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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 39 New Delhi September 17, 2016

Anatomy of India-Pakistan Peace Process

Sunday 18 September 2016


by Mehrag-Ud-Din Bhat

India-Pakistan Composite Dialogue Process: Issues and Concerns by Sajad Padder; Kalpaz Publications, New Delhi; 2015; pages: 178, Price: Rs 540.

India was partitioned into two independent and sovereign countries—India and Pakistan—in 1947. After partition several issues remained unsolved between India and Pakistan. Issues like Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, and Tulbul Navigation etc. became so contentious that both countries fought several wars with each other. Unresolved issues not only resulted in war between these two countries but created several other issues like terrorism, drug trafficking which further escalated the tension between these two countries. To de-escalate the tension between these two countries steps like initiating dialogue, starting the peace process and confidence building measures were taken from time to time by the leaders, non-governmental organisations, diplomats of these two countries. This book under review dwells on the history of the peace process since its inception in 1997 and analyses the achievements made on eight issues, namely, Peace and Security CBMs; Jammu and Kashmir; Siachen; Sir Creek; Tulbul Navigation Project; Terrorism and Drug Trafficking; Economic and Commercial Cooperation; and Promotion of Friendly Exchanges in Various Fields. The book is divided into four chapters followed by a conclusion.

Chapter 1st: Brief Survey of India-Pak Relations in the Context of War and Peace Treaties

The author opens up the book with the Partition of India and subsequently the birth of Pakistan as a new country in South Asia. He highlights that after the partition of India the 562 princely states spread throughout the Indian subcon-tinent were provided option either to join India or Pakistan. He writes that with the strong efforts of Sardar Patel almost all such states within India joined the Indian Union while Jinnah was successful to get accession of the Muslim princes with Pakistan. The author highlights that some princely states like Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh decided to stay independent from both India and Pakistan. While the accession of Hyderabad and Junagadh with India took place through internal revolt and police actions, Jammu and Kashmir emerged as the bone of contention between India and Pakistan given its geographical proximity to Pakistan and majority Muslim population.

The Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, first chose to remain independent from both India and Pakistan, but due to invasion by the tribal forces from Pakistan he asked for help from India. Subsequently he signed the instrument of accession with India with the help of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Although Indian forces managed to evict the Pakistan-backed forces, the decision of Pakistan to send its own forces started a conflict between two countries. The author argues that the conflict is now over the territory, national identity and power position in the region. He writes that the political status of Kashmir, from Pakistan’s perspective, is the unfinished business of partition on the religious basis and from India’s standpoint Kashmir is an integral part of India legally by virtue of the instrument of accession and also being part of India’s secular identity. The author also highlights the wars like the Kutch conflict, Kashmir war in 1965, 1971 war, Siachin clashes, 1989 event In Jammu and Kashmir, Kargil war that escalated the tension between India and Pakistan and also different agreements and peace processes like the Karachi agreement, Delhi agreement, Indus Water Treaty, Tashkent Declaration, Shimla Agreement, Agra Summit, Bus diplomacy between two countries which helped to defuse the tension. He writes that after the Tashkent Declaration and Shimla Agreement there was a decline of external interest in the State and the United Nations left the conflict between these two countries to be settled through bilateral endwavours. He further writes that the declining interest of the UNO and others in the conflict after these agreements forced the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir to strive for the best deal with India.

Chapter 2nd: Issues and Components in the Composite Dialogue Process

In this chapterthe authorhighlights thelong history of conflicts and wars since the partition of India. He argues that although conflicts related to Indus Water and Rann of Kutch dispute were resolved through negotiations, however, disputes related to Siachen Glacier, Sir Creek, Tulbul-Wullar barrage are still lingering between these two countries. He writes that to resolve such disputes the Prime Minister of India, I.K. Gujral, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met at Male, Maldives to initiate a structured dialogue called the composite dialogue process to make progress on major issues of bilateral dispute. Eight issues were identified for discussion. These were: Peace and security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Wullar barrage/Tulbul Navigation project, Sir Creek, Terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation, and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields. The author writes that it was a compromise approach in the sense that on the one side India agreed to include Kashmir in the agenda for talks and on the other side Pakistan accepted to include terrorism; both of these issues were seen as irritants in bilateral relations. Besides the open diplomacy, which is unknown to the outside world, the two Prime Ministers were also engaged in secret nego-tiations through their trustworthy emissaries. However, the Kargil war, failed Agra summit, attack on Indian Parliament and the mobilisation of troops on the border gave a setback to the bilateral relations.

He further writes that the main conflict between these two countries revolves around the Kashmir dispute. Despite initiating so many CBMs, the normalisation of relations seems somewhat of an elusive pursuit. At the end of this chapter the author highlights that the major roadblock in Indo-Pak relations is the mindset of the people on both sides of the border. He notes that many people in Pakistan think that softening of the border would lead to India dumping goods in Pakistan which would hurt the local Pakistani traders; and in India the biggest threat against expanded trade relations is the security concern.

Chapter 3rd: Mapping the Progress of the Composite Dialogue Process

In this chapter the author traces the origin of the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) started between India and Pakistan. He states that the CDP was started on January 6, 2004 when Atal Behari Vajpayee and General Musharraf signed the joint statement which prepared the ground for the formulation of an eight-point agenda like peace and security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Wullar barrage/Tulbul navigation project, Sir Creek, Terrorism and drug trafficking. The author highlights that although the CBMs continue to remain in place to maintain peace between India and Pakistan, however, events like the Kargil conflict in 1999, and attack on Indian Parliament, Mumbai attack etc. have acted as roadblocks to the peace process. He writes that General Parvez Musharraf tried his best to restart the peace process. He further writes that it was Musharraf who assured Atal Behari Vajapee that Pakistan will not allow anybody to use its territory aganist India and the leader was ready to think out of the box and made some proposals that were good for the peace process between India and Pakistan. In his view, the Composite Dialogue Process has not been a total failure but has provided dividends to both sides which could not have been achieved otherwise, for example, the bus services and LoC meeting points to bring divided families together.

However, the author also criticises the peace process; he states that the present peace process leads to efforts more towards conflict management rather than conflict resolution relating to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute which is central to India-Pakistan peace and prosperity. He further points out that the issues like Siachen, Wullar barrage/Tulbul navigation project, Sir Creek, Terrorism and drug trafficking, which were included in the composite dialogue process, are still lingering without hope of being resolved in the near future.

Chapter 4th: Challenges to the Composite Dialogue Process

In this chapter the author highlights the challenges to the composite dialogue process. He says the peace process is a time-consuming process based on the mutual desire of the conflicting parties of finding solution to a dispute. He observes that there are some basic requirements like willingness of the parties concerned to start the process of dialogue, patience and clear intentions of the leaders, political will to sustain the process of dialogue and identification of critical issues of a peace process. There are further factors which play a crucial role in the success of the peace process like strong yearning for peace both at the government and public levels; and also the time should be ripe for the dialogue. Further, the peace process must address the concerns of all the parties to the dispute regardless of their strength.

He argues that if one side monopolises the agenda, the issues and concerns of the weaker party to the dispute are ignored and that adversely affects the peace process. The author feels that the composite dialogue process is facing problems like weak and indecisive leadership on both sides, negative perceptions of people with one another across the border, dissemination of hatred through textbooks against each other, trust deficit between the two sides, terrorism. He opines that to remove these hurdles elite meetings like Pugwash, Chaophraya conferences are of little help, because these meetings hardly develop any consensus on important issues; instead of these meetings some concrete steps should be taken to mould the perceptions of the people for peace and goodwill in the region.

Chapter 5th: Conclusion

In the concluding chapter the author underlines that this region is recognised as a high-risk conflict zone because of the history of tense relations due to border clashes etc. He says Sir Creek, Siachen Glacier and Wullar barrage are the thorny issues in the bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. Although a series of confidence building measures and negotiations related to contentious issues were initiated, however, these negotiations had not set any time-table and were held on the need-to-meet basis. He writes that there are limited people-to-people contacts which would have contributed to overcome the negative perception that peoples of both countries have towards each other. The two countries have very little direct trade with each other. He notes that the Indo-Pak composite dialogue process is a desirable approach but is prone to derailment if attempts are made to find instant solutions to old and complex issues.

At the end of the concluding chapter he endorses the words of Mani Shankar Aiyar that there are compelling reasons why India should pro-actively engage with Pakistan. First, a tension-free relationship with Pakistan would help India to consolidate its nationhood, the bonding adhesive of which is secularism. Second, the issue of terrorism can be effectively tackled only in cooperation with Pakistan and not in confrontation with it. Third, India will not be able to play its due role in international affairs so long as it is dragged down by its quarrels with Pakistan. (p. 144)

The book traces the history of the peace process between India and Pakistan and is essential for those who are working on Indo-Pak relations in general and the peace process in particular.

Mehrag-Ud-Din Bhat is pursuing Ph.D at the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir, Srinagar.

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