Pakistan-India Dialogue: Aziz Ahmad Khan Addresses PIIA Members

India urged to begin dialogue, adopt comprehensive approach

GetFileAttachmentKARACHI, coverage by Peerzada Salman, Dawn 10 October: There’s a need for India to resume the dialogue process with Pakistan adopting a comprehensive approach. Militancy in Indian held Kashmir cannot be resolved if the Kashmir issue is not resolved. It won’t be surprising if organisations such as self-styled IS find their way into certain sections of Kashmir. These were some of the points made by Aziz Ahmad Khan, former high commissioner of Pakistan to India, while speaking at the acclaimed Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on the current state of relations between India and Pakistan at the PIIA office on Saturday. Mr Khan conceded at the beginning of his talk that he was attempting it with a bit of trepidation because it was a subject that everybody knew quite extensively about. So, he said, he would begin by speaking on what India was today compared to a few years back. He said the current prime minister of the country, Narendra Modi, won a clear majority in the general elections, before which there was a hung parliament and people were fed up with it.

Moreover, he said Modi had the image of a go-getter and his economic development agenda caught the electorate’s imagination. When he was the chief minister of Gujarat, there was economic growth in the province.The corporate sector was with him as was the media, which was controlled by the corporations. All these factors helped him win the elections beyond expectation, he said. Since governing a state was different from governing a country, now the sheen was coming off as his economic agenda had not delivered.

Still, the ambassador said, he would give Modi good marks for doing certain things, such as travelling and meeting the right people and continuing with that economic agenda. Mr Khan also said there was a need for India to restart the dialogue process with Pakistan with a comprehensive approach. Militancy in India-held Kashmir could not be resolved without resolving the Kashmir dispute. According to him, The resentment in the younger generation in Srinagar against India’s behaviour was strong.

When President Pervez Musharraf visited India, he also met Hurriyat leaders

After giving an account of what India now looked like, Mr Khan said we needed to understand the nature of the present government. He said the BJP, even when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was at the helm, was totally under the influence of the RSS. Modi didn’t shy away from his RSS linkages either; he recently visited Nagpur to seek the blessings of the RSS high command.

Describing the RSS, he said it relied on the formation of cadres, worked on fascist lines and believed in nationalism and religious idealism. These factors continued to manifest as Modi and his ministers sought the RSS blessings and there were no signs that the influence would diminish. At the moment, he said, there was a spiritual and psychological turmoil in India. Whether the Hindutva agenda was there to dominate, “we need to wait and see”, he said.

Mr Khan said Pakistan was consistent in its desire for resolution of all issues with India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s taking part in Modi’s inauguration was a positive step but India used Hurriyat leaders coming to the Pakistani High Commission as an excuse to show a tough line against Pakistan.

He said meeting the Hurriyat leaders was nothing out of the ordinary as he used to do that when he was posted in New Delhi and no one objected to it. When President Pervez Musharraf visited India, he also met them. Their excuse for the tough line was another manifestation of the RSS influence, he said.

Mr Khan said in 2003 there was a unilateral ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) from the Pakistani side, and India reciprocated. For five or six years the LoC was quiet, but then sporadic firing happened. He said it was of a local nature which had to do with the three state elections (Maharashtra, Haryana, Kashmir) in India. Now, he said, the LoC situation had stabilised to a certain extent but had the potential of escalating into something which could go out of control.

Mr Khan said India played a trick on Pakistan at Ufa and Pakistan made a mistake. India changed the direction of the composite dialogue process saying they would discuss only the issue of terrorism. This led the ambassador to touch upon the eight-prong agenda of the composite dialogue.

The first one was Kashmir, on which, he said, modest progress had been made with backchannel discussions. In that regard he mentioned Khurshid Kasuri’s book in which the former foreign minister had written on the matter. He said the two had agreed to a framework which would be revisited after 10 to 15 years. The other seven components of the eight-point formula were peace and security, Siachen, Sir Creek, trade, people-to-people contact, water issues and terrorism. On the last component, he said that after the Mumbai attacks there was anger in India as he had seen his own friends become incensed.

Mr Khan said there was a need for India to restart the dialogue process with Pakistan with a comprehensive approach. Militancy in India-held Kashmir could not be resolved without resolving the Kashmir dispute. The resentment in the younger generation in Srinagar against India’s behaviour was strong.

Responding to a question after his talk about the RSS’s influence on the Indian army, Mr Khan said he didn’t know about it but the military in any country was nationalistic. On the query about human rights violations in India and why the world wasn’t taking note of it, he said the world was not a moral place, but India would come under criticism.

On the topic of the Hurriyat Conference, he said although it did have a role to play, there were factions within Hurriyat. He said the younger generation in Kashmir would sideline Hurriyat and a more radicalised leadership would appear. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if organisations like IS found their way into certain sections in Kashmir.

Answering another question, he said he did not buy the theory of Akhand Bharat because if that had been the case, it would have talked about integrating Bangladesh as well.

Republished from Dawn, India urged to begin dialogue, adopt comprehensive approach, 11 October 2015

More Coverage from Anil Datta of the News International, Indo-Pak normalisation talks a challenge

Pakistan-India talks on the normalisation of their relations are a challenge and prospects don’t seem to be very bright as India just wants talks on a one-point agenda, namely terrorism, while Pakistan wants a composite dialogue to settle all outstanding issues.

These observations were made by Aziz Ahmed, former Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi, while talking to members of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), the media and the academia at the institute on Saturday evening on the subject, “Current state of Pakistan-India relations”.

“Of course, it is undeniable that terrorism is a big problem and it must not be forgotten that we (Pakistan) are a far bigger victim of terrorism but that certainly does not imply that other issues should be put on the back burner,” Ahmed said. “Today’s India is quite different from the one of a few years ago.” He said that today it was very much like the European fascism of yesteryear with the RSS basking in the pristine glory of the Hindus, cultural superiority and overall greatness. Ahmed said:

Modi goes every year to Nagpur to invoke the blessings of the RSS.

He said that some years ago, especially during the Musharraf regime, bilateral relations had begun to inch towards improvement but then came the Mumbai attacks of 2008 and India accused Pakistan of those. Then came the presence of Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah at the Pakistan High Commission reception which miffed the Indian establishment no end.

Talking of the Siachen issue, the former diplomat said India reneged on the issue of withdrawal from the glacier as agreed upon in 1989. He also accused India of violating a line of demarcation in Sir Creek, and said the demarcation had been made much earlier and actually there was no ambiguity there.

In reply to a question, he said Pakistan should unilaterally relax visa restrictions for the Indians as part of the confidence-building measures.

He advocated liberal trade between the two countries, saying that many Pakistani items, in particular synthetic textiles, were really in high demand there.

He said Modi owed his success in the elections to a number of factors. One of these, he said, was the lacklustre showing of the communist party. Besides, he said, Gujarat had registered phenomenal economic development.

“The corporate sector also helped Modi a great deal,” he said. Besides, he said, “If Modi puts 100 billion dollars on the table and says that he wants arms purchase, it is certainly going to evince the interest of the US.”

India and China had both registered very high economic growth enticing the West to trade with them, Ahmed said.

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Filed under BJP, Disarmament, Discussion, Events, India, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA

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