Earlier on 16 March, I quietly went to see an indefatigable Kashmiri chief, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, at his modest Delhi flat. He was unwell. I additionally thought to personally invite him to the Pakistan Day reception to be held on 2 April. For sure, I used to be overwhelmed. Right here was a person who was completely dedicated to Pakistan and the reason for Kashmir. This was my first assembly with him as Excessive Commissioner. I had met him as soon as earlier on the excessive fee when he got here to see International Secretary Salman Bashir in February 2010.
Although there was nothing new about our conferences with the Kashmiri leaders, there may be all the time some hoopla round them in India. As was the apply, I invited all of them to our Pakistan Day reception and so they all got here, together with Syed Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. I additionally had detailed conferences with them on the excessive fee.
They had been divided of their views about Modi’s Kashmir coverage ought to the Bharatiya Janata Celebration (BJP) win the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Some opined the BJP can be higher than Congress and that one might count on Modi to be one other Atal Bihari Vajpayee who may revive his three-pronged coverage of humanity (Insaniyat), democracy (Jamhooriyat) and Kashmiriness (Kashmiriyat) in settling the Kashmir dispute.
Syed Geelani, nevertheless, strongly differed. He was additionally shirty with President Pervez Musharraf for he thought he went out of his approach to pander to India. He termed his four-point method an enormous setback inflicting immeasurable injury to the Kashmir wrestle. Equally, he would contend that the 6 January 2004 India-Pakistan Joint Assertion issued in Islamabad was an unpardonable fake pas that did nothing however solely blighted the liberty motion as “cross- border terrorism’’.
He had little question that the last word goal of New Delhi was to transform Jammu & Kashmir additionally right into a Hindu-majority state and, in view of Pakistan’s personal political and financial mess, India would actually have a walkover. Syed Geelani would all the time insist that Pakistan was way more vital than Kashmir. The latter would be capable of free itself from Indian shackles provided that Pakistan was steady and robust.
Nonetheless, Mirwaiz and Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat would view the state of affairs in another way. They thought the BJP, because it was a Hindu nationalist occasion, was higher positioned to resolve the Kashmir dispute. They, nevertheless, recognised that, for such events, shifting away from their ideological moorings was by no means a simple proposition. However, if Modi was dealt with cogently and his pathological hubris was in some way managed gently, there may very well be some motion ahead.
I might see that, as within the case of Syed Geelani, they, too, had been nervous that the BJP beneath Modi, who was undoubtedly not a Vajpayee and way more into pursuing the RSS agenda, might develop into an enormous drawback not just for the Kashmiris but additionally Indian Muslims.
As for Musharraf, they might give him the good thing about the doubt. Of their opinion, Musharraf’s four-point method ought to have been taken as the start line for negotiations and never the tip recreation. Nonetheless, the Congress occasion and the Indian authorities beneath Prime Minister Manmohan Singh weren’t the correct interlocutors for resolving such a fancy and religiously divisive situation. However then who knew in 2004 that the BJP beneath Modi would ever be capable of win so convincingly within the Could 2014 common elections.
The BJP election manifesto was clear on Kashmir which talked about revoking Article 370 of the Indian structure and stripping the state of its particular standing that was granted to it by the so-called instrument of accession signed by Maharajah Hari Singh. Like Syed Geelani and different Kashmiri leaders, I couldn’t assist however fear concerning the BJP’s future plans beneath Modi. However Islamabad gave the impression to be in complete denial and largely insouciant. Sadly, I ended up combating on many fronts.
One different vital situation that occupied me throughout my preliminary days in New Delhi was the grant of NDMA to India. Our Commerce Minister, Khurram Dastagir Khan, had visited New Delhi in January and it was determined that Pakistan would lengthen the NDMA (learn as MFN standing) to India quickly. For this goal, his Indian counterpart, Anand Sharma, was very eager to go to Pakistan on the earliest, that’s, previous to common elections that had been being held in a number of phases in April/Could 2014.
Whereas the dates for his go to to Pakistan had been being labored out, I used to be approached by an individual (Non-Resident Indian residing within the US, I can not disclose his title in deference to his want) who claimed to be an in depth pal of each Mohan Bhagwat, Chief of RSS, and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. He was visiting Pakistan (as advisable by our Ambassador in Washington DC) on 3-6 April. He was in New Delhi and needed to see me earlier than leaving for Pakistan.
I invited him for lunch on 1 April. He conveyed a goodwill message from the BJP management and thought he might play a optimistic function in bringing the 2 nations collectively. Coming to the principle level, he contended that granting NDMA to the outgoing Congress authorities can be wasteful. Islamabad ought to defer the matter. For the reason that BJP would most definitely kind the subsequent authorities, it could make eminent sense to oblige the incoming set-up. This could assist make a very good starting.
He stated he knew Modi very properly. As soon as he was satisfied that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meant properly, Modi would exit of his approach to reciprocate and attain out to Pakistan. “Modi by no means forgets a favour,” he claimed.
With out committing something, I proposed that we meet once more after he had returned from Pakistan. He was very pleased along with his discussions in Islamabad, particularly within the MoFA the place he was acquired by Fatemi. Nonetheless, he wasn’t certain if we had been keen to acquiesce to his proposal of deferring the NDMA.
I advised him that the NDMA was not a really massive deal. Ought to the BJP win, there can be many different alternatives to work collectively for peace and growth in South Asia as envisioned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. As for the NDMA, I additionally saved the door ajar as I used to be inclined to his viewpoint. Nonetheless, I needed to be completely certain that BJP’s victory was a foregone conclusion. After a lot homework, I lastly wrote to Islamabad that suspending the NDMA can be clever because the Congress occasion was in deep water and in no place to win for a 3rd consecutive time.
Islamabad agreed with my advice. Nonetheless, Commerce Minister Sharma was sad. At a social occasion in New Delhi, he conveyed his disappointment to me at Pakistan’s form of backing off from its dedication and being pushed by Indian home politics. He discovered it unusual that Pakistan had completely forgotten what occurred to Babri Mosque in 1992 and the way 1000’s of Muslims had been massacred in Gujarat in 2002 beneath Modi’s watch. He was of the clear view that Pakistan’s strategy was short-sighted and would seemingly boomerang.
Sharma did make the correct noises in non-public. However the truth of the matter was that, in Pakistan, too, there have been robust lobbies averse to the thought of NDMA. I personally was apprehensive. Even supposing India had granted us the MFN standing again in 1996, the stability of commerce continued to be rising in favour of India. Our exports to India went via discriminatory non-tariff limitations together with stringent visa procedures for Pakistani businessmen and unduly lengthy sanitary and phytosanitary assessments leaving our exporters with countless agonies and, in the long run, making our exports non-competitive.
In my subsequent suggestions to Islamabad, I might help extending the NDMA to India however with the caveat that Pakistan must also apply all these non-tariff limitations on Indian imports that India unilaterally invoked in our case. My argument was that we should take a leaf out of the Indian playbook relatively than cribbing about non-tariff limitations.
Diplomacy will not be about solely adopting and articulating onerous positions in the case of an adversary but additionally taking part in hardball and return in form. Later developments, nevertheless, overshadowed the preliminary bonhomie that was generated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s two-day go to to New Delhi (26-27 Could) to attend Modi’s inauguration.
Excerpted with permission from Hostility: A Diplomat’s Diary on Pakistan India Relations, Abdul Basit, HarperCollins India.