The joint Indo-Pak statement, which was released after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the NAM Summit in Egypt seemed to be an exercise in futility.
Barring one or two points, it was a confusing statement. India’s position till now has been that it would not renew dialogue with Pakistan unless appropriate action is taken against the people responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. But the statement states: “Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed. Prime Minister Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues.” Does this mean that Manmohan Singh is ready to discuss all the other issues (including Kashmir) with Pakistan irrespective of whether there is any action against the Mumbai terror attack suspects residing in that country? If true, this is a major concession from the Indian side.
Pakistan also managed to get India to acknowledge that it too is a victim of terrorism. The statement says: “Both leaders agreed that terrorism is the main threat to both countries. Both leaders affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end.” This point dilutes India’s continued stand that terrorism directed towards it is directly/indirectly supported by the Pakistani state machinery. The perpetrators of terror attacks in Pakistan have different reasons and motivations compared to what is happening in India. By looking at the problem of terrorism in both the countries through the same prism will only hurt India.
The statement also mentions threats in Balochistan. It says: “Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.” Pakistan has long accused India of promoting secessionist activities in this region. This is the first time India has acknowledged Pak concerns of such activities in Balochistan. There have been accounts in various books by former Indian intelligence officials about India helping the Baloch people, who are fighting for independence. Did the Indian government suddenly realised that its past activities in Balochistan were wrong and that there would be no covert interference in Pakistan’s internal matters from now on?
The joint statement also mentions information sharing between the two nations on terror threats. It states: “Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats.” Having an information sharing mechanism or a joint anti-terror mechanism between the two countries is a mirage. News reports quoting Indian intelligence sources have repeatedly accused Pakistan Army and the ISI of providing moral and material support to the terrorists spreading violence in India. How then do we expect Pakistan to share information on future terror threats. Did they warn India about mujahideens crossing the Line of Control in Kargil or did they warn us about possible attacks on the Indian Parliament, Mumbai trains, Taj Mahal Hotel, Trident Hotel or Nariman House? Secret meetings between officials of both the countries may have taken place in the past but real time, credible and actionable information sharing with Pakistan is a bit too much to expect.
The statement is ambigious and sets no time frame to hold the “Composite Dialogue”. The unanswered question is whether India agreed to a joint statement and future dialogue only to please the United States or is there any policy thinking behind it.
Following is the text of Joint Statement issued after the meeting between the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on July 16, 2009:
“The Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani met in Sharm El Sheikh on July 16, 2009.
The two Prime Ministers had a cordial and constructive meeting. They considered the entire gamut of bilateral relations with a view to charting the way forward in India – Pakistan relations. Both leaders agreed that terrorism is the main threat to both countries. Both leaders affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end.
Prime Minister Singh reiterated the need to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. Prime Minister Gilani assured that Pakistan will do everything in its power in this regard. He said that Pakistan has provided an updated status dossier on the investigations of the Mumbai attacks and had sought additional information/evidence. Prime Minister Singh said that the dossier is being reviewed.
Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats.
Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.
Both Prime Ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed. Prime Minister Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues.
Prime Minister Singh reiterated India’s interest in a stable, democratic, Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Both leaders agreed that the real challenge is development and the elimination of poverty. Both leaders are resolved to eliminate those factors which prevent our countries from realizing their full potential. Both agreed to work to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence.
Both leaders reaffirmed their intention to promote regional cooperation.
Both Foreign Secretaries should meet as often as necessary and report to the two Foreign Ministers who will be meeting on the sidelines of the forthcoming UN General Assembly.”