveniently, handover to that country the Muslim majority regions of the state situated to the west of the river Chenab. Infact, all the proposals which Pakistan has agreed to discuss as a basis for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute so far, have revolved round the secession of the Muslim majority region of the state, situated west of the river Chenab from India, while Pakistan retained its hold on the occupied territories of Pak occupied Kashmir, the Northern Areas, now renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan along with the tribal Dardic dependencies of the state, which were annexed by Pakistan to its territories in 1947.

The much-hyped Manmohan Singh-Musharraf plan too underlined the same proposals of delinking of the Muslim majority regions of the state from India, under the cover of self-rule, demilitarisation and joint control. Musharraf knew what he had accomplished. Manmohan Singh unaware of what he was asked to give away, groped in the dark.

Manmohan Singh walked the proverbial “extra-mile”, but Musharraf was cast aboard by the so-called civil society in Pakistan which was backed by the Muslim fundamentalist flanks in that country as well as its army command. Neither the Jehadi war groups nor the armed forces in Pakistan approved of the Manmohan Singh Musharraf plan. This plan did not receive the approval of Jehadi war-groups operating inside Jammu and Kashmir as well.

The present Government of Pakistan has no need for the Musharraf proposals. Qureshi’s demand for a “time-bound” and “result oriented” dialogue” between the two countries, reveals the real intentions of the Government of Pakistan to carry the dialogue process further. Pakistan seeks to confront India with the apparently simplicitic demand of a settlement on Jammu and Kashmir, which is acceptable to the Muslims in there. Further Pakistan wants India to take the initiative to re-shape the composite dialogue and put up the Kashmir issue on the top of its agenda.

That is the message, Qureshi actually sent to India, when he told the the Indian Foreign Minister that Pakistan wanted the talks between the two countries to be meaningful and effective. In carefully chosen words the Foreign Minister of Pakistan told S.M. Krishna to convey to his government in Delhi that, (a) Pakistan considered the dispute between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir central to the composite dialogue; (b) Pakistan would not agree to subordinate the Kashmir dispute to the Indian complaint on terrorism or any other extraneous issue, including Siachin and Sir Creek; (c) Pakistan would accept a settlement on the Kashmir dispute which is approved by the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir; and (d) Pakistan would want the dialogue to be time bound, to ensure that it is result oriented.

Qureshi left no one in India in doubt that in case India refused to shape the dialogue process the way Pakistan wanted to, the blame for obstructing purposeful talks, would fall upon India. Qureshi did not tell the Indian people that Pakistan would use the refusal of India to negotiate a settlement on Kashmir, to legitimise the Jehad against India. The Indian office missed to pick up the signal. The ongoing strife and violence in the State cannot be delinked from the acrimony in which the Islamabad conference ended.

*(The author heads Panun Kashmir advisory)