New Delhi: Former Pakistan ambassador to United States of America Husain Haqqani spoke exclusively to NewsX’s Foreign Affairs editor Geeta Mohan regarding Indo-Pak relations:
NewsX: You have written a book on India and Pakistan. The ties are soured. The diplomatic onslaught by Pakistan with regards to Kashmir has never been seen before. We have seen them engage just about every nation in Islamabad, the envoys of every nation in Islamabad, but should and is Kashmir the jugular vein for India and Pakistan?
Husain Haqqani: Pakistan has survived without Kashmir for 69 years, it probably can survive for a longer time. Pakistan does have a legitimate concern and cause about Kashmir. I wish Pakistan enhanced its legitimacy by doing away with terrorism which has made it difficult for Pakistan to get international support. Last year when PM Nawaz Sharif raised the issue of Kashmir in the United Nations, he was the only one to speak about Kashmir out of 193 countries present there. Diplomatic onslaught with the purpose of generating more media in Pakistan or for that matter in India, is not going to work. Pakistan needs the support of the rest of the international community. Everybody is tired because of the cyclical nature of the problem in Kashmir. Every few years we have problem in Kashmir, India needs to deal with them. There is no way India can get away just by blaming Pakistan, but Pakistan also needs to deal with the image that has emerged in the world of Pakistan being an epicentre of terrorism.
NewsX: Can there be a solution with regards to Kashmir that both sides will have to come to terms with the fact that there is going to be no change in status quo?
Husain Haqqani: Whether Pakistan and India come to terms with the reality that the status quo is unlikely to change in the near future, that will remain the reality. Pakistan has been offered many options by India. Pakistan has also said that it is ready for a negotiable option. A negotiation by definition is meeting halfway and we have not seen that meeting halfway so far, on both sides. So, India continues to militarise Kashmir and Pakistan continues to try and create problems for India in Kashmir. The rest of the world has not taken that much of interest. People of Kashmir are the ones who suffer the most. I think the relationship between 1 billion people of India and 200 million of Pakistan is far more important than resolving a dispute first. There are two ways of resolving a disputes — one is resolve the dispute first and then talk about everything else. It has not worked anywhere in the world. All countries of the world have found some common ground first, tried to become friends first and resolve their disputes later. I think that is what India and Pakistan ought to do as well.
NewsX: So you do agree that the whole idea of resolve Kashmir first is not going to be the solution for Indo-Pak outstanding issues or bringing peace to the region?
Husain Haqqani: If I thought Pakistan actually would get a result from that position, I would say yes because as a Pakistani I would like to see Pakistan to succeed. But the fact remains that all international disputes that have ever been resolved have been the result of normalisation first and dispute resolution later. China and US in 1974 established diplomatic relations, until then US recognised Taiwan as the legitimate government of China. The US did not give up on Taiwan completely. China did not give up its claim on Taiwan, but China did not insist that the Taiwan question be solves first and today the US and China are the largest trading partners for one another.
NewsX: A lot of space is been given to elements like Hafiz Saeed. He has been going on and on about Kashmir and how he wants to help the people of Kashmir. JK CM also came out and said that Pakistan is involved in infiltration and creating problems that recently Kashmir suffered.
Husain Haqqani: Pakistan’s case would be stronger if it was being advocated by people whom the rest of the world considers to be reasonable. Pakistan’s case would not benefit from the advocacy by people like Hafiz Saeed, who have been declared terrorists by the international community. As far as the current troubles in Kashmir are concerned, there are several reports that suggest that there is alienation in the valley of Kashmir. India needs to deal with that reality. It can’t get away by just blaming Pakistan. At the same time, Pakistan has to address questions about Jihadi groups like LeT and JeM fomenting trouble and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir under Indian control.
NewsX: Sartaj Aziz, the advisor to PM Nawaz Sharif, has come out and spoken of some certain sections within India who are concerned. There could be concern, but is it not fair to say that Pakistan is trying to use and gain mileage out of certain criticism to do what they want to do in the valley?
Husain Haqqani: Well, I think it is time for Pakistan to have a more realistic approach to India-Pakistan equation. I think better relations between the two countries and better relations of Pakistan with its neighbours are more desirable and more important right now than trying to push a policy that has not succeeded in the past. Look, we have had 55 summit level meetings in 69 years. We have had several cycles and circles of militancy and trouble in Kashmir, protests in Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan need to change their approach and I believe, old approaches are not going to give new results.
NewsX: The news we were carrying was India downgrading its mission in Pakistan. This has never happened in a long time. What does that spell for India and Pakistan?
Husain Haqqani: Well it’s not just India, we should remember that Americans, who are Pakistan’s biggest benefactors do not consider Pakistan to be a family station. Basically, Pakistan needs to be wary of how the rest of the world looks at it. We can create our own illusions, we can get into the kind of shouting matches with Indians that we get into, but the real problem remains that a lot of Pakistanis cannot travel internationally without visas to more and more countries. Pakistan risks international isolation. I think many of our legitimate claims on disputes and issues also suffer because of the problems. Many Pakistanis have been killed because of terrorism than have been Indians. I think it is time for Pakistan to end that particular option completely, and at the same time start working towards normal relations with all neighbours. India’s decision is India’s decision. They have the right to protect the children of their diplomats because they think that the people are under threat. I haven’t been to my country for several years because of a threat to my life and I think that Paksitan needs to change that whole paradigm instead of just thinking in terms of have the Indians insulted us by getting their school children out of Pakistan.