Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Jan 14, 2002
`Pak must walk the talk'
NEW DELHI, Jan. 13
AS the crackdown on religious extremists continued in Pakistan, India today came out with a positive but cautious reaction to President Pervez Musharraf's speech announcing a new approach to the problem of international terrorism.
Briefing the media shortly after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, made India's formal response public.
``We want to know the difference between words and actions," he said, while affirming that any positive response to President Musharraf's overtures would have to await the translation of his ``intention'' to combat terrorism into "reality".
With elaborate care for the fine print, Mr Jaswant Singh also reminded Pakistan that the commitment to clamp down on terrorist activities must extend to all the territory under its control. In recent times, groups proscribed by the Pakistan Government have managed to continue militant activities by merely shifting their bases to Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
Recognising that the main part of President Musharraf's speech dealt with the restoration of civic order within his own country, Mr Jaswant Singh said that India ``wished the people of Pakistan well in this endeavour".
Mr Jaswant Singh characterised Pakistan's refusal to hand over terrorist suspects wanted by India as ``disappointing", while claiming that adequate proof had been handed over to warrant action.
Kashmir stand rejected
India, however, rejected the Pakistan stand on Kashmir. For obvious reasons, what President Musharraf had to say on Saturday on Kashmir was the most anticipated part of his speech in India. It was also for equally obvious reasons, the most predictable.
Kashmir, he said, ``runs in the blood'' of every Pakistani. There was no way that Pakistan could ``budge an inch from its principled stand on Kashmir". India has welcomed President Musharraf's explicit disavowal of terrorism as a means of pursuing the Kashmir ``struggle". But the suggestion that the international community, and particularly, the US should intervene in the matter has been decisively rejected. India has also firmly ruled out of court the proposal to facilitate the entry of international organisations such as Amnesty International, to monitor the actions of its security forces in Kashmir.
Sets conditions for talks
Mr Jaswant Singh held out the promise that India would ``respond fully'' and ``resume the composite dialogue process'' if Pakistan were to ``move purposefully towards eradicating cross-border terrorism".
But such a dialogue, he said, would be conducted within the bilateral framework envisaged in the Shimla agreement and the Lahore declaration.
Resentment at home?
The specific terms used are unlikely to be welcome in Pakistan. The military regime there has always held that Shimla and Lahore do not adequately reflect the centrality of Kashmir in bilateral relations. And it views the ``composite dialogue'' begun in 1997 with an agenda of eight items, as an unnecessary diversion from the ``core issue".
Though India seems to have moved little from positions stated in the past, international diplomatic pressure is now likely to intensify for a de-escalation of military tensions on the border.
As a first step, the mechanisms of consultation between the military operations directorates, which have fallen into disuse over the last few months, would need to be revived.
The first test of the concrete impact of President Musharraf's speech will lie in the facility with which the hotline between the military establishments is revived. Beyond that, the experiences with Operation Brasstacks in 1986 and the Zarb-e-Momin mobilisation in 1989 have shown that stepping back is often a more complicated process than moving forward into battle-ready postures.
Observers of India's troubled relations with Pakistan are unsure when the process of dialogue could resume. President Musharraf's speech has yet again brought up the necessity to implement UN resolutions on Kashmir which are over half-a-century old.
Insiders at the Agra summit discussions last year have suggested that the Pakistan leader's attitude towards Kashmir is focused and single-dimensional. The Pakistan military's basic purpose remains a discussion on the sovereign disposition of Jammu and Kashmir. From the Indian side, discussions on Kashmir have always attempted to narrow the focus to the situation within the region. India showed in the prelude to the Agra summit, that it would be willing to undertake a co-operative effort with Pakistan to restore peace and order in the State and to facilitate easier cross-border movements for Kashmiri citizens. But the Pakistan military has shown little inclination to take up this joint enterprise.
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