Knots before the talks: India-Pakistan

Indian foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani on July 4 under the shadow of rapid developments of the past week, which saw release of Indian prisoner Surjeet Singh, Pakistani flip-flop over Sarabjit Singh’s release and the capture and shocking statements by 26/11 mastermind Abu Jundal.

The talks quite naturally would be affected by the impact of all these events. Sometimes best-laid plans can go awry and when it comes to India-Pakistan matters, for sure, they always ricochet.

Ousted: Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani in his stint as acting high commissioner in 2003 was expelled by India after being accused of funneling funds to Kashmiri separatists

If releasing Surjeet Singh ahead of the peace talks was supposed to indicate a confidence building measure by the Pakistani side, then it misfired because along came the ubiquitous invite to the Hurriyat leaders to meet with the delegation ahead of the talks with the Indian side. No out of the box thinking here. The Pakistani side is playing to the script as dictated by the army, which has not wavered from its agenda, that supporting separatism in Kashmir is still topmost.

That the Hurriyat is all but discredited in Kashmir and seen as a squabbling bunch of have beens, seems to have escaped the notice of the Pakistani establishment. The Mirwaiz who will sup with the Pakistani leadership this week and moan about ‘Indian occupation’ is the one who is talking about a need for a “different approach” in the valley. His words: “we have to completely rid our politics of violence, that does not work, it hurts our own people. We cannot be rash about hartals and boycotts that too hurt our people, especially the young and the aspiring. Kashmiris have to stand up for themselves and do things for themselves rather than complain all the time, we in the Hurriyat have to change ourselves.” Abdul Gani Bhat, Nayeem Ahmad Khan and Mohammad Azam Inquillabi are on a collision course with the others. Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani is struggling to keep himself relevant by issuing one shut down call after the other. The public blackened Shabbir Shah’s face when he tried to stage a protest at the fire incident that led to the gutting of the 200-year-old Dastgeer Sahib shrine near Srinagar last week.

It is indeed strange that if the Pakistan side wants to meet with Kashmiris, they would choose to meet with the Hurriyat rather than with the PDP or NC or Congress or BJP or other non government social workers who are in Kashmir in the field of education, environment, heath, sanitation, disaster management, agriculture etc.

An invitation to Kashmiri separatists by the new foreign secretary of Pakistan is probably also an act of sweet revenge on India. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani in his stint here as acting high commissioner in 2003 was expelled by India after being accused of funneling funds to Kashmiri separatists. Pakistan then retaliated and expelled Indian charge d’ affairs Sunil Vyas. On the day of the expulsion, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had said in a conference on internal security, “For us, the most disconcerting aspect of terrorism is that it is sponsored, supported and funded by Pakistan as a matter of state policy.”

That was in 2003. Cut to 2012. One of the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks Abu Jundal is captured and deported to India and in his confession he describes the master control room in Karachi where Hafiz Saeed and serving officers of the Pakistani establishment were present during the attacks. Home Minister Chidambaram at a press conference said, “We think such a control room could not have been established without some kind of state support.”

Jundal’s statements will take reams of paper, which will be diligently handed over, in the coming months, to the Pakistani side in dossiers, which will be duly examined and dismissed as imaginations of a fertile mind. Who expects Pakistan to accept that it was aware of a master control room in Karachi when it is not willing to accept that Osama bin Laden was housed in Abbotabad barely a few miles from it’s capital city? It is this make believe world in which Pakistan is living today and as long as it lives this way, we should not expect anything substantial out of next week’s foreign secretary level talks.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter@smitaprakash

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