If Obama cancelled talks with Putin, why not India with Pak?

While Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha would not be drawn out on the UPA government’s position on talks with Pakistan in the light of the killing of five Indian soldiers along the Line of Control, the consensus of the panel on CNN-IBN was that engagement with Pakistan should continue, but India should be watchful until the new Nawaz Sharif government can prove it can deliver.

G Parthasarathy, former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, made clear there was a distinction between the compostive dialogue process and engagement. In light of the killings, he argued that political level talks were “totally unwarranted”, but other diplomatic channels, such as the use of special envoys, should go on.

“President Barack Obama cancelled his meeting with Vladimir Putin over Snowden,” Parthasarathy said. “Yet here we are pussyfooting when soldiers are killed.”

If Obama cancelled talks with Putin, why not India with Pak?

Sharif can't be expected to clean up three decades of terrorism in a few months: AP image

The other members of the panel were Lt General Surendra Nath, Nirmala Seetharaman, spokesperson for the BJP, and Wajad Khan, a senior journalist from Islamabad. The panel was discussing how India could best respond to the killing of Indian five soldiers along the Line of Control in Poonch earlier this week by around 20 men comprising both militants and Pakistani soldiers.

General Nath pointed out that India always had the military option, but that it should always be a last resort. “If we don’t make any progress on the talks, India has all the options available,” he said.

He pointed out that terrorism and Pakistan go back over three decades and that no civilian government could simply come in and clean the up the country in a matter of months. The Nawaz Sharif government must therefore be given time to prove its credentials for purpose, and therefore stopping all dialogue would not be advisable.

“If after Kargil we were able to bring in ceasefire, I feel that the dialogue option should be kept open,” he said. “We should not close this option.”

India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003 that covered not only the LOC, but the international borders and the frontier at the Siachen Glacier. That ceasefire has largely held for both countries.

Khan was of the opinion that the Sharif government would be more inclined to consider the 2003 agreement as the basis of relations between the country rather than the 2004 agreement signed by General Pervez Musharraf because Musharraf was an illegal dictator. The 2004 deal promised that Pakistan would stop all use of its territority as a base for violence against India, but Khan felt Sharif would have his own views that would differ from those of Musharraf.

“That is why talks have to continue,” he said. “When talks stop, the talkers lose and the fighters win.”

His opinion of Sharif, however, strengthened Parthasarathy’s argument that no political dialogue should take place. “What is the point of talking to a leader who cannot deliver?” Parthasarathy said.

Khan argued that Pakistan is a state of flux with a new civilian government, an upcoming change in miliatary leadership and the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. It would therefore be in India’s interest to have its ear to the ground rather than put on blinders and “live in a little Indian bubble.”

Parthasarathy compared that to a “suitor approaching a bride and saying, ‘marry me or I will shoot myself.’” As far as he was concerned, Pakistan could pull the trigger.

Jha refused to comment on the government’s take on the situation, saying only that the government would not take the killing of the five soldiers lightly but Pakistan was a complex state and the situation would be handled with that in mind. Any specific statements on the government’s approach would be given in Parliament by the Defence Minister, the External Affairs Minister or the Prime Minister, he said.

Speaking for the BJP, Seetharaman said when Sharif was elected, they expressed a a cautious optimism but they don’t know who is really in control of Pakistan. Given the violation of the cease fire and Pakistan’s denial of the incident, they do not believe the current environment is conducive for high level engagements between the Prime Ministers of both countries. However, engagement between the two countries should not come to a complete halt.

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Updated Date: Aug 09, 2013 07:43:40 IST

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