If there is extreme cold in Delhi, the temperature in Bangkok was suitable for our national security advisor and foreign secretary to break the ice with their Pakistani counterparts. Within 48 hours of NSA level talk between the two countries, our foreign minister visited Pakistan and held talks with her counterpart and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Prime Minister Modi is also scheduled to visit Pakistan next year with the focus on resumption of the composite dialogue process.
In 2015 only, Pakistan has violated cease fire agreements more than 400 times. If this is the genuineness of Pakistan, I doubt that any composite dialogue will yield positive result. Pakistan has its own domestic limitations because of which it cannot go beyond a point thus, it will expect India to offer some concessions to keep the talking treadmill going on.
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It is, therefore, necessary that, before we talk, we need to have a clear idea as to what the minimum expectations we have and to what extent we can go with the Pakistani agenda on Kashmir. The negotiators of India have to be clear on this in any talk with Pakistan. Talks should not be held only for the sake of diverting attention from the domestic challenges. Secondly, the people and Parliament of both the countries should be taken into confidence for the talks to prove sustainable.
It is the right of people to know what is in the minds of our Government when it offers to sit down with Pakistan for a composite dialogue, including Jammu & Kashmir and Narendra Modi and his Government are expected to keep these concerns in mind while talking to Pakistan on formal platforms.
*The Author is an Advocate and a National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress.
It is the right of people to know what is in the mind of our government.
If there is extreme cold in Delhi, the temperature in Bangkok was suitable for our national security advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and foreign secretary S Jaishankar to break the ice with their Pakistani counterparts. Within 48 hours of the NSA level talks between the two countries, our foreign minister visited Pakistan and held talks with her counterpart and Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to visit Pakistan next year with the focus on resumption of the composite dialogue process.
As the leader of Opposition, incumbent external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had said on March 14, 2013 on the floor of Lok Sabha that unless Pakistan stops terrorism and destroys all terrorist camps on its soil, there should not be business as usual with them and there should not be any formal talks between the two countries.
In August when the NSA level talks were called off, the government of India decided that India will not talk to Pakistan if it involves the Hurriyat and secondly, the talks will be confined to terrorism only. On August 22 this year, the same Swaraj had vehemently ruled out the possibility of India-Pakistan talks in a third country.
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Now, the definition of maturity has changed and the sincerity of Pakistan is visible to the government of India despite its increasing proximity to Beijing. Not only were the NSA level talks held, they were held in a third country and along with terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir was also discussed.
Interestingly, these talks were held in pursuance to the meeting between Modi and Sharif in Paris. The sudden change in the response mechanism of the government caught many unawares. Not only a precedent was set that Jammu and Kashmir was formally discussed bilaterally between India and Pakistan on the soil of a third country but the spirit of Ufa was also violated by agreeing to extend the scope of the talks beyond terrorism.
There is no doubt that both the countries need to engage with each other, both the countries have certain common concerns and their mutual outreach is in the interest of security, peace and tranquillity in the sub-continent but the scope, approach and orientation need to be clear and consistent. I feel the Pakistan policy of the Modi government is marred with confusion and inconsistency. Whether to talk or not, whom to talk and whom not to talk and what to talk and what not to talk – all these things are not clear and consistent. The incidents between May, 2014 and December, 2015 reflect this dilemma and confusion.
First you invite Sharif to your oath ceremony, then cancel foreign secretary level talks for the jugalbandi between Pakistan and the separatists, then send your foreign secretary to Pakistan within months without any change in the situation on the ground, thereafter there is the NSA talks fiasco and now the bonhomie to the extent of discussing Jammu and Kashmir in a third country. There has been a series of confusion.
Dialogue is a continuous process and not the final outcome. We should remember that neither India nor Pakistan is yet to achieve any concrete result from the composite dialogue process, which started 17 years ago. Even if there is no definite progress on the trials of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in Pakistan, India has agreed to move at a pace, which Pakistan is comfortable with.
While the onus now lies with Pakistan to expedite the Mumbai trials on the basis of the dossiers already provided to the government of Pakistan and to control the anti-India terror elements operating from its soil, the NDA government in India has to devise a clear roadmap, a pragmatic foreign policy to deal with Pakistan and for that it will have to first understand the internal contradictions within Pakistan, positioning of the Pakistani democratic government vis-a-vis their military establishment and also have to deal with its own internal contradictions.
Whatever the foreign minister may say about the genuineness of Pakistan in fighting terrorism, facts speak for themselves. In 2015 only, Pakistan has violated ceasefire agreements more than 400 times. If this is the genuineness of Pakistan, I doubt if any composite dialogue will yield positive result.
Pakistan has its own domestic limitations because of which it cannot go beyond a point. Thus, it will expect India to offer some concessions to keep the talking treadmill going on. It is, therefore, necessary that, before we talk, we need to have a clear idea as to what the minimum expectations we have and to what extent we can go with the Pakistani agenda on Kashmir.
The negotiators of India have to be clear on this in any talk with Pakistan. Talks should not be held only for the sake of diverting attention from the domestic challenges. Secondly, the people and Parliament of both the countries should be taken into confidence for the talks to prove sustainable. It is the right of people to know what is in the mind of our government when it offers to sit down with Pakistan for a composite dialogue, including Jammu and Kashmir and Modi and his government are expected to keep these concerns in mind while talking to Pakistan on formal platforms. People-to-people contact and sports and cultural exchanges between the two countries should also be encouraged.
Without continuous interactions at the people-to-people level, India and Pakistan cannot cross the psychological barrier and the talks at the level of politicians and bureaucrats only will not break the ice. But, will the RSS allow the Modi government to engage with Pakistan in a consistent and long-term manner or the recent change in the heart is because of the domestic reasons is to be seen.
One third of the Monsoon Session of Parliament is over without conducting any substantial legislative business. The hot and humid Delhi has become hotter and suffocating for the Modi Government inside Parliament. We have all seen how the Winter Session of Parliament had witnessed more pandemonium than productivity because of the conversion issue and notorious remarks of a Minister.
The credit for Parliament’s functioning and passage of bills during the Budget session goes to Congress as it respects the institution as a “responsible” Opposition.The adamant attitude and arrogance of the Government is once again failing the legislature during this Session. The party that disrupted the Parliament the most in the last five decades crying foul that the “obstructionist” Congress and the Opposition are not allowing the House and the Government to work.
The picture of the 15th Lok Sabha is still fresh in the memory of people. Frequent parliamentary disruptions led to Question Hour being held for 40% of scheduled time in Lok Sabha and 43% in Rajya Sabha. In the 15th Lok Sabha, disruptions by BJP MPs resulted in almost no parliamentary business being transacted in two sessions. The irresponsible manner in which it had brought the last Lok Sabha to a historical low, to be the most disrupted Lok Sabha during the last 25 years, seems to be suffering from amnesia or short term memory failure as it accuses the Opposition of “undemocratic” behaviour.
While saying so, the Government is not only absolving itself of all responsibilities of running the Parliament but putting the onus on the Opposition for its non-functioning. But, it is the parliamentary role of the Congress party in Opposition to ensure that the Government protects interests of the country and its people and it is run in an unbiased and transparent manner, its policies benefiting the last person in the queue.
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The right to dissent is a fundamental requirement of democracy. This was the philosophy of our father of Nation – Mahatma Gandhi – that democracy is designed to be open to differing views and diversity of opinion. Participation of people is paramount in the democratic style of governance. Since ours is an indirect democracy, the citizens exercise their legislative rights through the representatives elected by them. It is the august duty of the elected representatives to protect the rights and interests of their electors.
Complex problems require complex solutions and complex solutions are never the product of a single mind. To take different points of view into consideration is one of the most important practices in the process of decision making and it is very helpful in the development of the democratic reconciliation. For complex solutions to emerge in any situation, there must be sufficient safety for the individuals within a group to voice divergent opinions and challenge the existing status quo. There must be sufficient calm and mutual respect for human cognitive function to work at peak efficiency and sophistication. As rightly said by Martin Luther King Jr, a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.
The Prime Minister instead of seeking consensus should come forward and build consensus. The task of Opposition becomes very difficult in the context of the issues before them which are primarily anti-people in nature. The prime responsibility of the Opposition is to protect the interests of the people in the House. Effective functioning of Parliament is a collective responsibility but to provide a conducive atmosphere for fruitful discussion, both within Parliament and outside it, is definitely the responsibility of the Government of the day. I do not think there is any issue that cannot be resolved if Government approaches the Opposition with genuine intent and in an open mind.
Yes, the Parliament should function and must transact business but for that the Government has to address the genuine issues raised by the Opposition as they are issues of public interest. Given the present context, the onus lies on the Government and its leaders to smoothly run the House. It can be only possible when the Government will shed its arrogance and stubbornness.
A combative government with no respect for Opposition is not a healthy attribute of a parliamentary democracy. The Government must reach out to the Opposition and welcome valid suggestions and concerns of the opposition, and the parties must work together in the interest of public welfare and in the spirit of a true functional democracy. Mexico is a good example for all of us to learn.
The major political parties in Mexico have signed a ‘Pact for Mexico’ committing consensual support to vital policies. Obviously, Opposition is also a stakeholder in the democratic process and they are equally concerned about public welfare. The Narendra Modi-led government must take a cue from Mexico by working with the Opposition intelligently, ensuring that reforms are adopted and implemented.
When the Prime Minister was in Jammu, delivering speeches on political grammar, the valley was up in flare with Pakistan flags and presence of ISIS, depicting a clear picture that either both the Centre and the State Government have lost control over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or some sort of political engineering is taking shape in the State, in connivance with the ruling alliance, which is detrimental to our national interest and the people of the State. The incidents in Kathua and Anantnag are still fresh in our memory. The terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir continue unabated.
Nothing has been learnt from the past mistakes. The Kathua attack came less than a week after India sent its foreign secretary to Islamabad to resume talks with Pakistan. Whereas the political leadership of the State feels that the attacks are handiwork of non-State actors, the paramilitary and civilians continue to suffer.
Einstein had said, ‘any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent’. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction. The situation in Jammu & Kashmir was allowed to be become complicated and violent in the winter of March when the dreaded Masarat Alam was released. His release could have been avoided. Then, the Union government had the opportunity to detain him, but they did not and, unfortunately, no satisfactory answer was given for this by the Home Minister in his statement in Parliament on 12 March.
Consequence, the period of calm is over, a shudder runs again through the valley. With temperature rising in the valley, snow is melting, so also the peace. If we are shocked by the anti-India and pro-Pakistan activities of Alam on our soil, we should not be because you cannot expect serenity and tranquillity from an agent provocateur. But, the role of the BJP-PDP government in the state and the BJP government at the Centre and the manner in which the entire episode was mishandled needs scrutiny not only to dissect what went wrong but to plan how to correct in future.
When opportunism prevails over conscience, such consequences are bound to happen. In fact, the silent areas of the common minimum programme are the fault lines of governance in Jammu and Kashmir. Unfortunately, the state, which has been an example of secularism for the rest of the country, has been somewhat polarized. The tone and tenor of Masarat Alam and Geelani’s speech is a clear indication that the Indian flag is under cloud in the valley. Even as tension continues to loom over the State and normal life has come to a halt in the valley, there no single senior Minister present in state capital to coordinate with civil and police administration to bring back normalcy in the State. The arrest of Masarat Alam and Geelani on 17 March was not a preventive action but a late reaction taken in pressure to continue the power sharing formula in Srinagar.
The declaration by the Central government that it will construct a composite township for rehabilitation of Kashmir Pandits did not help to improve the prospects of peace in the valley either. Kashmir Pandits are an integral part of economy, culture and political set up of Jammu and Kashmir. There is no doubt that they should return to the valley but will it serve any purpose if they physically move and remain culturally cut off from their roots? In fact, what the governments, both in Centre and at the state, plan to do is to establish separate colonies for Kashmir Pandits knowing very well that colonies by nature are homogeneous and the idea of composite character does not fit it at all.
Kasmiriyat does not allow creation of separate habitations for Muslims and Pandits. Even this is not acceptable to the Pandits and neither the Centre and nor the State Government has discussed any such proposal with the community. They want safety, security, livelihood guarantee and confidence building measures and not separate colonies to return. Rather this flawed political declaration, understood to be made after taking the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed into confidence, is a step towards isolating the Pandits further and has made their return difficult.
For BJP, it is a moment of introspection. A party that grabs power even at the cost of compromising its fundamental ideology is beset with intransigence highly detrimental to national interests. The need of the hour is protection of lives and livelihood of people in Jammu and Kashmir. Arrest of Masarat Alam and Geelani should not be end in itself but system must be geared up to ensure speedy trial and toughest of punishment for the sedition that will set a deterrence for author hate mongers in the valley.
Let a strong message go across the border also that India will not allow any anti-national activity on its soil, either supported and instigated by external forces or perpetrated by their agents here. Also important is that the political leadership in the Centre and the state should not play into the trap of the separatists who are hell bent to create political and civil unrest in the state.
Our foreign policy should be based on pragmatic considerations to protect interests of India as sovereign nation-state rather than guided by internal political considerations. The admission of Hafiz Saeed that government of Pakistan, its army, in collusion with militants like Saeed, are actively operating to destabilize Jammu and Kashmir, even though is not a new innovation, should be seriously taken by the political establishment and security forces in Delhi and Srinagar, for the danger it poses to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Release of Lakhvi in Pakistan, anti-India propaganda by elements like Hafiz Saeed, Masarat Alam and Geelani and increasing violence in J&K should not be viewed as events in isolation. This is the opportune time to address problem in a comprehensive manner with utmost urgency. Any government that fails to protect lives of its subjects has no moral right to govern.
For the central forces operating from the state, situation is very dicey and challenging. A single mistake by them has the potential to turn the already volatile valley into a cauldron. New Delhi and Srinagar must be alert to deal with deal with such pressure situations and the more and more preventive measures are taken, the better for the people of paradise on earth.