Anchor: Frank Rausan Pereira
Speakers: Rana Banerji, Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat: Prabhu Dayal, Former Diplomat: Suhasini Haidar, Diplomatic Editor, The Hindu
Importance of this Episode:
- India and Pakistan have recently announced that they have agreed to mutually resolve all issues concerning the treatment of diplomats. This agreement follows claims and counter claims by the two countries about harassment of each other’s diplomats. The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said that both nations have mutually agreed to resolve matters related to the treatment of diplomats and diplomatic premises, in line with the 1992 “Code of Conduct for the treatment of diplomatic/consular personnel in India and Pakistan”.
- The Pakistan foreign office has also issued a similar statement. In March, India had asked Pakistan to ensure safety and security of its officials working at the Indian mission in Islamabad, saying that they continue to face harassment and intimidation.
- This edition of India’s World will aim at analysing exactly what may have prompted India and Pakistan to try and resolve the diplomatic row and where exactly the ties between the two countries are likely to be heading.
Analysis by the Experts:
- When we look at what may have prompted India and Pakistan to put an end to the diplomatic row, it is important to first look at historical precedents.
- Experience suggests that whenever Pakistan decides to end the kind of harassment it gives to diplomats from India, it is because it begins to ‘feel the heat’.
- When India starts putting pressure on their diplomats, then Pakistan mends its ways. Between the periods 1982-1985, there were several instances when Indian diplomats were not only harassed but physically assaulted as well. All these experiences became intolerable. In particular, there was an instance when a Pakistani diplomat was roughed up by their own people- perhaps because of some domestic issue, the Pakistani’s thought that it was the work of the Indian intelligence agencies, and then after that all the harassment of Indian diplomats on Pakistani soil came to a standstill.
- Also, the 1992 Code of Conduct was signed in April of that year and in December of 1992, there was a massive attack on the residence of the Indian Consul General in Karachi- there was a large mob which attacked it, a part of the building was set on fire, and the Consul General at that time, Rajiv Dogra, was away in his office, but his family managed to escape, by hiding in a bathroom. Thus, one is sceptical whether the kind of harassment faced by Indian diplomats on Pakistani soil is going to end completely.
- In any case, we must welcome the measure- anything that makes the life of our diplomats more bearable needs to be welcomed. At the same time, this might only be a temporary abatement. It may be just cyclical because of the fact that since we have tightened the screws here, the Pakistani’s have begun to feel the pain and they have decided to refer to the 1992 Code of Conduct, which was signed in April 1992, but badly flouted in December of the same year.
- Having said this, diplomats on either side have learnt to have a tough hide to take such things in their stride. Speaking from experience, Indian diplomats have been the subject of intense scrutiny and surveillance by Pakistan. Their domestic lives are closely monitored- so much so that even guests visiting their houses and interrogated to ascertain the reason for meeting the diplomat. Thus, they tried to make life as difficult as possible for Indian diplomats. Ambassador Prabhu Dayal had even received death threats after the hanging of Maqbool Bhat, the JKLF terrorist. The car of the Indian Consul General, Mr. Parthasarathy was attacked and its windows were smashed with iron rods. Thus, there were periods when the stress was really unbearable.
- These days, both sides, India and Pakistan have aired their differences very publicly. Even journalists to Pakistan have faced both the surveillance and the kind of harassment and attacks. But, the essential point here is that diplomats are entitled to greater protection. Diplomats do have a certain code. There is a reason as to why even in times of war, diplomats are protected. Uncivilized behaviour doesn’t behove either of our two countries and the treatment to diplomats needs to adhere to a higher standard. As Indians, we count on our diplomats to better relations between our two countries.
- It is important to note that the Indian Consulate in Karachi has been closed for many years now, but in Islamabad, the mobility of diplomats and more so Indian diplomats is much restricted due to security considerations because of the threat of possible kidnapping by Islamic fundamentalist elements. Thus, that is another aspect that needs to be woven into the factors which India uses to assess the mobility Indian diplomats in Pakistan. Pakistani diplomats may not be facing a comparable security threat here in India.
- The recent agreement may not hint towards a major improvement in the situation.
- The 1992 Code of Conduct states that the diplomatic personnel and premises of both countries will be treated with respect and honour by the receiving state. But, in Pakistan, the intelligence agencies are much more powerful than the foreign office.
- Having said that, can this agreement help in taking India-Pakistan ties to the next level? It is believed that this can help in de-freezing the situation. But, ultimately, this is only a small factor in the relationship as there are larger issues that one has to contend with. We need political will to substantially change the status-quo of the dialogue. Unfortunately, Pakistani involvement in Kashmir is proven beyond doubt and India has been under the impact of terrorists who have infiltrated from across the border.
- Pakistan’s policy towards India has been one of pursuing covert warfare. Whereas, India is a status-quo power. India wants to maintain peace and tranquillity along the line of control. But this is not Pakistan’s policy. This is because Pakistan speaks of “Indian Occupied Kashmir” as being the bone of contention between the two sides. Now, the Pakistani’s have to realize that perhaps the only way to resolve the relationship is to work out a situation where we accept the Line of Control (LOC) as an international border. Even when we look at international precedents, Germany and France fought each other for centuries, but they now live in peace and harmony. Egypt and Israel were at loggerheads, but they live in peace today, although it might be termed as a cold peace. India and Pakistan must also find a way out of this situation.
- India and Pakistan have now gone through a period of extended ‘no-talks’. Even when we look at the global stage and talks around- Climate Change, the larger picture of terrorism, trade, etc. unfortunately, the Indian subcontinent is losing out because of the fact that India and Pakistan have no real dialogue between them. Thus, without a dialogue there may not be a way forward.
- Meanwhile, some commentators and analysts have gone on to call Pakistan a pariah state, and the rationale of talking to a pariah state such as Pakistan has been questioned. But, it is important to note that there is a section of opinion in both countries which believe that the next steps should involve lowering the hostilities between the two countries, and that the present impasse in the relationship is not helping either of the two countries. Further it is believed that there will be ups-and-downs in terms of the nature of the infiltration in Kashmir, and that the Indian Government would need to separately address the issue of the alienation of the youth of Kashmir, particularly in the valley. Further, if we find some ways to address this alienation in a political manner, then, there could be a de-escalation that even Pakistan could perhaps live with.
- Looking at areas of cooperation between the two countries that need to be tapped and that need to be leveraged, we realize that the entire relationship can be revamped and that there can be close cooperation across the board. Trade between India and Pakistan is at negligible levels, and there is a possibility of taking this figure to around 30 Billion USD. We come around to the fact that until the political relationship doesn’t improve, the relationships in other areas will not show any significant change.
The Way Forward:
- Hopefully, in the long run, we will have wider people-to-people contacts. Also, cricket, can be played by the two countries on a bilateral basis. Unfortunately, cricketing ties have been stopped over the past few years, and this has slowed down the people-to-people exchange as well. Unfortunately, the thinking of the Pakistani Army continues to be very negative towards India. The Pakistani ISI essentially reports into the Pakistani Army. Unfortunately, the US has been a big champion of the Pakistani Army. Today however, the Pakistani terrorist dimension has begun to expose itself to the larger world, and people have realized that terrorism emanating from Pakistan is not going to hurt only India, but it can hurt other countries too; there are discernible measures which are being taken by not just President Trump, but by other countries too of the western world, which seem to be working at the moment. Pakistan is now already on the terror watch list.
- What we also need right now is Politician-to-people ties. When people get killed across both sides of the LOC (Line of Control), politicians rise up and speak against the other country. But in moments where PM Modi had visited Lahore, we didn’t find an explanation from the Indian leadership to the people saying that, ‘this is why we need to deal with Pakistan’.
- Until we build that, we will not see a way forward as politicians will be scared to take the next step and nothing will follow. In the absence of cricketing and cultural ties, we are actually looking at a situation which has hit rock-bottom. Thus the first dialog has to be between the Government and the people.
- The way forward would be in terms of incremental steps- small incremental steps like the diplomatic agreement, and the trials of the seven Mumbai accused, i.e. if the courts in Pakistan do finally decide to take the trial forward. If that happens, then this could be a signal to our Government to politically defreeze the situation.
UPSC aspirants are advised to read the press-release available on the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) website. Further, it is also important to read India-Pakistan relations in the broader context. The links are as below:
Read more RSTV articles here.