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'India can easily sustain US pressure for talks'

Last updated on: February 15, 2010 14:12 IST

India is too big to be cowed down by America's pressure when it comes to peace initiatives with Pakistan, says a former Inter-Services Intelligence chief.

In an interview with rediff.com's Tahir Ali, Muhammad Asad Durrani, former director general of ISI and Pakistan's Military Intelligence, says India's move to resume peace talks is a wise decision.

Why do you think India finally resumed talks after holding out since 26/11?  

The resumption of talks between India and Pakistan is nothing strange. History shows that every time the talks resumed after a halt. Be it after Kargil or the attack on Indian Parliament. It is a wise decision by India to offer talks with Pakistan.

What could be the reason behind the sudden turnaround?

The main reason that I see is Afghanistan. After a series of new developments, Indians realised that they may not get ousted from Afghanistan. India wants to remain relevant in the Afghanistan scheme of things. It would be wise if India gets involved in Afghanistan along with Pakistan.

Do you see any US pressure behind India's decision to resume talks?

I think a country like India could easily sustain US pressure. Pakistan should not say that it is all about US pressure {as the Pakistani prime minister pointed out}. It gave a wrong message to the politics and diplomacy in the region. 

What do you think will be the agenda of the talks?

Obviously, India will talk about the Mumbai carnage while Pakistan raises the issues of Kashmir and water. But the real agenda should be to make the environment friendly for further talks. I don't see any other agenda this moment. It would be great if the two sides make some good announcements regarding core issues which could ease the tension. 

Do you see the composite dialogue resuming at any stage? Will this round become the composite dialogue?

I don't think that it would be a composite dialogue; but that is a good way to solve problems between the two countries. Such dialogues do provide an opportunity to other issues that need immediate solution. After the previous composite dialogues, it was good step taken by the two countries allowing Kashmiris to go and see each other.

What can both countries offer each other? 

Pakistan can offer many things. It could offer India a role in Afghanistan. It can also offer joint anti-terror mechanism, joint investigation, joint intelligence and joint trade. India, I don't think, can offer something big at this occasion. India's style is different as it has never showed generosity. India can offer joint control over water resources, that would be good especially for Kashmiris. But, like other big powers of the world, India also does not need "to show something". Also, the Indian government has its own problems. As one political party goes for something, the other create hurdles.

How do you think the water issue can be resolved?

Some people say the Indus Water Treaty was a good solution to the problem while others say there was no need to enter into such a treaty. Some say the lower recipients of water deserve more than the treaty offered. I think, as the other experts also say, that there should be hydel power projects that are feasible, but the Kashmiris should be the main party to profit; such projects could lead to the solution of the Kashmir dispute.

Do you see any solution to the Kashmir issue?

Things like composite dialogue could solve the core issue of Kashmir. Setting up a table and making two, three or four pieces out of Kashmir – that would not help. Bus service, trade and joint projects between Kashimiris could make the environment friendly for further development. That way, Kashimiris would also get some special status and a stage would come where the relations between the two nations would become normal. Then, the problem could evolve itself. Otherwise, I see no other solution to the Kashmir dispute.

Does the Army or the Inter-Services Intelligence support the talks with India?

I don't think the Army or ISI ever made obstacles in the peace process. The Army can only give its opinion regarding certain issues, but it never created or would create obstacles.

Tahir Ali in Islamabad