Indo Pakistan Joint Terrorism Mechanism

The Indian Prime Minister and President of Pakistan met in Havana against the backdrop of the NAM Summit and renewed the strategic peace agreement between the two countries.

Considerable debate has been ongoing in India over the joint statement issued after the meeting. The key extracts of the statement read, “President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had a cordial, frank and detailed exchange of views on all aspects of India-Pakistan relations. The leaders agreed that the peace process must be maintained and its success was important for both countries and the future of the entire region. In this context, they directed their Foreign Secretaries to resume the composite dialogue at the earliest possible. The two leaders also directed the Foreign Secretaries on the following:-

  • The Foreign Secretaries should meet shortly in New Delhi to continue the composite dialogue.
  • To arrange consultations for early solution of the Siachen issue.
  • Experts should meet immediately to agree on coordinates for joint survey of Sir Creek and adjoining area, without prejudice to each other’s position on the issue. The Survey should commence in November 2006. The experts should start discussions on the maritime boundary.

    There are four basic issues highlighted by the Joint Statement as follows:-

  • Resumption of the process of composite dialogue.
  • Resolution of the Siachen issue.
  • Resolution of the issue of maritime boundary at Sir Creek.
  • Joint mechanism for countering terrorism, “to put in place an India-Pakistan anti-terrorism institutional mechanism to identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations”.

    Of these, the first three issues are a continuation of past positions, hence have not invited any comments or criticism in India. The last point on Joint Mechanism for Counter Terrorism however has been stiffly opposed by security analysts as well as the political parties in New Delhi on the basis of its equating terrorism in India and Pakistan, wherein the latter is seen by many as the chief sponsor of terror in India. The lack of a priori debate on the issue has also rankled many, particularly those in the intelligence community. In any case given Indian proclivities for debates rather than decisions, perhaps this may be better so. The involvement of Pakistan in 7/11 Mumbai blasts, dramatically announced by Mumbai Police Commissioner recently has provided the critics with strong fuel for their arguments.

    The Indian government view appears to be that it is better to actively engage Pakistan on all issues even those which are as acrimonious as terrorism. This is perhaps the first time an attempt is being made to address the core issue of terrorism from the Indian side by suggesting specific measures towards an achievable goal. The exact mechanics of the joint terrorism mechanism may take some time to evolve, but the proposal on the whole needs to be commended.

    The Indian government will however have to sell it and how it is implemented successfully in the future will largely depend upon its handling by the diplomatic establishment of both the countries. India’s new foreign secretary is perhaps well suited to play a big role of coordinator in the case and having just returned from being a High Commissioner in Islamabad is suitably poised with good links on both sides of the Line of Control to carry forward the government’s agenda. If the end game as seen by India is reining in of ISI, then it would be a fair deal. However if it is to be another talking shop, then terrorism across the border will continue.

    As far as the other issues of Sir Creek and Siachen are concerned, it is more than obvious that an agreement on both will be arrived at in the near future. The waters of the Sir Creek will be internationalized, in case India and Pakistan do not arrive at an agreement by 2007, while the Indian Government is attempting to overcome the resistance of the Army on disengagement in Siachen.

  • Rahul K. Bhonsle is a Strategic Risk and Knowledge Management Consultant and writer with specific focus on defence and security, especially in South Asia.