Ufa: Another Opportunity Lost

THE PAST bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan have yielded no results. They are nothing but a charade. This represents insincere negotiations that are a form of grandstanding, the great pretense of prancing on the world stage, making claims of being serious about discussions when they are not. 

 India is not pretending.  It has not raised the issue of Kashmir and does not intend to.  India is not interested in resolving the Kashmir issue but to dissolve it. There’s been no change in its stance on Kashmir – that Kashmir is frankly not in dispute and not up for discussion.  Otherwise, why lock up the pro-resistance leaders?  Why refuse to include the Kashmiris in discussions if India has a sincere desire to open that issue up and agreed to such a discussion at Ufa? 

 “A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism” was very specific in defining and limiting the meeting in New Delhi to terrorism.  I don’t know how that could be construed otherwise.  One is left with the feeling that, well, ok. Kashmir won’t be brought up just now but maybe later, in some future universe, at an as yet unscheduled talk, which they will remain “prepared for,” as agreed, just in case.  I mean, after all, it isn’t constructive to try to bring up all the issues at one time. 

 That’s India’s loophole.  India is willing to talk about “all outstanding issues” which shall remain unnamed so that anyone can say anything, the issue of Kashmir can be ignored, and for now we are just going to talk about terrorism.

 How strange that Sushma Swaraj, the foreign minister of India has the temerity to say “We just want you to honour the spirit of the Simla and Ufa agreements .” Sushma Swaraj seems to invoke the Simla Agreement because of lack of knowledge about its actual terms and the circumstances in which it was signed.  She is taking full advantage of this factor to spread the misinformation that the Simla Agreement sanctions the perpetuation of the status quo in Kashmir and absolves her from the responsibility of striving for a settlement of the dispute. By citing the Simla Agreement at this stage, or encouraging others to do so, Sushma Ji obviously seeks to prevent those basic issues of the dispute being addressed that were fully taken into account by the United Nations. The Simla agreement is pressed into service as a formula for evasion. 

Sushma Swaraj does not bother to ponder that the Simla Agreement nowhere precludes a settlement of the Kashmir dispute along the lines laid down by the United Nations with the consent of both India and Pakistan. Nor does it require that the United Nations be by-passed in the effort towards a settlement. On the contrary, it expressly says that the relations between the two countries shall be governed by the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. The Agreement thus reinforces the obligations of both parties to achieve a settlement in accordance with the resolutions endorsed by the Security Council and, if their bilateral efforts fail, to turn to the United Nations for assistance. 

 Perhaps the only redeeming value of Ufa is that Pakistan and India have joined a common purpose in the SOC (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the primary purpose of the Russian meeting.  The SOC is Vladimir Putin’s answer to Washington’s vision of a uni-polar world, and brings together, with Russia and China, South and Central Asia in a unified effort to confront security challenges in the 21st century without the U.S. dominance and its agenda. The opportunity for India and Pakistan to work together may ultimately benefit their relations back home. But for now, this does not seem to be working.

It is time for Pakistan and India both to get serious about talks.  It’s like two enemies at war agreeing to talk about the illegality of using FedEx to ship weapons.  They need to settle down and talk about what’s causing the war in the first place.

The US has urged the two countries to settle their differences and come to the table, but it knows much better that bilateral talks have always failed. Third party engagement or facilitation is needed as it yielded results in Ufa and brought India and Pakistan at least together on the basis of other mutual interests.

The United States of course understands that India has always tried to siphon off international pressure by taking some cosmetic steps and nothing substantial. The international eye needs to be watchful.

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai


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