On the side - Talking Points

What has been the most significant juncture in Pak-India ties?

Updated Aug 15, 2016 03:04am


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Illustration by Ayesha Haroon
Illustration by Ayesha Haroon

On December 25, 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore. Every time top leaders from the two sides meet, it is generally hailed as a historic moment. Similarly, every time there is a lull in their dialogue, it is also regarded as a step of historical significance, though not in a positive sense.

Earlier, on December 1, Modi had an informal brief conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the climate change conference in Paris. A few days later, on December 6, the security advisers of the two countries met in Bangkok to discuss outstanding issues including terrorism and Kashmir. This was followed by Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad on December 8 to attend the Heart of Asia conference; after her meeting with Sharif and his adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, the two countries announced resumption of their long-stalled dialogue process.

Every time such developments take place, observers and analysts bestow them with adjectives such as critical, significant and historic. Only in retrospect can we gauge if they really were all that. Here, the Herald curates opinions on what has been the most significant juncture in Pakistan-India relations since 2000.

The violent shift

Bharat Bhushan

The Mumbai terror attacks | Reuters
The Mumbai terror attacks | Reuters

The Mumbai terror attack of November 26, 2008 changed the nature of India-Pakistan relations fundamentally. The unprecedented brazenness of the attack, televised live, changed the psyche of the Indian public towards Pakistan. The attackers were Pakistani and even as they killed innocent people, it transpired that they were being guided by their handlers back home in real time including by monitoring Indian television.

What unfolded in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, in the last eight years, has only made matters worse. That Pakistan would deny that any of its ‘agencies’ had helped the terrorists was understandable. But Indians were appalled that it even refused to admit that the attackers were Pakistanis, including initially refuting its own media reports that the only arrested terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, was its citizen.

Also read: Kuldip Nayar: "Partition was not inevitable"

The dossiers of the investigation handed over by India were dismissed by Pakistan as “not evidence” and derisively even as “fiction”. The Pakistani state not only failed to marshal evidence against the main conspirator Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, he was kept in relative comfort in jail with access to television and a mobile phone. Lakhvi even fathered a child while in jail and was finally released for lack of evidence.

When the sole surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab was hanged, Lashkar-e-Taiba, alleged to have masterminded 26/11, issued a statement saying that Kasab will be remembered as a “hero” and “will inspire other attacks”.

The 26/11 attack firmly put terrorism directed against India as the primary issue of discussion between the two countries — relegating everything else to the background.

It shrank the constituency for peace, muted the voices for normalising ties and converted Pakistan into India’s primary security threat in the public mind. The recovery from that setback can take place only when the 26/11 conspirators are prosecuted by Pakistan’s courts and punished.

Bharat Bhushan is the editor of catchnews.com and the founding editor of Mail Today.

Solutions and resolutions

Naseem Zehra

One of the many Musharraf-Vajpayee meetings | ATP
One of the many Musharraf-Vajpayee meetings | ATP

Military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s four-point approach on the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue has been the most important peace initiative since 2000. This approach politically legitimised the exploring of different options for initiating a process for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. This approach was a continuation of what the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had initiated during the 1999 Lahore summit.

Presented in October 2004, Musharraf’s four-point approach can provide an effective road map to peace in Kashmir in accordance with the following steps: 1) self governance; 2) demilitarisation; 3) the removal of irrelevant borders implying free movement of people and trade between India, Pakistan and the two Kashmirs; 4) joint management of Kashmir, which will mean that India, Pakistan and the two Kashmirs will form a group to manage common interests and common issues like trade, tourism, river water, etc.

Also read: When Pakistan and India went to war over Kashmir in 1999

The January 2004 Musharraf-Vajpayee meeting on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) set the stage for essentially restarting the post-Lahore summit type peace process. The composite dialogue and backchannel diplomacy were begun simultaneously. The focus on breaking the stalemate on Jammu and Kashmir, and on the need to think beyond the stated positions of the two countries, did lead to the opening up of trucks for trade and buses for peoples’ routes along the Line of Control (LoC).  While the Pakistan-India dialogue does remain vulnerable to the security and political situation of the two countries, the concrete developments along the LoC beginning with the ceasefire to opening the trade and travelling points, does offer the structure for the two governments, with the agreement of Kashmiris as the principle party, to proceed ahead towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Naseem Zehra is a national security strategist, analyst and anchorperson on Channel 24; she also teaches at National University of Sciences and Technology.

The icebreaker

Mani Shankar Aiyar

Indian foreign secretary KPS Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Dr Humayun Khan signing an agreement in the presence of the then prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto, in December 1988. | File Photo
Indian foreign secretary KPS Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Dr Humayun Khan signing an agreement in the presence of the then prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto, in December 1988. | File Photo

I regret there has been no “defining moment” in Pakistan-India relations since the turn of the century. There has, however, been an important – though unfinished – development in the draft framework agreement for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute that was worked out on the backchannel between 2004 and 2007 under the overall aegis of President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The process has been described in detail in then Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri’s recent publication, Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove. From the Indian side, the only published statement about the framework has come in a speech delivered by Ambassador Satinder Lambah, the Indian interlocutor on the backchannel, in Srinagar on May 13, 2014. However, since both sets of documents revealed that the process of finalising the framework was aborted when the lawyers’ agitation disrupted the domestic scene in Pakistan, one cannot describe that development as a “defining moment”.

Also read: How oppressed are Muslims in India?

If I may stretch the question back by a little over a decade, I would regard the “most defining moment” as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Islamabad for the Saarc Summit in December 1988, the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Pakistan in 28 years, after Jawaharlal Nehru went there in 1960. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto invited Rajiv Gandhi to extend his stay by an afternoon in order to convert what was initially a visit for a multilateral summit into a bilateral summit. That broke the ice.

It was followed in July 1989 by a substantive bilateral visit which almost led to a breakthrough on Siachen but was more significant, in a long-term sense, as a declaration of intent by both countries to engage with each other rather than stay apart. It marked the emergence of a new generation of leaders who did not carry any personal marks of the trauma of Partition and inaugurated an era of normalisation in talks at the highest level between the two countries. In that sense, it was truly a “defining moment”.

Mani Shankar Aiyar was the first Consul General of India in Karachi, 1978-1982; he has since frequently visited Pakistan and closely followed developments in India-Pakistan relations.

Sworn frenemies

Syeda Abida Hussain

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after Modi took the oath of office at the presidential palace in New Delhi. Also seen are India's President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa Right and Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam. | Reauters
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after Modi took the oath of office at the presidential palace in New Delhi. Also seen are India's President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa Right and Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam. | Reauters

The defining moment for India-Pakistan relations into the 21st century came when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to proceed to Delhi to attend the oath taking ceremony of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India in 2014.

Being cognisant of the sad reality of Modi’s hands being covered in the blood of hundreds of Muslims during the Bombay carnage of 1992, it was a courageous step for Sharif to take. Presumably he took the step in good faith, banking on Modi’s sense of humanity in holding out the hand of friendship and ensuring equity for the Muslims of India.

Had Sharif declined to attend the oath taking ceremony, since the Prime Minister of Bangladesh was not attending, it would have deprived Modi of lustre and credibility. This makes one wonder whether the oath taking without the presence of the second and third largest countries of the Saarc region may have made a difference.

Sharif may, perhaps, have been taken aback when, upon his return to Pakistan, he realised that a large number of his countrymen did not appreciate his attendance to an event where a veteran Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist with declared antipathy for Muslims, was going to be the beneficiary. But the gesture had been made and the Pakistani public hoped that it would secure the rights of the minorities in lndia, including that of Muslims.

Also read: Silk Road to (economic) heaven

Subsequent events have shown that Modi’s basic hostility towards Pakistan combined with his communal bias have become the governing reality of his dispensation. His reluctance to come to the table for talks, which continue until mutually acceptable terms and conditions are arrived at, indicate a less than positive frame of mind.

Nothing could be more suitable than a durable improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons, with millions living in considerable poverty. Therefore, it is tempting to be optimistic and to hope that we will enshrine values of good neighbourliness and enter into a future which is an improvement upon our past.

Syeda Abida Hussain is a Pakistani politician and former ambassador to Washington.

This was originally published in the Herald's 2016 Annual issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.

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Comments (28) Closed

Sharat Aug 13, 2016 08:50am

"Being cognisant of the sad reality of Modi’s hands being covered in the blood of hundreds of Muslims during the Bombay carnage of 1992"

Is it true ? Which world is the columnist living in.

Jai Aug 13, 2016 09:32am

We Indian do not worry about Pakistan as we have 7 other neighbors to trade with. Rest USA, Japan, EU , Australia, ASEAN and India will fix China soon with sanctions if Chinese dont learn and understand who are the real superpowers.

Mayuresh Aug 13, 2016 09:43am

Being cognisant of the sad reality of Modi’s hands being covered in the blood of hundreds of Muslims during the Bombay carnage of 1992,

Are you folks even bothering to fact check anything or do you just make it up. Sad to see such a prestigious journal being loose on editorial policies on such a serious topic. You are entitled to opine on your version of the facts but not make them up randomly

Asad Aug 13, 2016 10:16am

Rich industrialist meet with Gujrat massacre mastermind

Asif Mir Aug 13, 2016 11:38am

Peace with Pakistan is desired by India but not needed by India. India can afford to ignore Pakistan that's the reason the Violence in Kashmir has moved closer to the home for India.

Balakrishnan Kamesh Aug 13, 2016 11:45am

Mankind is made by GOD. while you are born you bring nothing to this world, and when you leave you take nothing from this world. you only own a land of 6 feet long and 10 feet depth where you are buried.. then why this terrorism, violence, blaming each other, selfishness, corruption etc etc.. why can't man live peacefully, prosperously enjoy the life then attain the feet of GOD. Imagine how it will be if the neighbors co-exist as friends and put their effort to build up their economies, solving all the basic needs and infrastructure for basic living. education, water needs, women empowerment, industrial development, civilized culture, Will we not become a top 2 from Asia economies in this world..... we are nothing or cannot do anything before a natural disaster. Then why don't we live our lives and let live others......a humble suggestion from an INDIAN who wishes the day comes true.... all the best INDIA & PAKISTAN

Auginpk Aug 13, 2016 12:15pm

I think the visit of PM Nawaz Sharif to India on Modi's oath taking ceremony was great show of courage and statesmanship.

Also despite innumerable provocations both the PMs have not lost their chemistry.

I think this is extraordinary.

I salute first to PM Nawaz Sharif and then to Modi.

An Indian

Jakoji Aug 13, 2016 12:33pm

Modi involved in 1992 Mumbai carnage - who writes such stuff?

Also, we don't really care about Pakistan.. It's strictly a North Indian phenomenon (more specifically a Indian Punjabi phenomenon)

Sunny Aug 13, 2016 12:58pm

Extremely good article The only low point is the last part.

Mahmood Aug 13, 2016 01:29pm

The last picture in this piece says a lot. Look at the body language of the two leaders... One is exuding strength and confidence, The other bowing to exhibit humbleness.

Surya Kant Aug 13, 2016 01:47pm

@Balakrishnan Kamesh, I liked your views. If man understands that he is just a spec of dust going up a little bit with wind and he starts thinking himself to be conqueror of Universe. The reality is, dust unto dust. Since whole thing being unreal, why bother about it.... Earth remains or gets destroyed, it does not effect the Existence.

khan Aug 13, 2016 02:04pm

Both countries should put back there personal interests and endeavor for the progress of friendly relations between two neighbors.The people living on both sides of border are having much in common viz culture,attitude,nature,perception.We are one just separated by a demarcated border.Both countries should amiably resolve conflicts and walk hand in hand towards peace and prosperity.

Iftikhar Husain Aug 13, 2016 04:50pm

@Mayuresh All is not well in India everybody is aware of that fact.

Iftikhar Husain Aug 13, 2016 05:04pm

It is a very good article one has tolive with the neighbour and one cannot change the situation. There is no choice so live like good neighbour. The partition is done and nobody can change this so we we have to talk and solve the problem. The problem begins when one forces to obey and do not listen to other side.

Parvez Aug 13, 2016 06:10pm

@Mahmood "The last picture.." One person is host another one is his guest.

Random Aug 13, 2016 06:12pm

Every time India makes an effort to move forward the response is disheartening. Regret that there shall be no dialogue for a long time to come now.

Yash Aug 13, 2016 06:33pm

@Asad do you really know the facts about what happened in Gujrat or what you want to believe?

Mustafa R. Aug 13, 2016 06:48pm


'Are you folks even bothering to fact check anything or do you just make it up.'

We are not using your 'facts', we have our own. Don't force your facts upon us, this world is too diverse to work from one book of facts.

sasindran ayadakandiyil Aug 13, 2016 09:26pm

@Mustafa R. I agree with u , on that point !

Battleaxe Aug 13, 2016 10:43pm

Maybe many are too enamared by all this flashes of memory but the kargil, pathankot and mumbai are etched in public memory here . There is panama scandle on your side with corruptionand terror out of control and here there are domestic issues are on fire like caste related issue and monetary situation and in between the Kasmir bogey as usual is the diversion. now what's the point of all this talk? , the pakistani public buys a lot media hype but we don't so do so much , please carry on saving the corrupt , the failed and those who u turn as the word has lost credence as it happened to Atal Behari Vajpayee , nothing will change anywhere ever , maybe it okay on your side to keep the public engrossed but not for long my friend , not for long.

GettingFactsRight Aug 14, 2016 02:57am

@Mustafa R. The fact is that Modi had nothing to do with the 'Bombay riots of 1992'. Your ex-ambassador to Washington DC is inventing facts.....If Modi had a questionable role to play, it was in the 2002 riots in Gujarat and NOT the bombay riots, whose patron saint, in fact Dawood Ibrahim, is actually being sheltered in Clifton, Karachi.

Casual guy Aug 14, 2016 04:25am

@Mahmood You are so right! I assume you mean Pakistan rules! Oh, everyone in the world respects the Pakistanis the most! Who wouldn't want to live in Pakistan.

Peace Aug 14, 2016 06:48am

@Mustafa R. Modi wasn't anywhere near Mumbai in 1992. We can argue about Gujarat riots but to blame him for Mumbai is like blaming him for 1965 or 1971 war. You are certainly free to do so but it undermines the credibility of the discussion

anonymous Aug 14, 2016 08:43am

@sasindran ayadakandiyil : Only if Mustafa would understand your point...

VEDANT Aug 14, 2016 12:41pm

Palistan should focus on its population. Indian Muslims are as patriotic as the Hindus. Don't worry about them — they don't need it. USA forms taliban to control russian invasion to Af'tan. And what happened taliban attacked WTC. Remember one thing "History repeats itself". Don't nourish LeT, JeM and other terror group. They ll only hit back nothing else. Care about your people. India is no threat. We believe in cordial relationship with all. But it should be reflected from both side.

Agha Ata Aug 14, 2016 09:39pm

Significant juncture? None of the above. One can see the hypocrisy. Is hypocrisy the particular juncture so far? :>)

khanm Aug 15, 2016 10:20am

All political lives, unless they are cut off in mid-stream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.

Suresh Handa Aug 16, 2016 10:02am

@khan Ya.... I agree with Mr. Khan on this issue. We all should sit and pursue for better future of our citizen by elevating business activities. Forget all other fights over non-resolvable issues.