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Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

neitherahawknoradove.pngPakistan and India were on the verge of concluding a historic framework of an agreement on the protracted Kashmir conflict which led to five wars between the two neighbours including three major ones in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 as well as the Rann of Kutch and Kargil being the other two. This assertion has been made by former Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri. Inexplicably the powers that be in this country have maintained a stoic silence. The saving grace is that Kasuri’s emphasis on being close to a breakthrough on Kashmir has not been dismissed out of hand.

Kasuri’s book is largely about Islamabad’s difficult relationship with New Delhi amid attempts to normalise it during his term as the political head of the foreign ministry in Islamabad from 2002 to 2007. The face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, an aide to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was present at the book release function in Mumbai last year was blackened with ink by Shiv Sena activists. He believes his term as foreign minister was a momentous period immediately following 9/11 as the Pakistan-India peace process made great strides during those years. Pakistan’s foreign policy remained focussed on promotion of regional and global peace and security as well as economic and social development. It is largely about Pakistan’s difficult relationship with India and attempts to normalise it. He has endeavoured to provide an authentic and personal account of his country’s foreign policy at a time when it underwent major strategic shifts to conform to new and rapidly evolving global imperatives.

The hostile nature of India-Pakistan relations has a strong bearing on regional security including the vital issue of enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Improving bilateral ties is, therefore, of great importance to the world. The book provides an insider’s account of the progress made by both countries in the five years that he was the Foreign minister in working on their historically acrimonious relations. What facilitated Kasuri was his warm and cordial relations with then President Pervez Musharraf. Also after interacting closely with the powerful military establishment in Pakistan he became convinced the men in uniform are not averse to friendship with India. The Army was on board with the framework of the Kashmir settlement on which both sides had made remarkable progress through the backchannel. It addressed the possible framework towards reconciling Indo-Pak differences. “”This is the first positive and definite account of the much heralded peace process by someone directly and intimately involved with it.””

During this period unprecedented progress was made on the contentious issues of Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen. But for the unfortunate turn of events following the removal of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhury by President Musharraf, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was all set to visit Pakistan following the bold and imaginative steps towards peace to sign an agreement on Sir Creek. If Singh had visited Pakistan by July or August of 2006 by which time Sir Creek was ready for signature this would have shut up the Cassandras who kept repeating that Pakistan and India were incapable of resolving any dispute bilaterally.

Kasuri remains convinced that the elaborate and detailed “”diplomaic efforts made and the progress achieved during that time will not be wasted and the two sides will have to begin from where we left rather than reinvent the wheel when times for earnest dialogue and engagement are again propitious.”” He warns that Pakistan and India have major fault lines which could be exploited by others if they do not resolve their disputes in a fair and just manner. He suggests that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, particularly after his spectacular success in the 2014 general elections, expend some of this political capital by thinking creatively and out of the box although “”I have been disappointed by some of the rhetoric coming from the new government recently. I nevertheless strongly believe if the new Prime Minister (Modi) is to live up to the promise of development, which formed the major plank of his election campaign, he will hopefully realise sooner than later that the experienced and wise Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee came to the conclusion regarding Pakistan-India relations after deep relflection.””

On his becoming Foreign minister, President Musharraf’s first pointed question to him was “”are you a hawk or a dove on India?”” Sidestepping the loaded question Kasuri told the President “”you will find out in due course”” though he claimed he was not being reticent or evasive. Liberals find me far too conservative and conservatives feel I am too much of a liberal for their comfort.”” He came from a well known and influential family. He grew up in Lahore known as the cultural capital of the country in the 1950s and 1060s. People from Lahore’s political and intellectual circles regularly gathered at his house on the then famous Fane road off the historic Mall road. He was raised under contrasting influences. His mother belonged to a princely family of northern India with pro-British leanings while his father hailed from anti-colonial nationalists as well as religiously disposed pan-Islamic Punjabis. These contradictions between the maternal and paternal sides of the family inculcated a greater than usual degree of tolerance in Kasuri. His family background was also perhaps responsible for what was regarded at the foreign office as “”my non-conventional views on India.””

Over the years Pakistan’s foreign policy has been shaped by two constants: India and the West particularly the United States. Perhaps it is unfair to describe Pakistan and the US relations as “”an odd couple of modern inter-state relations.”” Pakistanis have started regarding the US as an unreliable partner and a fair weather friend. In the final analysis Pakistan’s troubled relations with India has had a major impact on its relations with USA, China, Russia and Afghanistan. After taking up the Foreign minister’s job Kasuri started reiterating the need for ‘Peace and Honour’ with India. “”I did not support a military solution to the Kashmir issue and felt that eventually all the stake holders will have to find a negotiated settlement.””

The joint statement issued by the two leaders on 18 April 2005 unequivocally stated the irreversibility of the peace process and pledged that terrorism would not be permitted to impede or scuttle it. “”This marked a watershed moment which made the peace process and the back channel diplomacy sustainable and the progress made proved invaluable during the testing times that followed.”” The bus service across the Line of Control (LOC) was historic and compared to the fall of the Berlin wall. Kasuri recalled that the peace process had started at the time of Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister and Kasuri never forgot to praise him for it. “”Without the ownership of the peace process being assumed by all major political forces, it will remain fragile,”” the author emphasized.

India has sought to engage Pakistan by legitimising the territorial status quo and finding some means of formalizing the LOC as the legal border. In contrast Pakistan has sought to engage India over revising the status quo. Kasuri is convinced that living in the past will not help Pakistan or advance the cause of Kashmiris. Pakistan will have to adopt a coherent and well thought-out-strategy to combat militancy and terrorism as these could develop into existential threats. Analysts in Pakistan believe Modi unlike Vajpayee will adopt a hostile posture towards Pakistan and follow a more aggressive foreign policy. “”I would prefer to think that Narendra Modi is like other politicians, a pragamatist in the ultimate analysis”” opines Kasuri. Lets wait and see.

Book:NEITHER A HAWK NOR A DOVE: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy
Author:Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri
Publisher:Penguin Group
Pages:851
Price:999-INR

TR

(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.)

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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