The realisation is gradually dawning in Pakistan that it has gained nothing from half a century of conflict with India, and that while India has made rapid economic strides, Pakistan has become a basket-case economy that has to be bailed out by periodic doses of generous aid from the World Bank and other international institutions, courtesy the US. However, whether this belief is shared by Pakistan's corps commanders, the corporate czars ruling the country, is not yet clear. On the military front, the progress has been slow but steady between India and Pakistan.
Fifty years of bitterness and strife were reflected in the cold embrace between India’s Foreign Minister K Natwar Singh and Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, his dapper Pakistani counterpart, in early September to round-up several months of hard negotiations under the composite dialogue process. If there was an air of disappointment at the end, it was because public expectations had been pitched too high. But there is a sense of relief in the South Block beltway that the talks did not break down and that some progress was made.
Pakistan appears to have grudgingly come around to the view that while it may be politically expedient to continue to describe Kashmir as the core issue, political rhetoric should not be allowed to hold the rest of the peace process hostage. The realisation is gradually dawning in Pakistan that it has gained nothing from half a century of conflict with India, and that while India has made rapid economic strides, Pakistan has become a basket-case economy that has to be bailed out by periodic doses of generous aid from the World Bank and other international institutions, courtesy the US.
However, whether this belief is shared by Pakistan’s corps commanders, the corporate czars ruling the country, is not yet clear. They may be following a wait-and-watch policy, letting peace have its turn while they consolidate their resources to fight the new al-Qaida menace on their western border and the countrywide scourge of a new wave of terrorism. Pakistan’s military rulers realise that they cannot tight successfully on two fronts at the same time.
On the military front, the progress has been slow but steady between India and Pakistan. The nuclear Confidence Building Measures agreed between the two foreign secretaries in July are to be formalised in an agreement. Both nations have decided to continue with the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) that came into being on November 25, 2003. However, since trans-LoC infiltration has again escalated and foreign mercenaries continue to be involved in incidents of terrorism in Kashmir, the ceasefire might not hold for another year.
The fact is that while the Indian Army has gone along with the government’s decision on the ceasefire, it is not entirely happy with it. The army and other security forces in Kashmir continue to take the brunt of foreign terrorists fighting Pakistan’s proxy war even as Pakistani soldiers remain safe in their bunkers. The only place where the Indian Army manages to hurt them is on the LoC, where the army has superior surveillance resources and firepower. It is clear that unless there is a marked decrease in both trans-LoC infiltration and violence in Kashmir, the ceasefire is likely to collapse.
The absence of an intergovernmental agreement to move ahead on the demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier is not surprising: Pakistan finds it difficult to concur with the Indian position that the present deployment along the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) should be first demarcated jointly on ground and map before further negotiations can take place. India has had the experience during the Kargil conflict of Sartaj Aziz, then Pakistani foreign minister, denying that the LoC was clearly demarcated; India is unwilling to fall into that trap again.
The LoC had been jointly agreed upon following the Shimla Agreement in 1972 after ground surveys. It would be naive to enter into any sort of negotiations on Siachen without first unambiguously delineating the AGPL. All said and done, the frozen turbulence on Siachen’s icy heights is likely to continue until other measures succeed in building trust and confidence between the two countries.
The arrangement reached to draw up a memorandum of understanding for cooperation between the Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency, and to enhance cooperation between India’s Border Security Force and the Pakistani Rangers, reflects the bicameral realisation that the overall security environment will be enriched by taking such small steps as are necessary for day-to-day functioning.
Perhaps the greatest gain of the composite dialogue process so far has been the realisation in both India and Pakistan that given political will, they can resolve their seemingly intractable problems through a step-by-step process that seeks incremental gains rather than quick-fix solutions that seem foredoomed to failure.