Diplomatic talks between India and Pakistan, such as those scheduled for today between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, are an elaborate exercise in meaningless hypocrisy. Upon arrival in New Delhi on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani mouthed the usual platitudes about bringing a message of “goodwill, peace and prosperity” from the government and the people of Pakistan.
Yet, almost his first action thereafter was to poke a finger in India’s eye by meeting Kashmir separatist leaders. It’s the kind of thing Pakistani leaders and officials do routinely to signal to constituencies back home that their solidarity for the Kashmiri separatist cause is unwavering.
Such blatant interference in India’s internal affairs of course grates on Indian officialdom, but it calculates that if it were to bar Kashmiri ‘leaders’ from meeting Pakistani leaders, it would only enhance the rapidly diminishing profile of these discredited separatists. And so, the ritual continues.
Jilani’s own association with the Kashmiri separatist movement has a troubled history. In 2003, Jilani, then serving as acting High Commissioner in India, was named in an FIR filed in Delhi that alleged that he had handed over Rs 3 lakh to two Hurriyat activists as a contribution for the Kashmiri separatist cause. For his exertions, Jilani was declared persona non grata by the Indian government and directed to leave the country.
Serious though that instance of interference in India’s affairs was, it appears positively benign in the light of subsequent instances of Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism directed at India, including in Kashmir. And, curiously, the agenda for today’s talks may have already been overtaken by recent developments in that space, notably the recent arrest of Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal. Based on his interrogation, Indian security agencies have drawn up the terror map of the Indian-born jihadi who fled to Pakistan – and was ‘adopted’ by the Pakistani military and ISI complex, which then used him as a pivot to coordinate the November 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.
Indian officials have said they will hand over to Jilani a dossier on Abu Jundal, detailing his intimate and organic links with the Pakistani state both in connection with the November 2008 attack, and his subsequent efforts in Saudi Arabia to recruit Indian Muslims (who came for the Haj pilgrimage) to take to terrorism in India.
What earthly purpose will be served by offering such dossiers to Pakistan isn’t immediately clear. There are none so blind as those that will not see. Given Pakistan’s record of duplicity – and the brazenness with which it has stuck to its lies, even when they have been exposed before the world – Pakistan will almost certainly persist with its claim, as with the November 2008 terror attack, that the evidence of its complicity isn’t compelling. Which is the alibi it trots out to allow terrorist masterminds like Hafeez Saeed to roam around freely on its turf, whipping up anti-India hatred and cranking up his jihadi terror machine at will.
Yet, Indian officialdom persists with the futile effort in trying to “prove” Pakistan’s complicity in waging terror in India. Even the propaganda value of being seen to be nailing Pakistan’s lies on his count has diminished over time.
Even so, the courtship ritual of talking ‘peace’ with Pakistan continues.
There is, however, a delicious irony to the meeting that Jilani had with Kashmiri separatists leaders on Tuesday. From all accounts, the meeting didn’t go too well: the separatist leaders gave Jilani a earful of criticism for Pakistan’s “flip-flop” in its support for the Kashmiri cause. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani noted that so long as the “core issue of Kashmir” wasn’t addressed at the bilateral talks, they were utterly useless.
That’s a theme he has been bleating for a long while now. In 2005, when the then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited India, Geelani, who met him in Delhi, similarly made entreaties to him for greater support for the Kashmir separatist cause.
But Musharraf, who was acutely conscious that the jihadi snakes that Pakistan had spawned had turned on its masters, tried to persuade Geelani that those days of openly supporting Kashmiri separatism were over.
“The situation has changed, Geelani sahib,” Musharraf said. “We want you to be a part of the peace-building measures.”
What Geelani and other separatist leaders in Kashmir haven’t quite come to terms with is the fact that their azadi dream is dead. Facing a grave economic and political crisis on its own turf, Pakistan no longer has the capacity to bankroll the Kashmiri dream. Even the jihadi-indoctrinated fighters who went from Kashmir to Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s for terrorism training have realised that they have overstayed their welcome. Increasingly, they are returning home to Kashmir, taking a circuitous route via Nepal, to take up honest jobs, the scope for which has increased with the return of relative peace (and tourists) to Kashmir.
Today, nobody believes Pakistan’s disavowals about its association with terrorism around the world, and its credibility stands on slippery ground. Yet, Kashmiri separatists have failed to read the message and are clinging ever more closer to Pakistan, and hankering for its support for their benighted cause. In doing so, they only validate the death of their azadi dream.