Why the India-Pak joint statement was delayed

They were looking up euphemisms for cross-border terrorism

As if to prove this thesis wrong, the Calcutta Telegraph strikes a dissenting view on the hoopla surrounding Musharraf’s visit last weekend.

It has two good articles. In an editorial, it holds that there was no need for the Indian government to have upgraded a simple visit to watch cricket into a bilateral summit of sorts. Grandiloquence apart, what little was achieved in the bilateral discussions could have been had even without Musharraf’s personal visit.

In another op-ed piece, K P Nayar relates how the stubborn M K Narayanan, the Indian prime minister’s national security advisor, ensured that Pakistani negotiators did not sweet-talk their Indian counterparts into dropping even a tacit mention of cross-border terrorism. That is because India is likely to (shoot itself in the foot again) scale down counter-terrorist operations in Kashmir, and completely absolving Pakistan of its role in sponsoring cross-border terrorism would be very risky indeed.

A heavy load now rests on the prime minister for pushing forward what he has undertaken to do jointly with Musharraf. It is an open secret among those who practise diplomacy in New Delhi that Singh’s cabinet colleagues who deal with foreign policy tried to sabotage his summit with Musharraf more than once, not by opposing it openly, but by their inaction. It is to the credit of the prime minister and a tribute to his ability to cut through bureaucratic and systemic impediments that he managed to pull off the meeting with Musharraf with a reasonable degree of success.

He did this by using a back channel: S.K. Lambah, his special envoy on Pakistan, a veteran in dealing with Islamabad during his long years as an Indian diplomat. The lesson to be drawn from this experience is that if solutions are to be found to disputes between India and Pakistan, the spadework has to be done through back channels and not through normal diplomatic activity. And that spadework has to be vetted and approved by someone like Narayanan, who, because of his training and instinct, will approach anything done with Pakistan with suspicion and premonitions of a conspiracy. [The Calcutta Telegraph]

It is rather surprising to note that while the blame for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s economic policy compromises are laid on the door of cabinet and coalition; his foreign policy compromises are credited to exactly the opposite. The quest for a robust debate on India’s foreign policy, especially with respect to Pakistan, continues.

The hope for India-Pakistan peace at this juncture is that it is a far cry from the gooey sentimentalism promoted by a powerful constituency in New Delhi, made up of those who migrated from what is now Pakistan and still dream of what it was like in Lahore before Partition.[The Calcutta Telegraph]