Rise up against the corrupt, Altaf urges Punjab

[Meet the new boss of Pakistan.  It is only a matter of time.]

Rise up against the corrupt, Altaf urges Punjab

Vows to pay Pak debts by selling lands of feudal lords; supports administrative division of provinces; addresses MQM workers in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan simultaneously

By Mumtaz Alvi & Faizan Bangash
RAWALPINDI/LAHORE: Predicting a revolution in the Punjab, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Quaid Altaf Hussain has called upon the people to strive for controlling their own destiny by rising up against the corrupt elements.
He said if his party came to power, he would pay Pakistan’s debts by selling the lands of feudal lords. He said those who had floated the slogan of “Roti, Kapra Aur Makaan” had given nothing to the people.
He supported the administrative division of provinces, terming it a step crucial for strengthening the federation. Speaking at three workers’ conventions in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan simultaneously, Altaf, speaking by telephone from London, said he had come to the Punjab to deal with the corrupt, looters and feudal lords.
He indirectly blasted the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Altaf said there was no harm in the creation of more provinces. He said the demand for separate provinces was not mutiny, adding that new provinces would strengthen Pakistan and make it prosperous.
“The people of the Punjab are requested not to vote for those who had been given an opportunity to rule Pakistan in the past, and this time should vote the MQM to power,” he said. “The MQM, if it reached the corridors of power, would resolve the longstanding Kashmir issue, introduce a uniform education system and rid the country of foreign debts by selling the lands of feudal lords,” he added.
The convention, he said, would lead to a revolution to rid the country of the looters, exploiters and ruthless elements in society. “Angels will not dawn upon you from the heavens. The people of the Punjab will have to rise to change their destiny by themselves,” he said. Altaf said the people of the Punjab were committing suicides due to the price hike, declaring that the MQM would bring the looters to book with the support of the poor, lower middle and middle classes.
The MQM, he said, would fulfil the dream of the father of the nation and turn Pakistan into a welfare state, where all the citizens, including the minorities, would be treated equally. He called upon the people of the Punjab not to spare those involved in power theft and hold them accountable for this crime. He said the MQM would end loadshedding and overcome water shortage in the country.
He urged the people not to pay heed to those who befooled them by chanting fake slogans. Altaf said the MQM was not disappointed even on the ransacking of its offices in the Punjab and the arrest of its workers.
The MQM Quaid said his party had strongly opposed the clause regarding not making mandatory intra-party elections. He said his party legislators had written a dissenting note on the draft of the 18th Amendment.
He said that 70 years ago, the people had gathered in Lahore and vowed to continue their fight till the establishment of a separate homeland for them, and they succeeded. He said that once again, the people of the Punjab had joined hands, but this time not to create but to save their homeland from the plunderers, Qabza groups, feudal lords and exploiters.
He said the workers’ conventions were, in fact, a vote of no-confidence of 98 per cent people of Pakistan against the corrupt, cruel and oppressing elements, who were suppressing the rights of the poor and downtrodden.
“Altaf Hussain has come to the Punjab now. This is the beginning of a new journey of 98 per cent people of Pakistan. The event also marks the accountability of the oppressors, who have been exploiting the poor,” Altaf said.
He vowed to distribute all the looted money of the public among the poor after coming to power.Citing verses of Allama Iqbal, ‘Utho Meri Dunya Ke Ghariboon Ko Jagado’, Altaf called upon the people to change their destiny by rejecting the corrupt elements.
Expressing his support for the people of southern Punjab, Hazara and Balochistan, Altaf said the MQM was committed to putting an end to injustice, being done to the people in these areas.
He said the just demands of the people of Hazara and southern Punjab should be met and the MQM was committed to solving their problems after coming to power.Dr Farooq Sattar, former Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal, Sindh Minister Faisal Sabzwari, showbiz people, including Sangeeta, Rashid Mehmood, and Saud, were also present at the Alhamra Hall, where the telephonic address of Altaf started with a delay of nearly two hours. About 2,500 security personnel were deployed at different positions to maintain law and order.

Pakistan wants Indian magistrates to testify

Pakistan wants Indian magistrates to testify

Anita Joshua

Formally seeks custody of Kasab

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Sunday formally sought the custody of Ajmal Amir Kasab — the lone surviving terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai attacks — and requested Indian magistrates to testify in the Rawalpindi trial of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba men charged with involvement in that crime.

The formal request was made by the Foreign Office when officials submitted a dossier to Indian Deputy High Commissioner Rahul Kulshreshth here on Sunday morning. On Saturday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik indicated Pakistan would seek Kasab’s custody as his confessional statement was crucial for the prosecution’s case against the seven men.

The dossier submitted by the Foreign Office is understood to be a response to the one India handed over to Pakistan in February at the Foreign Secretary-level talks. Indian High Commission officials said the dossier would be sent to India for further examination. Also, the legal ramifications of Pakistan’s request for custody of Kasab will have to be scrutinised as the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.

Besides, the Interior Ministry wants India to allow the metropolitan magistrates and police officials who recorded Kasab’s statement to appear before the Pakistan courts where the seven LeT men are under trial.

Defence lawyers have been arguing that Kasab’s confessional statement cannot be used against their clients because he was not being tried in the same court.

In view of this, the Federal Investigation Agency had informed the anti-terrorism court, where the seven are being tried, that it would approach Interpol to issue Red Corner Notices for Kasab and Fahim Ansari (who allegedly conducted reconnaissance for the attack).

India reacts cautiously

Special Correspondent adds from New Delhi:

Indian officials on Sunday reacted cautiously to the Pakistani request for the Mumbai magistrates and investigating officer to testify before the Rawalpindi court. Asked by The Hindu if this was a step forward, a senior official said “Maybe.” “There are too many moving parts [right now] to take a call.” He said it was a potential step forward but one could not conclude that with certainty yet.

Senior lawyers said India could consider Pakistan’s request if the magistrates concerned were prepared to be examined as witnesses voluntarily.

Shanti Bhushan said if Kasab’s confessional statement implicating some other accused facing trial in Pakistan required corroboration as per Pakistani law, India could consider such a request. P.P. Rao said the law allowed for such evidence to be provided in writing as well.

The Pakistani dossier and request comes on the eve of the SAARC summit in Bhutan, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines.

Doctors sterilise Uzbek women by stealth

Doctors sterilise Uzbek women by stealth

Mark Franchetti

  • A mother with her newborn baby soon after delivery in the maternity ward of a hospital

WHEN her baby died soon after delivery, Gulbahor Zavidova, 28, a poor farmer’s wife, longed to be pregnant again. After months of trying she and her husband visited a doctor who told her she could never have another child because she had been sterilised.

The procedure had been performed immediately after she gave birth, by doctors who did not ask her consent. On learning she could not bear children, her husband left her.

“Not a day passes without me crying,” she said. “I was outraged when I found out what they had done. How could they do such a horrible thing without asking me?”

According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of young women like Zavidova have been sterilised without their consent in the authoritarian former Soviet state of Uzbekistan.

Uzbek sources say the measure was ordered by Islam Karimov, the president, who has ruled with an iron fist for 20 years. The policy is aimed at keeping down the country’s poor population — with 28m people, it is Central Asia’s most densely populated state.

Activists say mass sterilisation began in 2003, but was eased after two years following an outcry. It is said to have restarted in February this year, when the health ministry ordered doctors to recommend sterilisation as an “effective contraceptive”. Critics claim every doctor was told to persuade “at least two women” a month to have the procedure. Doctors who failed faced reprisals and fines.

“We estimate that since February, about 5,000 women have been sterilised without consent,” said a local human rights campaigner who fears detention if she is named.

In many cases, doctors opt for delivery by caesarean section and then perform a sterilisation without telling the woman. Widespread rumours of the practice have resulted in women opting for home births to avoid the risk.

Doctors visited Hidojat Muminova, a 26-year-old cotton picker, at home several months ago. They told the mother of two she should visit a local hospital for a check-up, at which she was diagnosed with a potentially fatal cyst in her fallopian tubes.

“They scared me into believing I needed an urgent operation,” she said. “I was surprised as I’d never had any pain but I was worried and agreed to the surgery. When it was over they told me they’d performed a sterilisation. I could not stop crying. They tricked me and treated me like an animal.”

Another victim, Mahmuda Usupova, 30, said doctors had sterilised her after she gave birth to her third child by caesarean several months ago. She learnt she could no longer have children during a visit to her gynaecologist.

Uzbek authorities deny that sterilisations are carried out without consent, but a report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture reported a “large number” of cases three years ago. According to the UN, Uzbekistan’s fertility rate has fallen from 4.4 babies per woman to 2.5 since Karimov came to power.

Under the 72-year-old Karimov, Uzbekistan has become highly repressive. Opponents have been jailed, tortured and killed. Two critics of the regime, who were accused of being Islamic militants, were scalded to death after boiling water was poured over them.

Hundreds of civilians died when the police and army fired indiscriminately into a large crowd of protesters in Andijan in 2005. The Sunday Times has been denied entry to Uzbekistan ever since because its coverage is considered “unfriendly”.

The sterilisation programme has been relaunched despite efforts by Karimov’s two daughters to improve the lives of Uzbek women and children. Lola, 31, the president’s younger daughter, is a Unesco ambassador and head of a children’s charity.

Her sister Gulnara, 38, who was recently appointed ambassador to Spain, supports a number of charities. Known as “the princess of Uzbeks”, she is a Harvard graduate, martial arts expert and jewellery designer.

Under the name GooGoosha — apparently her father’s pet name for her — she has released pop videos. Her parties in Moscow, where she lived until recently, attracted members of the elite.

The women’s health days advertised on her website provide free access to medical specialists from Israel for women suffering “diseases related to reproductive functions”.

The Uzbek embassy in Moscow insisted that all sterilisations were carried out at the patient’s request and after the woman’s husband had been told of the consequences.

Some names have been changed. Additional reporting: Marina Ivanova, Tashkent

Brits To Increase Surveillance of Citizens With Global Hawk Drones

US Superspy in the British Sky Fetching Hidden Terror Cells: Report

Readers Number : 28

26/04/2010 A Top-secret US unmanned drone used to locate Al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in Pakistan and Afghanistan could soon be patrolling over British cities to search for hidden “terror cells”, Mail Online said in a report published on Monday.
The controversial move would allow MI5 and GCHQ, the Government’s eavesdropping centre, to step up surveillance operations over the UK, it said.
“Until now, the £23million Global Hawk aircraft has not been available for foreign sale. However, US policy has been quietly changed and Britain is now negotiating to buy the drones. These include the attempt in 2006 to detonate liquid bombs on aircraft flying to American cities from the UK. It is not known how many drones the UK wants from manufacturer Northrop Grumman, but earlier this year a senior Ministry of Defense procurement official visited the Pentagon to begin negotiations”, the report added.
The report went on to say that Britain would not need to use the drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan because the US already provides “full air coverage” in the region. Instead, it is believed they will be used mainly for “domestic surveillance”.
“In Britain, MI5 and GCHQ already use three planes based at RAF Northolt in North-West London to spy on citizens. The three Britten-Norman Islander aircraft are all fitted with sophisticated surveillance equipment. They have been used to track down terror cells and to locate former Afghan veterans who may have returned to Britain to plot terror attacks. The aircraft are able to identify suspects using ‘voice-prints’ of insurgents with British accents that were picked up by spy planes monitoring Taliban radio signals in Afghanistan”, Mail Online reported.
The Global Hawk recently became the first drone to be certified by the American Federal Aviation Authority for use in civilian air corridors with no advance notice.
“The drone can stay airborne for 30 hours without refueling. Last night, MoD sources said the Global Hawk was being looked at for possible military use but any decision to buy the drone would depend on funding,” the report ended by saying.
Earlier, The Mail on Sunday revealed that MI5 used hidden electronic surveillance equipment to secretly monitor 10 Downing Street, the Cabinet and at least five Prime Ministers. The extraordinary disclosure comes despite a succession of parliamentary statements that no such bugging ever took place. And it follows a behind-the-scenes row in which senior Whitehall civil servants – backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown – attempted to suppress the revelation.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that top-secret files held by the Security Service show it installed electronic listening devices in three highly sensitive areas of No10 – the Cabinet Room, the Waiting Room and the Prime Minister’s study.

Pentagon Beyond US Anti-Corruption Laws?

Pentagon Beyond US Anti-Corruption Laws?

Aerial view of the Pentagon, courtesy of Rudi Riet/flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Aerial image of the Pentagon

A US Congressional investigation into fuel contracting at the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan could test the US Department of Justice’s willingness to apply to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) to Pentagon contracting, observers say, Deirdre Tynan reports for EurasiaNet.

By Deirdre Tynan for EurasiaNet


The National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform opened a probe into Manas fuel contracts on April 12, less than a week after the collapse of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s administration in Bishkek.

The subcommittee’s first hearing on the matter, entitled Crisis in Kyrgyzstan: Fuel, Contractors, and Revolution along the Afghan Supply Chain, is scheduled to be held April 22 in Washington.

Manas Transit Center handles both troops and goods heading to and from Afghanistan. It plays a pivotal role in the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a resupply route running from Europe through Central Asia. It is designed to ease the logistics strain on the main overland supply route to Afghanistan, via Pakistan.

Red Star Enterprises Ltd., one of the companies at the center of the congressional investigation, is among the US Department of Defense’s top 100 contractors, and in the Defense Logistics Agency’s top 10 having won more than $1.069 billion in contracts in 2008.

Since the passage of the anti-corruption act in 1977, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has appeared reluctant to prosecute FCPA cases involving Department of Defense (DoD) contractors. This reluctance appears rooted in a desire not to have the FCPA damage US national security interests.

However, experts argue that this softly-softly approach to the Pentagon’s contracting activities, from which private and publicly held entities reap billions of dollars, does more harm than good. It can undermine confidence in the US justice system, and, in the case of Kyrgyzstan and the Manas facility, potentially hurts Washington’s standing in the eyes of the new leadership in Bishkek.

Mike Koehler — an assistant professor of business law at Butler University in Indiana, and an FCPA expert — suggested that the DoD seems to enjoy an exemption from the Act, even though there is no provision in the FCPA for such an exemption.

“The FCPA applies to any time a US company, and under some circumstances a non-US company, provides anything of value to a foreign individual or entity to retain business. There is no industry exception. There is no DoD exception,” Koehler said.

“But DoJ is going to tread very lightly here, as it raises national security concerns and political issues that are not found in all instances of FCPA cases,” Koehler continued.

Koehler pointed to a case settled this past February that he characterized as “FCPA-like.” In that case, BAE Systems, a major weapons supplier, agreed to pay a Justice Department-imposed fine of $400 million, and plead guilty to making false statements to the US government. But the company was not required to “plead guilty or otherwise acknowledge responsibility” for improper conduct concerning an investigation that was opened in 2007, Koehler said.

“The reason is because BAE is the fifth largest defense contractor to the US government,” Koehler stated. “I think it is pretty clear that in this case the company was treated differently to another company that may violate the FCPA, [treated differently to] a company that sells a different product to a different customer.”

DoJ guidelines allow for the consideration of “collateral effects” when making a decision on whether or not to launch a criminal investigation into a possible FCPA violation. This clause theoretically enables national security concerns to trump justice in the broadest sense, Koehler said. But the approach is questionable, he argued.

“I don’t like it because, for one, we have this thing called the rule of law in America and the law is supposed to be applied equally to everybody based on the same set of facts,” he said. “In other words, it should not matter if we talking about a company that sells fighter jets or a company that sells dental floss.”

“It shouldn’t matter, but, as a practical matter, it does,” Koehler continued.

The FCPA, according to the Justice Department’s website, “was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.”

Potential FCPA cases involving Central Asian states could pose a particular problem for US prosecutors. On the one hand, the governments of the region are notoriously corrupt and authoritarian-minded. On the other, their cooperation with the United States is needed to ensure the smooth operation of the Northern Distribution Network.

In its most recent survey of global corruption, the watchdog organization Transparency International ranked Kyrgyzstan 162nd out of the 180 nations surveyed, with 1 being the least corrupt and 180 being the most corrupt. Other important NDN transit states also ranked poorly, with Uzbekistan at 174th and Tajikistan at 158th. The least corrupt Central Asian state was Kazakhstan, which still ranked 120th.

Alexander Tiperov, a prominent lawyer in Bishkek and a staunch opponent of the Manas Transit Center, told EurasiaNet.org that any failure by US authorities to apply FCPA legislation evenly in relation to the Manas investigation would have an adverse effect on Kyrgyz public opinion. Already, many Kyrgyz believe that Washington is willing to overlook fundamental flaws in governance in Bishkek, as long as American troops can retain access to the Manas facility.

“I think it is very important for the credibility of the United States to hold an investigation into this. And if for any reason they fail to come to a conclusion, it will definitely show that they support this corruption and are not interested in a proper examination of the issue,” Tiperov said. He also called on Kyrgyz authorities to launch a similar investigation.

In April 2009, a memo issued by US Central Command, and signed by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, instructed officers involved in NDN procurement to “make every attempt, within operational, legal and regulatory constraints, to use [South Caucasus/Central and South Asian States’] services and products.” Petraeus also gave US procurement officials broad latitude to award contracts based advancing US strategic and operational goals in Afghanistan.

“I challenge our leadership at all levels to be creative and aggressive in carrying out this effort,” he wrote. Some experts contend that such an impulse toward creativity had the tacit effect of discouraging adequate oversight. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

When contacted by EurasiaNet.org regarding the application of the FCPA to DoD contracting, Cheryl Irwin, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said it was a DoJ matter. “Our lawyers say this is a Department of Justice issue, not DoD-specific,” the Defense Department representative said on April 20.

In turn, Justice Department representative Alisa Finelli declined to discuss the FCPA in relation to DoD contracting, saying she could not comment on “specific cases.”

THE SEEDS OF AFGHAN CORRUPTION

THE SEEDS OF AFGHAN CORRUPTION

The flourishing drug trade, apart from war and corruption, makes Afghanistan’s future look bleak, writes Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Strange addiction

When the American president, Barack Obama, paid a ‘surprise’ visit to Kabul and had dinner with Hamid Karzai, they could not have discussed anything else other than the situation in Afghanistan where troops of 42 nations are fighting on a hostile terrain.

Before getting into the issues that compelled Obama to visit the war zone, one thing must be understood clearly: the president of the United States of America, whatever his political background, has to see things from an American perspective only. It is thus the president’s duty to ensure that his soldiers find their way out of the quagmire in Afghanistan.

With almost 45,000 infantry soldiers on ground, the US army has been principally deployed on the eastern part of Afghanistan, bordering the Durand Line. Thus, the force covers the provinces of Nuristan, Kunar, Panjshir, Kapisa, Laghman, Nangarhar, Khost, Paktika, Kandahar and Helmand. The last five are being especially re-fortified by the 30,000 fresh troops who have started to arrive.

The 4th infantry brigade combat team operates from Jalalabad; the 3rd infantry brigade combat team from Logar; the 4th airborne infantry brigade combat team from Khost; the 5th stryker brigade combat team from Kandahar and the 2nd marine expeditionary brigade is responsible for drug-infested Helmand.

In landlocked Afghanistan, drugs constitute the lifeline of the local economy. The sale of drugs fetches dollars and Kalashnikovs. Understandably, therefore, the production and distribution of drugs are a way of life for a population that has been denied access to natural resources. Given the limited agricultural land, high birth and death rates (the average life span is 42 years), coupled with endless ethnic conflict, Afghanistan is a nation mired in corruption. It is also administered in a poor manner. Asking the Afghan president to accomplish something that is impossible would be grossly unfair. Afghanistan and ‘administration’, as understood in Europe or America, simply do not go together.

Why does one say so? One just needs to turn one’s eyes to the US troops in the Kandahar-Helmand area to know the answer. Marja, in Helmand, has a large occupation force. There is more than one coalition soldier or police officer for every eight locals. Yet, the Taliban have been able to launch an unrelenting terror campaign on their own Afghan brethren. So much so that the area belongs to foreigners during the day and to locals at night. Collaboration between the ‘non-Taliban’ locals and the Americans is unacceptable to the Taliban.

How then does one expect the government to impart ‘honest’, ‘effective’, ‘impartial’ and ‘transparent’ administration in the midst of such death and devastation? Reportedly, the cultivation of opium is the main source of livelihood of the majority of farmers in Marja. The force had been instructed to seize the land belonging to these farmers some time ago. However, the same soldiers have now been ordered to leave the farmers alone. “Marja is a special case right now”, said commander Jeffrey Eggers, a member of General McChrystal’s strategic advisory group. “We do not trample on the livelihood of those we are trying to win over.” Thus, when it comes to the drug-trade, the tactic of violence has given way to the doctrine of peace. Is this not strange and curious?

Where is this cultivated opium headed for? To the grey market dominated, allegedly, by ISI informers, Western consumers, US financiers, arms dealers and fund-raisers. Obama, apparently, nudged Karzai to tackle Afghan corruption. But how can Karzai succeed, considering the serious charges of corruption that have been levelled against the Kabul government? Also, as incidents have revealed, the US may not be interested in dealing with drug-related corruption. Thus, only a week before Obama’s Kabul sojourn, there were reports that the US was looking the other way even as two-thirds of Marja’s fields bloomed with tall, red poppies. Today, Afghanistan produces almost 90 per cent of the world’s opium. The brisk trade, directly or indirectly, supports an estimated 1.4 million households in the country. According to rough estimates, a large number of people are dependent on poppy cultivation, thereby linking cash, corruption and commerce.

In fact, the American soldiers and the commanders themselves are aware of this fatal reality. Hence, either way, the Americans have fallen into a trap far away from home. Poppy forms the base of the trade in narcotics. It is illegal to process and consume drugs, and yet the American soldiers remain silent spectators in the Afghan countryside.

In fact, the Afghans themselves have the right to enquire of Obama and his men about the steps taken to nip corruption and drug-trade in the bud in Marja. Thus, Zalmai Afzali, of the Afghan ministry of counter narcotics, fumes — “How can we allow the world to see lawful forces in charge of Marja next to fields full of opium, which one way or another will be harvested and turned into poison that kills people all over the world?”

Afzali has a point indeed. Poppy trade, drugs, corruption, commerce, guns, dollars and destruction — everything is interlinked. Obama’s advice to Karzai would make sense only if all the enmeshed factors are tackled strategically. But that is unlikely to happen. Hence chaos and corruption, death and destruction, are likely to remain a part of Afghanistan’s reality in the future. Obama’s lecture to Karzai on corruption has no meaning at this juncture. In Kabul, corruption is the way of life, and is a matter of great significance to a people being ravaged by an unending strife.

Time to end the impasse with Pakistan

Time to end the impasse with Pakistan

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

India's Foreign Secretrary Nirupama Rao welcomes her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir prior to their meeting in New Delhi on February 25, 2010. Photo: V. Sudershan

The Hindu India’s Foreign Secretrary Nirupama Rao welcomes her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir prior to their meeting in New Delhi on February 25, 2010. Photo: V. Sudershan

If India really believes dialogue is the way forward, it should not allow a disagreement over form or nomenclature to come in the way.

Forget Kashmir and terrorism or even Afghanistan and water, the current stalemate between India and Pakistan is all down to one word. Both countries publicly say that Dialogue is the only way forward. Yet each is paralysed by the name ‘Composite’. New Delhi is so allergic to it that it will not accept its use, while Islamabad has become so attached to the C word that it insists there can be nothing else.

This Indian allergy and Pakistani attachment is paradoxical, since the composite dialogue approach has suited India more than it has Pakistan. Under the guise of moving ahead simultaneously on all issues, the framework has allowed progress on trade and other subjects considered important by New Delhi, even as the status quo on major disputes like Kashmir and Siachen –key concerns for Islamabad — has held. Of course, the dialogue did not end cross-border terrorism or extinguish the links between the Pakistani security agencies and violent extremism as some on the Indian side might have hoped. But that was always an improbable shot given the DNA of the Pakistani establishment. Over time, India has realised the best way to deal with the threat of terror is by strengthening its internal capabilities while utilising engagement as a lever for influencing Pakistan’s behaviour over the long run.

The two most important issues for the Pakistani side today — going by its public statements — are Kashmir and water. But here’s the paradox: the composite dialogue, from its point of view, has produced no forward movement whatsoever on these two fronts. In four and a half rounds of talks within that framework, the total amount of time spent by the two foreign secretaries in discussing the Kashmir dispute has perhaps been 10 hours. During which neither side did anything beyond restating its national positions. As for water, it does not even figure as a separate head under this format. The only water-related dispute covered by the composite dialogue is the Tulbul navigation project, also known as the Wullar barrage. There, too, progress has been insignificant.

In contrast to the composite dialogue framework, the back channel between Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz was far more effective and productive. Between 2004 and 2007, the two special envoys, who reported directly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf respectively, discussed Kashmir for hundreds of hours. More significantly, their exertions produced a framework solution that was cleared on the Indian side by the Cabinet Committee on Security and on the Pakistani side by the Corps Commanders conference, before domestic political difficulties triggered by his dismissal of the chief justice forced Musharraf to back off. As for water, the Indus Water Commissioners have been meeting continuously for more than 40 years and their forum represents the best platform for Pakistan because all the Indian projects it opposes on the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers can be referred to an outside arbitrator whose decisions are final and binding. Compared to such a powerful dispute resolution mechanism, the existing dialogue framework is surely inferior. And yet, even though Islamabad’s best shot at making progress on water and Kashmir lies outside the composite dialogue, it has got locked into a situation where it is refusing any form of engagement or talks other than that.

Now let’s consider India. The Indian position has been in a state of flux since it suspended the composite dialogue following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Broadly speaking, however, India has maintained that there can be no resumption of the composite dialogue till Pakistan moves to punish the Mumbai conspirators and dismantles the “infrastructure of terror” on its soil. In September last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a distinction between “meaningful dialogue” on disputes, which would have to await Pakistani action on terrorism, and talks on “humanitarian and other issues.” Since then, the Indian position has evolved further. When Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir, was invited to Delhi in February 2010, India clarified that while its own priority was terrorism, it was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. That is still the official Indian position. At a press conference on April 22, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said dialogue “represents a concrete method to move forward in our relationship … [It] is always useful. It helps clear the atmosphere and especially between neighbours, such as India and Pakistan. Dialogue is really the way forward”.

But if India believes dialogue “is really the way forward”, why is it unable to accept Pakistan’s call for the “composite” dialogue to be resumed? The paradox here is that from the traditional Indian perspective, the composite dialogue has worked pretty well. Discussions on Kashmir have not led to any change in the territorial status quo but have provided a cover for India to move ahead with other parts of the bilateral agenda that suit it more, like trade and cross-border confidence-building measures. And if the Indian side is opposed to talks on the ‘water issue’, the composite framework of dialogue is ideal because water does not figure as a standalone topic under any of the subject heads. Despite this, India is the one saying no to ‘composite’ dialogue.

India suspended the composite dialogue in order to get Pakistan to take action against terrorism. Some action has been taken but the Manmohan Singh government rightly believes that Pakistan can and must do more. It also knows the continued absence of dialogue is unlikely to produce greater action on the terrorism front and might even be counter-productive. Yet it fears the “resumption” of the suspended dialogue will be seen as a sign of weakness by the Opposition.

India’s options have been further complicated by the hardening of the Pakistani position on cooperation and dialogue since November 2009, when Barack Obama’s new AfPak policy dealt the military establishment in Rawalpindi a stronger hand in the Afghan endgame. Even as the Pakistan army has stepped up its offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban and, to a lesser extent, anti-American extremists on its border with Afghanistan, it has played up the ‘India threat’ card to balance the perception that it is too subservient to the U.S. The rhetoric on water, the Azm-e-Nau III exercises, the loosening of the leash on Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and the increase in infiltration across the Line of Control are all evidence of the hardening of the Pakistani military’s attitude. At the same time, the domestic political situation in Pakistan is fluid. The 18th amendment to the constitution has opened up the possibility of the civilian government and the provinces strengthening themselves vis-a-vis the military. The revival of the Benazir Bhutto assassination case in the wake of the recent U.N. report could also provide political ammunition against the establishment.

In the run up to this week’s Saarc summit in Bhutan, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines, Indian officials are resigned to keeping the bilateral relationship in a ‘holding pattern.’ Their logic is that if relations cannot improve, then they should not be allowed to deteriorate either. As a short-term strategy, the holding pattern strategy works fine. There are always small things that can be done at that level too. But an aeroplane cannot circle the runway endlessly. The longer it is up in the air, the greater is the likelihood of a disastrous descent. That is why planning for an orderly landing is a much better strategy.

In Thimphu, Dr. Singh must try and find a way of doing that. One possibility is for the two prime ministers to task their foreign secretaries with reviewing what has been accomplished on the terrorism front as well as in the last few rounds of the composite dialogue, with a view to expediting the resolution of existing problems and disputes. Such a mandate would foreground the necessity of a dialogue addressing all outstanding issues while sidestepping, for the moment, any nomenclatural disagreement. It would accomplish the stated Indian objective while allowing Mr. Gilani to return without having surrendered Islamabad’s stand on the “resumption” of the composite dialogue. Parallel to this process, the Prime Minister should meet with the leaders of all major political parties in order to explain the reasons why India and Pakistan need to end the current stalemate. Finally, a strict moratorium on grandstanding and posturing, finger-pointing and name-calling is necessary. When the Prime Minister is directly crafting India’s approach to Pakistan, ministers, officials and anonymous ‘sources’ must not confuse the public with contradictory messages and statements.