Move Beyond ‘Cricket Diplomacy’

Even if it breathes some fresh air into the relations between the two countries 

The relation between India and Pakistan is more brittle than glass. Even if put in a steal frame of agreements, they breakdown on a slight touch. In May last year at the swearing in ceremony of Narendra Modi grand bonhomie was seen between newly elected Prime Minister and Nawaz Sharif. But it took just a meeting between Kashmir leaders and Pakistan, High Commissioner to turn this cordiality sour. There was nothing unusual about this meeting. Meeting between Kashmir leaders and Pakistan diplomats on the eve of India-Pakistan dialogues on Kashmir have a history. In fact such meetings were greatly encouraged by New Delhi after the 2004 composite dialogue. For meeting President Musharraf, and other Pakistan leaders some Kashmiri leaders were even allowed to travel through Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road, for meetings in Islamabad without Passport. The bitterness of relations translated into bloody skirmishes along the LOC and the working boundary. The growing tension on the borders had had made some important South-Asia experts foresee another war between the two countries. If efforts were not made to ease the tension. 

It seems, the ‘cricket diplomacy,’ has once again breathed some fresh air into the relations between the two countries. It needs to be seen, if it breathes a new life in them or not. On Friday, Prime Minister, Modi called up his counterparts in SAARAC countries participating in the World Cup to wish their teams. The move perhaps is aimed up at picking up threads with SAARC countries, for greater regional cooperation under Modi’s leadership. He also informed them that India’s new Foreign Secretary Jaishankar would visit there soon. Of all the leaders he called up, his conversation with Nawaz Sharif and proposed visit of Jaishankar is significant because of deadlock between Islamabad and New Delhi, after India unilaterally called of Secretary level talks, last year in August. Nawaz Sharif responded positively to the proposed visit of Indian Foreign Secretary. Media reports suggested the phone call was preceded by a meeting between Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. Pakistan has maintained that India must take the first step to “initiate talks” since India had cancelled the talks. Ostensibly, President Obama has nudged the two countries to end the stalemate. 

It is not for the first time that ‘Cricket Diplomacy’ has been put to play for ending the impasse or it is not equally for the first time India and Pakistan will be resuming talks after a deadlock. True, cricket diplomacy, which was first initiated by President Zia-ul-Haq, followed by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Geelani did work in ending the stalemate and caused structured dialogue or composite dialogue between the two capitals. There can be no denying that the engagement, more particularly after 2004 largely silenced guns along the LOC and brought some peace and respite to hundreds of thousands living on both the sides of the line dividing Jammu and Kashmir. Notwithstanding, some leaders in India committing themselves to ensuring lasting peace in the regions and resolving the Kashmir Dispute peacefully, quitted their offices without making any progress. The reasons for their failures was, either they wanted to resolve it on their own terms and conditions or succumbed to the Nehru’s policy of procrastination inherited after his death by bureaucracy. 

Kashmir dispute would not have been there at all. And even, after its birth it would have been resolved without much of a delay but for Jawaharlal Nehru’s hide and seek diplomacy. “Nehru always wanted Kashmir as part of India”, writes India’s contemporary historian Ramachandra Guha, “Sardar Patel was at one time inclined to allow the State to Join Pakistan.” Jawaharlal Nehru took the dispute to the Security Council. The Security Council got pro-actively involved in the resolution of the dispute, it immediately appointed United Nation Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). The UNCIP passed two resolutions on 13 August 1948 and 5 February 1949, ‘these resolution which were fortified by a bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan, under the Vienna convention on the Law of Treaties constitute treaties.’ (The Kashmir Dispute, Noorani page 98). After the UNCIP, the Security Council appointed General McNaughton of Canada, Sir Owen Dixon of Australia, Dr. Graham of the United States as its mediators. These initiatives were followed by US pushing the two countries for bilateral talks. For two years Nehru-Bogra talks continued with Nehru reiterating his commitment for plebiscite. But, for his withdrawal from talks, this initiative which held promise for resolution of the Kashmir dispute failed. Nehru refused proposal of arbitration made by UN envoys. He did not show interest even in Pakistan Prime Minister, Noon expressing readiness of his government to withdraw every soldier from Kashmir for facilitating demilitarization (in September 1957). In 1962 after Sino-India war, US once again brought the two countries to the negotiating table. From Dec 1962 to May 1963 six rounds were held between Swaran Singh and Bhutto. But no agreement was reached. 

Nehru in fact wasted many an opportunities of resolving the Kashmir. Instead of showing keenness for arriving at a solution, he preferred dilly-dallying. There was typical mind-set behind his policy of procrastination. He had made it clear to his High Commissioner in Pakistan, Sri Prakasa, ‘Kashmir is a drain on our resources, but it is going to be greater to Pakistan…..Kashmir will swiftly bankrupt Pakistan.’ Had not Nehru approached Kashmir problem with this mind set and waited for Pakistan’s bankruptcy, the dispute would have been resolved long before and sub-continent would have been an oasis of peace and the two countries would have joined the club of developed countries. And Kashmir would not have earned sobriquet of being dangerous place in the world. In fact, it was this mind-set that after Nehru’s death was inherited by an influential section of the bureaucracy in New Delhi. And procrastination became hallmark of Kashmir policy, driving Kashmir from one phase of uncertainty. 

Had this mindset been exorcized, the Kashmir problem would have been settled long before and the trust-deficit between New Delhi-Islamabad would have etherized. History, has opened an opportunity for Prime Minister Modi to join club of statesman like Charles de Gaulle who went against military and Pieds- Noris in resolving the problem of Algeria and initiated Politics of Grandeur", asserting that France as a major power should not rely on other countries
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