UPA loses its diplomacy at NAM

Manmohan-Singh-Gilani-0080Is the UPA foreign policy mandarins so weak to lose to Pakistani diplomats? That’s what it seems to have happened in the NAM summit in Egypt. Leaving its original position of “no talks untill action against 26/11 Mumbai attackers”. Although I welcome the change in India’s stand, I feel sorry for the flip flop foreign policy. India should maintain its communication channel under all trying circumstances. Any letdown in communication will push the progress many miles backward.

The Times of India writes (17 July 2009)
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The meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the NAM summit in
Egypt has been a profitable one. Building upon the talks between the respective foreign secretaries, Shiv Shankar Menon and Salman Bashir, the joint statement has put terrorism and the Mumbai attack front and centre as New Delhi had been angling for. It has also stated that the foreign secretaries will meet as often as is necessary to explore the possibilities with regard to the composite dialogue. Crucially, the statement also delinks the terrorism issue from the composite dialogue process, ensuring that the former need not be held up by the latter. The truth is, India and Pakistan need to make progress on both quickly. And cooperation on terrorism is a precondition for any other initiative to succeed. In its absence, another major terrorist attack launched from Pakistani soil would set back anything achieved through dialogue.

New Delhi needs some comfort on this score as there are various issues of concern, from Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed walking free because of Islamabad’s failure to share confidential evidence with the Punjab government to the lack of verifiable dismantling of terrorist infrastructure across the Line of Control. This has become particularly crucial in light of intelligence reports of possible attacks in Mumbai and the increase of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed activity in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

New Delhi should leave no doubt that if the dialogue is to be expanded, it will be done in a phased manner calibrated by Islamabad’s holding up its end of the deal. Getting Washington to exert pressure from its end is another option it must pursue. Hillary Clinton’s upcoming visit to India is an apposite time to make its standpoint clear. It has done its part by returning to the table; now, Washington must press Islamabad to reciprocate if it wishes to have the Pakistani military’s undivided support along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

If New Delhi is to take the peace talks forward again, it must have concrete gains to show for it in a domestic context. And conversely, another attack could well send the entire process into a terminal tailspin. Islamabad must understand these compulsions, just as it must understand that a compartmentalised approach to combating extremism is no longer viable. Top UN official Richard Barrett has highlighted the links between Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Taliban. It is time for Pakistan’s civilian government and military leadership to show that they understand the implications of this

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