Ufa: Another Opportunity Lost

One thing is very clear. The statement issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif representing some kind of agreement at the Russian city of Ufa on July 10, 2015 seems on its face to be conspicuously duplicitous. One wonders if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had some subordinate prepare it, trusting him to convey the intent, but never actually read what was published before it was published.

Ufa - Another Opportunity LostHere’s the thing. There are two distinct parts to the Ufa agreement as it is explicitly written. First, It is prefaced with the general policy statement:

They agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues.
Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia.

“they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues.”  

To any outside observer this specific remark implies that they are prepared to talk about Kashmir. How much significance should be given to the fact that “all outstanding issues” are not specifically enumerated? Instead, in part two, in elaborating what this meant,  an agenda is set.  A list of 5 items on the agenda are enunciated very clearly.  Nowhere is there any mention of Kashmir.  Why was Kashmir not mentioned in the statement?

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz on August 22, 2105 implied that India must be confused. “We have always been clear on our stand on Kashmir. It is India that has misinterpreted it,” Aziz said.

Frankly, one cannot go around being “clear” about an issue if the suspect doesn’t say what it is he is being so clear about in his agreements.  If Sartaj Aziz is so adamant in pressing the Kashmir issue, then what kind of agreement is it that cannot name what is in fact the primary bone of contention between India and Pakistan?  Why is the issue of Kashmir being raised now, since it was not raised in this agreement?

The agreement is very clear in its focus.  India has placed terrorism on the front burner. Kashmir is nowhere to be seen.  In fact, India always wanted it to be that way

And doesn’t it seem abundantly clear that such an oversight — excluding Kashmir from the statement — was drawn up to allow India to slip through the noose?  By not explicitly naming Kashmir as an “outstanding issue,” Pakistan unwittingly allowed India to slip away from any commitment to discuss it, to deny that they did intend to discuss it, and to refuse any participation by Kashmiris because there is nothing to discuss.  And of course India has done this time and time again.

How sad. The past bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan have yielded no results. They are nothing but a charade. This represents insincere negotiations that are a form of grandstanding, the great pretense of prancing on the world stage, making claims of being serious about discussions when they are not.

India is not pretending.  It has not raised the issue of Kashmir and does not intend to.  India is not interested in resolving the Kashmir issue but to dissolve it. There’s been no change in its stance on Kashmir – that Kashmir is frankly not in dispute and not up for discussion.  Otherwise, why lock up the pro-resistance leaders?  Why refuse to include the Kashmiris in discussions if India has a sincere desire to open that issue up and agreed to such a discussion at Ufa?

“A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism” was very specific in defining and limiting the meeting in New Delhi to terrorism.  I don’t know how that could be construed otherwise.  One is left with the feeling that, well, ok. Kashmir won’t be brought up just now but maybe later, in some future universe, at an as yet unscheduled talk, which they will remain “prepared for,” as agreed, just in case.  I mean, after all, it isn’t constructive to try to bring up all the issues at one time.

That’s India’s loophole.  India is willing to talk about “all outstanding issues” which shall remain unnamed so that anyone can say anything, the issue of Kashmir can be ignored, and for now we are just going to talk about terrorism.

How strange that Sushma Swaraj, the foreign minister of India has the temerity to say “We just want you to honour the spirit of the Shimla and Ufa agreements .” Sushma Swaraj seems to invoke the Simla Agreement because of lack of knowledge about its actual terms and the circumstances in which it was signed.  She is taking full advantage of this factor to spread the misinformation that the Simla Agreement sanctions the perpetuation of the status quo in Kashmir and absolves her from the responsibility of striving for a settlement of the dispute. By citing the Simla Agreement at this stage, or encouraging others to do so, Sushma Ji obviously seeks to prevent those basic issues of the dispute being addressed that were fully taken into account by the United Nations. The Simla agreement is pressed into service as a formula for evasion.

Sushma Swaraj does not bother to ponder that the Simla Agreement nowhere precludes a settlement of the Kashmir dispute along the lines laid down by the United Nations with the consent of both India and Pakistan. Nor does it require that the United Nations be by-passed in the effort towards a settlement. On the contrary, it expressly says that the relations between the two countries shall be governed by the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. The Agreement thus reinforces the obligations of both parties to achieve a settlement in accordance with the resolutions endorsed by the Security Council and, if their bilateral efforts fail, to turn to the United Nations for assistance.

Perhaps the only redeeming value of Ufa is that Pakistan and India have joined a common purpose in the SOC (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the primary purpose of the Russian meeting.  The SOC is Vladimir Putin’s answer to Washington’s vision of a uni-polar world, and brings together, with Russia and China, South and Central Asia in a unified effort to confront security challenges in the 21st century without the U.S. dominance and its agenda. The opportunity for India and Pakistan to work together may ultimately benefit their relations back home. But for now, this does not seem to be working.

It is time for Pakistan and India both to get serious about talks.  It’s like two enemies at war agreeing to talk about the illegality of using FedEx to ship weapons.  They need to settle down and talk about what’s causing the war in the first place.

The United States has urged the two countries to settle their differences and come to the table, but it knows much better that bilateral talks have always failed. Third party engagement or facilitation is needed as it yielded results in Ufa and brought India and Pakistan at least together on the basis of other mutual interests.

The United States of course understands that India has always tried to siphon off international pressure by taking some cosmetic steps and nothing substantial. The international eye needs to be watchful.

In addition, the United Nations resolution on right of self-determination of Kashmir was not only cosponsored but also coauthored by the United States itself. Any resolution to the dispute must include the Kashmiris in talks with India and Pakistan. They are not the third party but the primary party to the dispute. The United States has the ability to persuade both India and Pakistan to do that. It must also find the will to do so. If that happens, peace and stability will be guaranteed not only in Kashmir but in the region of South Asia – home to one fifth of total human race.

Dr. Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness. He can be reached at:   gnfai2003@yahoo.com

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