The Nuclear CBMs?

Pakistan and India have agreed to establish a new hotline at Foreign Secretaries level to deal with any potential nuclear accident or threat and to renew their moratorium on nuclear tests.

Commenting on the outcome of the two-day talks in New Delhi on nuclear CBMs, Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said ‘we are moving ahead step by step’. The two sides are focusing on the areas of convergence rather than differences, he remarked.

Evidently, the result of the Pak-India talks appears to be positive, as the two sides have moved forward on building mutual confidence between them to avert nuclear conflict. The hotline to be established at the Foreign Secretaries’ level will certainly help prevent misunderstanding and reduce risks relating to the nuclear issues. The existing hotline between DGMOs of the two countries will also be upgraded and secured.

The two countries will also continue talks towards implementation of the 1999 Lahore agreement. The reaffirmation of unilateral moratorium by the two sides is a welcome step and both New Delhi and Islamabad were conscious of the need to promote a stable environment of peace and security in South Asia.

The two sides also decided to work towards an agreement with technical parameters on the pre-notification of missile test flights. India has handed over a draft agreement to Pakistan for study and formalization.

It is, nonetheless, understood that differences exist between the two countries on the respective concepts of ‘no first use’ and ‘security restraint’ of India and Pakistan. Hence, it is imperative that Pakistan should, at no stage, weaken its concept of minimum nuclear deterrence for the sake of its own security and peace and security in the South Asian region.

At the same time, it is essential that alongside the nuclear CBMs, the two countries should move forward on the initiation of the composite dialogue to address the Kashmir issue, which is the root cause of tension between them.

As Kashmir is the core issue, it will be futile to hope of normalization of Pak-India relations if it continues to gaze in the face of the two countries.

Of course, Pakistan wants good neighborly relations with India and stands for peace and stability in South Asia, but cannot certainly do so at the cost of its vital national interests. Pakistan will, however, not be found wanting on any sincere move to eliminate the root cause of tension between the two countries.

Yet it is now India which shall have to accept the objective analysis of John Cushnahan, leader of six-member European Union Parliamentary delegation who said in New Delhi this week-end that Indian Held Kashmir was the main cause of political instability in the South Asian region.

Speaking to newsmen after delegation’s visit to Indian Held Kashmir and Line of Control, Cushnahan underscored the need of initiating creative and imaginative steps to resolve the Kashmir issue in a viable fashion.

His perception that the people of Kashmir, who have been suffering since decades must be involved in the process for lasting resolution to the Kashmir dispute, manifests a prgamatic approach.

Observing that forward-looking approach was indispensable to seek permanent solution of the issue, he maintained that past could not be disregarded while addressing, what he phrased as ‘this ticklish problem.’

The delegation observed during the visit to the Held Kashmir that the people had the fear of being imposed solution, adding, ‘both countries should also give heed to this aspect.’

Earlier, describing Kashmir as nuclear flash point, the EU delegation European Union stressed that the dispute needed to be resolved by India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir amongst themselves.

"India, Pakistan and people of Kashmir should resolve the Kashmir issue. We are concerned because it (Kashmir) has been nuclear flashpoint," head of six-member EU parliamentary delegation John Cushnahan remarked by adding; "people of Kashmir are the most important party to the issue because it is they who are suffering".

The words of John Cushnahan are ought to serve as an eye-opener for the new ledaership in India.

With this reality, one hopes that India and Pakistan, which are set to hold talks at the level of Foreign Secretaries on Kashmir dispute and Peace and Security from Jun-27 in New Delhi, marking the beginning of Composite Dialogue between the two sides would make this process meaningful with an approach which depicts a more earnest and sustained manner.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz H Khokhar, at the head of nine-member delegation arrives here tomorrow for a second meeting with his Indian counterpart Shashank, taking place in a less than five months.

Indian side will be led by Foreign Secretary Shashank at the talks with other members including new Indian Foreign Secretary-designate Shyam Saran, Joint Secretary, Arun K Singh, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Shivshankar Menon and other officials of External Affairs Ministry.

Pakistan’s delegation, headed by Foreign Secretary, Riaz H Khokhar includes Salman Bashir – Additional Secretary (AP), Aziz Ahmad Khan – Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Jalil Abbas Jilani – (DG-South Asian), Munawar Saeed, Deputy High Commissioner, Masood Khan – DG-UN and spokesman Foreign Office and other officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As an update report indicates, the two-day talks, to be held from Sunday at Hyderabad House will also review the progress of the expert-level talks, held between the two countries on Nuclear Confidence Building Measures last week. The Foreign Ministers of the two countries will meet in August as part of the calendar of activities, agreed at Foreign Secretaries-level meeting on February- 18 last in Islamabad to review the progress.

The two foreign secretaries are also likely to interact on the Baghliar Hydro Power Project on the sidelines of the talks. Both sides had held parleys on this issue earlier this week at the Secretaries-level and decided to report back the progress to their respective governments.

The talks are simultaneously expected to take up the matter pertaining to restoration of staff strength to 110 at the respective High Commissioner and reopening of consulates in Karachi and Mumbai.

An External Affairs Ministry Spokesman recently said India and Pakistan have "agreed in principle" to reopen their consulates in Karachi and Mumbai and to restore the strength of the respective High Commissions to 110. This would be further discussed and operationalized when the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries meet on June 27 and 28.

The composite dialogue process covers a set of eight key issues – two plus six comprising, Kashmir dispute, Peace and Security, Sir Creek, Wuller Barrage, Siachen, economic and commercial cooperation, terrorism and drugs and people to people contacts.

The talks are taking place in a cordial and friendly atmosphere with positive frame of mind particularly after both countries concluded talks on Nuclear Confidence Building Measures [CBMs] last week besides broad agreement to resolve Baghliar Power Project issue between the two sides.

Earlier, both sides had billed the meeting held between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of ACD in Qingdao as warm and productive, hoping it will post renewed impetus, taking the composite dialogue forward to resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir dispute.

The new Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address to the nation said Thursday that India will actively pursue the composite dialogue with Pakistan and is sincere about discussing and resolving all issues Kashmir problem.

"We desire to live in a neighborhood of peace and prosperity. We will actively pursue the composite dialogue with Pakistan. We are sincere about discussing and resolving all issues, including J and K [Jammu & Kashmir]", he maintained.

While addressing the joint sitting of Indian Parliament on June seven, President APJ Abdul Kalam had said dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues will be pursued on a sustained basis.

"Dialogue process with Pakistan on all outstanding issues will be pursued on a sustained basis within the framework of Simla and all subsequent agreements between the two governments including the joint statement of Jan 6, 2004", he vowed.

Expressing hope that there will be forward movement on Kashmir issue, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Aziz Ahmad Khan said the other day that resolution of Kashmir dispute has to be done in a manner that is acceptable to all the three parties –” India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.

"I think there is a realization on both sides that there should be forward movement on this issue and we hope there will be forward movement", Aziz Khan added.

President Pervez Musharraf has always shown political will and sincerity in a categorical manner that Pakistan is firmly committed to the resolution of Kashmir problem in a peaceful manner, Aziz maintained.

‘We have spent a lot of time in discussing this issue. I am sure given the desire, full attention and political will, the Kashmir problem is solvable. Pakistan is committed with all sincerity to resolve this issue through peaceful means and will hold dialogue in a positive manner’, he expressed.

Yet a nice aspect of the entire scenario is that the United States Friday welcomed the pursuing of bilateral talks by Pakistan and India, expressing the hope that they would be able to find peaceful and amicable resolution of matters of concern.

Deputy Spokesman of the State Department said both sides have met this month and discussed matters of bilateral concern, and it was heartening to note that they have resolved to continue dialogue process seriously.

Adam Ereli commended the leadership of Pakistan and India for addressing "their concerns" by peaceful means, and said it was not only in the interest of both the countries, but also in the interest of peace and stability of the entire region.

Asked what was the expectation from the US side, he said, we look forward and expect both the countries to continue their dialogue process to be able to find amicable solution of issues they confront.

It was relieving to find that states that were "at a point of confrontation" two years ago, are now engaged in talks, were "taking ground breaking steps" in the form of confidence building measures, and the dialogue process is taking "positive and regular" shape.

Amid this environ, every realist would expect that India would ray practical signs of sincerity, if at all it is sincere to see a lasting peace in South Asia, much needed since long for the affluence of the populous of this part of the Orb. New Delhi shall have to admit that there can’t be a friendship, in any arena in any style unless the root cause of the irritants between the two nuke neighbors is sequestered. And that is the dispute on Kashmir.

Abiding by the ground realities, India shall have to admit that there can’t be any breakthrough in the CBMs or the present process of interaction sans the solution of the Kashmir Issue and that too, in line with the aspirations of the people of the Himalayan State.

Its’ thus an apposite time that New Delhi bends its mindset by eschewing egoism and in place of it by perusing a course which is hallmarked by a positive and realistic perception. If it does take place, all efforts shall prove meaningless, futile and would continue to pose perils to peace in South Asia.

Alike every peace-loving nation, it is equally significant for the United States to place its optimal influence on India to bow before the will and wishes of the Kashmiris to open fabulous vistas for the region, of which India would benefit more for the good of its’ people. As, this way India can spend the hefty amount, which it incurs on fanatic collection of arms, on the well-being of its’ poor people by shedding the ongoing uncalled far practice which is of-course illicit.

The present epoch is a test for Sonia Gandhi, who is legitimately supposed to keep in mind JL Nehru’s clear-cut commitments on Kashmir. We hope that the Congress Party chief shall go through the index of the history wherein Sonia shall see the raison d’être of BJP’s horrific defeat in elections. It was hypocrisy of the AB Vajpayee-led radical party, which eventually took it far away from the corridors of power. Since, Sonia Gandhi is the heir of a modest political dynasty, it’s envisioned that she will go for a pragmatic loom–”and that too with candor to make to CBMs–”a viable venture.