The killing of five Indian soldiers in Poonch sector of the Line of Control (LoC) earlier this week and the subsequent fiasco over the Defence Minister’s contradictory statements in Parliament has generated a huge controversy. Despite the uproar, many commentators and politicians have suggested that dialogue with Pakistan must be “uninterrupted and uninterruptable.”
Disturbed by the ongoing development, 41 strategic affairs experts formerly with the Army, Navy, Air Force, IFS, IB, RAW and the Civil Services and now prominent commentators and writers got together in New Delhi today and issued the following statement urging the government NOT to go ahead with dialogue with Pakistan. Here’s the full text. Their names are at the end of the statement. The collective wisdom of these stalwarts is not some thing to be sneezed at. The question is: Does the establishment have the sagacity to listen to these voices of caution?
The full statement for whatever it is worth:
Reports indicate that with the change of government in Pakistan and the exchange of visits by special envoys, the Government of India is prepared to resume the composite/comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, interrupted since January this year as a sequel to the beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army on the LOC in J&K. The possibility that discussions on Sir Creek and Tulbul Navigation may take place even before the proposed meeting of the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers in September in New York on the margins of the UNGA meeting has been aired in the media. Reports indicate that all these are being done without any linkage to the 26/11 terror attack or to the issue of Pakistan sponsored terrorism.
The Joint Statement issued after the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in 2009 alluded to the resumption of the Composite Dialogue Process, while proclaiming: “Action against terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue Process”. The Dialogue that followed with Pakistan was identical in substance and form with the Composite Dialogue Process. This Dialogue Process was agreed to in 1997. It remained suspended after the Kargil Conflict and the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. It was resumed only after a cease-fire along the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir took effect in November 2003 and a categorical public assurance received by then Prime Minister Vajpayee from then President Musharraf in January 2004 that territory under Pakistan’s control would not be used for terrorism against India. The Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration and the business-as-usual Composite Dialogue that followed has emboldened the Pakistan establishment to stall, obfuscate and delay action against the perpetrators and masterminds of the 26/11 terrorist attack. The Pakistan establishment has quite evidently concluded that India does not expect firm action against those perpetrating terrorism from its soil and that terrorism and dialogue can go hand in hand.
The government would be well advised not to rush into a dialogue with Pakistan on the assumption that the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, is ostensibly committed to improving ties with India. Good intentions are not sufficient to create conditions for productive negotiations; concrete actions on the ground are required. All the more so because of known structural impediments on the Pakistani side to normalization of India-Pakistan ties represented by the mind-set of the Pakistani military and the jihadi groups nurtured by them. The threat of India-directed terrorism from Pakistani soil is far from being eliminated.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promise to expedite the trial of those accused of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and grant India MFN status agreed to by the previous government has not been kept. On the contrary, we see negative developments that can seriously set back the relationship. Our Consulate in Jalalabad has been subject to a terrorist attack for the first time, raising questions about the timing. This has been followed by the highly provocative killing of five Indian soldiers inside our territory in J&K a couple of days ago. Earlier on, the Pakistani Foreign Office issued a statement on a recent incident of firing inside J&K, the harshness of which was incompatible with a desire to turn a new page in bilateral ties. In this context, the implications of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s declared intention to focus on resolving the Kashmir issue need to be properly analyzed.
The trend lines of Pakistan’s hostile acts, both through its organs of state and sponsored non-state actors, which are accompanied by implausible and even insulting denials and explanations, do not show signs of reversal under Pakistan’s new government which has blandly denied even the occurrence of the latest incident of the killing of our soldiers. Since the beginning of this year, 57 incidents of border violations have occurred. The Raksha Mantri has informed Parliament that both infiltration by terrorists and cease-fire violations on the LoC have increased by more than 80 percent since last year.
In these circumstances, it is evident that the euphoria over the change of government in Pakistan, and its initial statements is misplaced. India would be well advised to calibrate its approach to Pakistan not to mere assurances and promises of a desire for normalization of relations but to concrete indicators that the latter is moving away from the use of terror as an instrument of foreign policy.
Over the years, we have put behind us many instances of hostile acts by Pakistan, including the terrorist attacks against the symbols of our democracy, our centres of economic activity, our cities and our streets, in the hope that engagement and dialogue will change Pakistan’s behavior in its own interest. The meagre results of this policy are apparent. It is unfortunate that we have learnt nothing from this and have gone to make compromise after compromise with Pakistan simply to keep some kind of engagement going. Such a policy of appeasement has manifestly failed to deliver results – as indeed all appeasement must fail. This is the ineluctable lesson of history.
The way forward is for all Indians, and the government in particular, to develop a national consensus on issues of national security, counter-terrorism and defence preparedness, de-linking them from electoral politics. Ill-advised attempts and measures to denigrate and undermine the functioning of vital institutions like the Army and the Intelligence Bureau through motivated assertions and leaks to the media are a cause of serious concern. These inflict incalculable damage on vital security institutions and systems, and on the morale of the personnel concerned.
At a time when Pakistan is day in and day out using terrorism against us, it would be ill-advised for the Prime Minister to meet with Nawaz Sharif as it would signal that relations between the two countries are in a business-as-usual mode. India should show no anxiety to hold a dialogue with Pakistan, keep a steady focus on the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in any conversation that takes place, abjure language that equates our problems with terrorism with those of Pakistan, and take Siachen out of the basket of issues to be discussed with Pakistan as and when a dialogue is resumed, in view of the evolution of the ground situation in the area.
India has for much too long meekly put up with Pakistan-inspired terrorism and our citizens across the country have paid a terrible price. This has only encouraged Pakistan in its pursuit of such policies. It is time that policies are devised that will impose a cost on Pakistan for its export of terror to India, and thus change the cost-benefit calculus of these policies and actions. A proactive approach by India towards Pakistan must be the order of the day, as it will yield us much better results than those garnered by policies of appeasement which have regrettably been pursued by us for years.
We therefore strongly recommend that we do not rush into a dialogue with Pakistan, and the proposed meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries be cancelled.
SIGNATORIES TO THE STATEMENT
1. Mr Anil Baijal, former Home Secretary
2. Amb Satish Chandra, former Deputy National Security Advisor
3. Maj Gen Ramesh C Chopra, Strategic Expert
4. Lt Gen Shantonu Choudhry, former Vice Chief of Army Staff
5. Amb Rajiv Dogra, former High Commissioner to Italy & Romania
6. Mr Ajit Doval, former Director Intelligence Bureau
7. Air Marshal Satish Inamdar, former Vice Chief of Air Staff
8. Mr DR Kaarthikeyan, former Director Central Bureau of Investigation
9. Brig Gurmeet Kanwal, former Director Centre for Land Warfare Studies
10. Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch, Director Centre for Land Warfare Studies
11. Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, former Chief of Air Staff
12. Lt Gen NC Marwah, former CISC & GOC-in-C Andaman and Nicobar Command
13. Maj Gen Ashok Mehta, former GOC IPKF
14. Mr Nripendra Mishra, former Chairman, TRAI
15. Mr DC Nath, former Special Director Intelligence Bureau
16. Vice Admiral KK Nayyar, former Vice Chief of Naval Staff
17. Amb G Parthasarathy, former High Commissioner to Pakistan
18. Brig Vijay Raheja, Strategic Expert
19. Amb M Rasgotra, former Foreign Secretary
20. Mr RN Ravi, former Special Secretary Intelligence Bureau
21. Gen Shankar RoyChowdhury, former Chief of Army Staff
22. Mr CD Sahay, former Secretary Research & Analysis Wing
23. Lt Gen Ravi Sawhney, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff
24. Brig Vijai Sawhney, Strategic Expert
25. Amb JC Sharma, former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs
26. Gen VN Sharma, former Chief of Army Staff
27. Amb Prabhat Shukla, former High Commissioner to Russia
28. Amb Kanwal Sibal, former Foreign Secretary
29. Amb Rajiv Sikri, former Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs
30. Mr Dhirendra Singh, former Home Secretary
31. Lt Gen PK Singh, Director United Service Institution of India
32. Mr Prakash Singh, former DG Border Security Force
33. Lt Gen SK Sinha, former Vice Chief of Army Staff & Governor J&K & Assam
34. Lt Gen DS Thakur, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff
35. AVM AK Tiwary, former Chief Operations Officer, Air Command
36. Mr AK Verma, former Secretary Research & Analysis Wing
37. Gen NC Vij, former Chief of Army Staff
38. Brig RS Chhikara, Strategic Expert
39. Brig Vinod Anand, Strategic Expert
40. Col Karan Kharb, ex Commanding Officer, 21 Bihar Regiment
41. Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee, former Chief of Staff, Central Command