Thursday, 28 July 2011

India-Pakistan Talks

The arrival of the young and impressive Pakistan foreign minister has created a lot of public interest in India. The media has certainly gone overboard talking about Ms.Hina Rabbani's designer clothes, swanky goggles and an expensive handbag. Her good looks have caught such great attention that the veteran criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani while attending an official dinner, remarked that he came to meet Ms.Rabbani after seeing her photograph in the papers. In spite of all the non professional attention Ms.Rabbani received, she actually surprised everyone with her deft handling of ticklish India-Pakistan issues and her controlled demeanor was outstanding considering her young age. The atmospherics which get a tad boring and at times even jingoistic in India-Pakistan talks, were surprisingly pleasant. The good thing about the present meeting of foreign ministers was that it was kept low profile and contentious issues were not hyped to score brownie points. The Indian side is still grappling with the surprise of Pakistan not talking Kashmir openly although Ms.Rabbani's meeting with the Kashmiri separatists didn't go down well with the Indian side. The closed door protest by India did actually work but still no provocative mention of Kashmir by Pakistan has surprised many analysts.

The pertinent question here is as to why Pakistan was a little subdued on Kashmir? Was it a deliberate ploy on their part to make the talks successful since Kashmir tends to vitiate the atmosphere rather swiftly? Or is it that there is more than what meets the eye? My take is that Pakistan in no way is going to soft pedal the Kashmir issue since it is related to its very existence and more over Kashmir has always been India's jugular vein. We need to understand that Pakistan army has its hands full when it comes to tackling jihadis in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Nearly a third of the Pakistan army is engaged in tackling jihadis in these lawless, rugged but strikingly beautiful terrains. The world knows the bitterness which has come in the US-Pakistan relationship, post Osama Bin Laden raid in the garrison town of Abbotabad. The souring of relationship has resulted in US withholding military aid to Pakistan which has further compounded the tensions. The gist of the whole story is that Pakistan army, which is the de facto ruler of Pakistan, can not afford any confrontation or raising of hostilities on its eastern border with India. With a collapsing economy, Pakistan just does not have the wherewithal to fight on two fronts. Therefore the Kashmir faucet is turned off for the time being. The net result is that a record 7.5 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir till date. Compare this with the terrible stone throwing incidents in Kashmir valley last year killing and injuring many people. A lot of that violence was triggered by the ISI through its Indian Kashmiri cronies. With not much help coming from across the border, the Indian separatists are lying low in sharp contrast to their venom spewing marches in the valley last year. Ironically, anarchy in Pakistan has brought some much needed peace in the Kashmir valley. Peace is more because of Pakistan's preoccupation  and not because of the CM Omar Abdullah becoming a better administrator overnight. But the fault lines in Kashmir still remain and the triggering factors have very low combustible points. Complacency is the last thing Kashmir can afford and the administrators should use the peaceful time to strengthen the bond with the common Kashmiri so that any future conflagration can be managed effectively. Let us see how long the India-Pakistan bonhomie will last.

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