Finally a positive development to conflict resolution - India has offered to sit at the table with Pakistan. The AFP reported that a senior government source in New Delhi said India is ready for foreign secretary-level talks.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, promptly responded, “There are now signals emanating from India that they are willing to talk bilaterally. We welcome this... if it leads to resumption of the Composite Dialogue.”
Initiated in 2004, the Composite Dialogue is a normalization process between India and Pakistan, with resolution over Kashmir as the center of gravity and terrorism as the satellite issue. Mumbai derailed the dialogue rounds and the two sides have been trying to put back the pieces ever since, which is why India’s offer sounds so promising.
“India will enter these discussions with an open mind,” the source said. “We will raise all relevant issues from our side. Counter-terrorism will be raised, as well as other issues that will contribute to creating an atmosphere of peace and stability between the two countries. Let us not pre-judge the outcome.”
But analyzing isn’t judging.
No suspicion is strong enough to prevent negotiations between India and Pakistan from occurring. Doubt is inevitable and must be ignored. A peaceful resolution is mandatory, especially over Kashmir, since this would serve the duel function of reducing terrorism. And the groundswell demands action.
Conversely, India hasn’t offered to talk just to cede the upper hand. It isn’t going to give anything away without full compliance on Mumbai. If Pakistan offers anything less then the Composite Dialogue is likely unrealistic. Islamabad has cornered itself after Prime Minister Gilani and President Zardari’s vocal call for peace talks over Kashmir.
India, then, is offering to negotiate Kashmir but only after terrorism, and if Pakistan wants to proceed in the reverse order New Delhi can pull out.
Serious leverage is occurring now, like two tectonic plates pressed against and trying to overlap each other. India has the upper hand because it possesses the status quo in Kashmir and holds the economic and military advantage. As US officials implore Pakistan to resolve its differences with India and redirect its military towards Afghanistan, it’s not the only one with problems.
India needs permanent peace with Pakistan because it must concentrate on China and internally with the Naxalites. Both sides have reason and pressure on them to cleanse the air, but they won’t let the other dictate the process. Negotiations might not get far if Pakistan doesn’t comply with India’s demands on Mumbai. Nevertheless, dialogue remains possible and should be explored to its limit, even if it dead ends.
We'll have to wait for now.
But we can still wonder about America’s invisible hand. While US officials praised India and implied that Pakistan must accept its offer, they also denied a private role. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke didn’t address the topic, instead speaking generally about Indian and Pakistani competition in Afghanistan and Asia.
“The Indians have a legitimate series of security interests in that region, as do a number of other countries including, of course, Pakistan, China, and all the other countries that neighbor on Afghanistan,” he said. “And any search for a resolution of the war in Afghanistan requires that the legitimate security interests of every country be understood and taken into account.”
And no doubt he is right, but Holbrooke follows with an oddly forceful statement. Asked to comment on Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen that India and Pakistan needed to resume back-channel diplomacy on the Kashmir issue, Mr Holbrooke replied the United States would “applaud and encourage” any step the two countries took to reduce tensions.
“But we are not going to act as intermediaries between Islamabad and New Delhi. That is not what we are here to do. On the specific you talked about, we are not going to negotiate or mediate on that issue and I’m going to try to keep my record and not even mention it by name,” Holbrooke said, referring to Kashmir.
He also made it clear that he spoke for the entire White House:“That is not what we are here to do. I’m not just talking about myself.”
Translation: America is somehow, in someway mediating Indian-Pakistani negotiations, Kashmir included. Regardless, the motions of this trilateral relationship provide a pristine specimen to observe during 2010.