Like the bad old days
It's a pity that India was tempted to engage in a war of words with Pakistan on the question of Jammu and Kashmir at the just-concluded annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. This is a throwback to the bad old days when Indian diplomats engaged in pointless arguments with Pakistan in major international forums. Diplomatic posturing of this kind plays into the hands of those in Pakistan who are opposed to the normalisation of relations with India, diminishes Delhi's international standing and undermines the pursuit of a carefully calibrated strategy towards Islamabad.
More than eight years ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to persist with the peace initiative towards Pakistan launched by his predecessor from the BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Despite the many reservations at home stemming from Pakistan's inability or unwillingness to control cross-border terrorism, Singh kept a relentless focus on the larger objective of transforming India's regional environment. Delhi is acutely aware that Pakistan's civilian government, led by Asif Ali Zardari, has no control over the security agencies and is not in a position to give India satisfaction on cross-border terrorism. Yet, Singh has found in Zardari an enthusiastic partner on other important fronts. Breaking a long-standing political taboo in Pakistan, the Zardari government agreed to normalise commercial relations with India, open up overland trading routes and liberalise the highly restrictive visa procedures.
There is no denying Delhi's surprise, therefore, when Zardari, the most vocal champion in Pakistan for productive relations with India, chose to rake up the Kashmir question in the UN. He was probably under pressure from the military establishment to revive the noise on Kashmir. Delhi had every reason to take note of Zardari's uncharacteristic move. But it had no reason to react the way it did. Instead of the empty argument with Pakistan on whether J&K is an integral part of India or not, Delhi could have made public its recent negotiating record on J&K with Pakistan. During 2005-07, Singh had conducted a significant negotiation with the then Pakistan president, General Pervez Musharraf on Kashmir. General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who succeeded Musharraf as the Pakistan army chief, has shown no interest in furthering those talks. Telling that truth about Pakistan's reluctance to engage on Kashmir would have been much better diplomacy than employing puerile rhetoric.
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