A candid dialogue between India and Pakistan's security establishments and intelligence services is the only way to move forward for both countries in securing peace, said Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan's former national security advisor and ex-ambassador to United States.
While giving the first memorial lecture in memory of R.K Mishra, founder of Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, Durrani sketched the plan for bridging the gap between two countries.
General Durrani commands tremendous respect in New Delhi. That was evident from the audience that gathered at the India International centre in New Delhi. Former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, former foreign secretaries S S Menon, Salman Haider, M K Rasgotra and other top retired diplomats, analysts, including M S.Bajpayee, were present.
Strategic expert K Subrahamanyam chaired the discussion while former ambassador Abid Hussain gave tribute to R K Mishra. Also present was Minister for Environment Jairam Ramesh.
Durrani has a long record of attempting peace between two countries and has written a book India and Pakistan, The Cost of Conflict, The Benefits of Peace.
His credentials to advocate peace was not in question in minds of audience in New Delhi, but his speech fall short of expectations because on the issue of Kashmir, he didn't spell out his own idea or a possible solution. And his speech at every point tried to "balance" the both sides.
He said he had his primary education at a boarding school (Burn Hall) in Srinagar in 1947. His mother and wife are Kashmiris. He said, "Kashmir is in my blood as both my mother and wife are Kashmiris. I am not going to push the Pakistani official line because our foreign office reminds you of that frequently, nor will I advance a new formula for the solution of this lingering dispute. My only submission is that the people of Kashmir have suffered immensely; they need peace and space to re-build their lives. I will support any solution which is acceptable to the majority of the Kashmiris. The bottom line -Kashmir for the Kashmiris."
He diplomatically kept balancing both warring sides as most diplomats do after retirement. Like he said, "Today there is a firm belief amongst the intelligence and security community in Pakistan that India is actively supporting insurgency in Baluchistan and some even believe that India has a hand in the turbulence in FATA. I was also assured by some friends in India that Pakistan's security agencies are equally involved in destabilizing India. I feel we need to move beyond this state of affairs. This can only be done through a frank and candid dialogue between our security and intelligence services."
He did give some concrete suggestions to both the governments. He did impressively convince the audience that students, academia and business community's mutual involvement, efforts and exchanges can bridge the gap between two countries.
His speech was proof of his practical approach and through understanding of issues between India and Pakistan.
Durrani said, 'I am convinced there is phenomenal scope for enhanced trade and business between our two countries. However, a large number of industrialists and businessmen in Pakistan are worried that India could swamp Pakistan with its cheap goods and destroy Pakistan's industry. I would therefore recommend an incremental approach and not kicking the door open."
He defended Pakistan businessmens' sentiments. He added, "Likewise I would also recommend a level-playing field. Traders and businessmen could become the biggest stakeholders in the peace process. Transit of Indian goods for the Afghan market and beyond is a thorny issue being dealt with at the official level."
However, "the official level" is the stumbling block in ensuring peace between two countries was the message between the lines in otherwise his well-thought out speech.
He summarized his recommendations to bring the people of India and Pakistan closer and reduce the acrimony between.
# Strengthen SAARC so that it truly becomes a forum for the good of the people.
# Terrorism, religious bigotry and intolerance are common threat to both India and Pakistan. We need to work together before this threat destroys our way of life. Let our governments give teeth to the Joint Terrorism Mechanism ( JTM ) and move beyond meaningless statements.
# Chiefs of our primary intelligence agencies need to have periodic meetings to bridge their differences and cooperate on counterterrorism.
# We must not interrupt dialogue between our two countries, whatever the provocation. Communicate your anger, frustration and views through dialogue. Lack of dialogue helps neither country. I am not in favour of a dialogue just for form but primarily to move forward.
# Track II efforts need to be supported and increased.
# The backchannel needs to be revived to help the primary dialogue process and address thorny issues.
# The media, the academic community and the businessmen in both countries needs to play a forceful role in bringing the two people together and reducing the mistrust.
#Simplify the visa process drastically. Abolish police reporting and city specific visas. We should treat each other at least like we treat other foreigners, if we are unable to treat each other in a better fashion.
# Both countries should open up the airwaves and allow airing of each others TV programs.
# The Sir Creek and Siachen issues are ripe for resolution, let us put them behind up. We should set up a "Joint Glacial Research Centre" in Siachen.
# The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 must be respected by both parties and all water disputes should be settled in the letter and spirit of this treaty. No smart reinterpretations please.
# Give space to the suffering Kashmiris. Guiding principal for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute should be based on the spirit of "Kashmir for the Kashmiris".
# Include cooperation in the field of agriculture as a component of the composite dialogue. Set up an "lndo-Pak Arid Agriculture Research Centre".
# Include cooperation in energy as a component of the composite dialogue.
# Lastly, but most important is the role of the political leadership in bridging the gap between our nations, they need to show the resolve to guide the dialogue process to a logical conclusion
He ended his speech by saying that, "Born out of the same soil, unfortunately India and Pakistan have had a turbulent relationship since the very beginning."
He concluded, "I believe a strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan is in the best interest of India, just as a vibrant, dynamic and robust India is good for Pakistan and the region. Destabilizing Pakistan would be a very short-sighted and counter-productive policy for India. Similarly, Pakistan has to accept and respect India as the big brother. I have outlined a number of steps which if followed with commitment will launch us in the direction of peace and cooperation."