India To Give Pak Benefit Of Doubt To Pursue Peace

India To Give Pak Benefit Of Doubt To Pursue Peace

11 November 2013
The Daily Excelsior


Melbourne: India will give Pakistan the “benefit of the doubt” as they pursue peace amid a series of ceasefire violations along the LoC but this cannot be at India’s cost, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said. “…If you look at the ground reality and you look at the result of our meetings, it is very disappointing, particularly in recent times meetings have been somewhat disappointing if not counterproductive,” he said. “I think the new Government there (Pakistan) has a very very difficult situation to handle. Our view is that we should give them time and benefit of doubt but not at our cost,” Khurshid said in an interview to The Australian newspaper. India would be able to say there is “adequate evidence” of Pakistan’s intent to move forward on bilateral ties if it is “able to address the issue of dismantling of terrorist infrastructure that is targeted at India” and “some accountability is shown on what happened in Mumbai through the legal proceedings that are under way”, he said. Pakistan has also not followed through on its promise of a top-level military meeting to address tensions along the Line of Control (LoC), he said. “We still have not seen a proper meeting between the Directors General of Military Operations which we had agreed in the New York meeting (between the Prime Ministers) would take place soon. The idea was that military-to-military, there is going to be a better understanding why these violations are happening and what is to be done in order both to restrict the damage that they can do as well as if possible eliminate them entirely for future,” he said. The meeting of the DGMOs has not yet been held and Khurshid said he hoped it would be arranged in the “near future” so that the “best way” of addressing peace and tranquillity on the LoC can be taken up. “When (Pakistan’s Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif says he wants peace and good relations with India, we take him at his word,” he said. But Khurshid said he could not reconcile that word with repeated ceasefire violations on the LoC in recent months. “We talk to Pakistan periodically and in terms of personal gestures we receive great warmth,” he said. “But if you look at the ground reality and you look at the result of our meetings, it is very disappointing…” Pakistan-backed terrorists, especially the Lashkar-e-Toiba, are continuing to attack and kill Indian civilians in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere, Khurshid said. Intermittent cross-border firing started in January but intensified in August, when five Indian soldiers were killed in an attack by Pakistani forces along the LoC. During their meeting in New York in September, the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan had agreed that the DGMOs would meet to find ways to reduce tensions on the LoC. However, the meeting is yet to be held and the two sides have not finalised any dates for it. India is concerned about periodic provocative incursions by Chinese troops that have resulted in “eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations”, but was hopeful that the border issues will eventually be settled. “Obviously, we are concerned about periodic steps that seem provocative or adverse to our interests,” Khurshid said. “But, of course, they (incursions) are occurring in the context of a different perception of what the Line of Control is and where it should be. The good news is that there hasn’t been a casualty on the Chinese front for several years. There have been skirmishes and eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations, but no casualties”, he said. He believed the border issues will eventually be settled and peace and stability between India and China will become stronger over time, Khurshid said in an interview to The Australian. Responding to a question if India and China, by virtue of their size, proximity, contrasting political systems and diverging geo-strategic interests, were not destined to some extent to be strategic rivals, Khurshid said: “Yes, I think that’s to some extent inevitable, although it’s much more complex than that, of course. But we’d like to be rivals who are also partners, partners who are also rivals.” “Our Prime Minister has said that the world is large enough to accommodate the aspirations of both China and India,” he said. Khurshid said he was prepared to talk in some detail about one of the most vexed issues in the Sino-Indian relationship – the border of Arunachal Pradesh – with China. India and China last month inked a comprehensive pact – Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) – which commits them not to use military capability to attack each other. The agreement was signed following a series of incursions by the Chinese Army into Depsang Valley in Ladakh region in May. Khurshid also expressed satisfaction with India’s ties with the United States. “The US is a very important security partner to us. We have never subscribed to the idea of an alliance. In the past, we had our non-aligned position and more recently we describe it as our autonomous strategic position. “But, we have collaborated closely with the US. We are constantly now in joint (military) exercises. We are involved in intelligence sharing. We are looking at the joint design and manufacturing of defence equipment, so that we move beyond the vendor and customer relationship,” he said. Khurshid, however, noted that US-India economic and investment relationship has moved at a slower pace as some Americans, especially US industry leaders, had hoped. “The experience in what happened in the subprime loan episode and in the financial crisis which hit Southeast Asia some time before that, has confirmed for us that what is described as an element of conservatism in our economic policy has served us well,” he said. On US politics, Khurshid said, “India, more than any nation, understands the business of internal democratic contention and delay. “India is a friend of the US. We see the US as an inspiration and a very successful economy. When we see question marks over the US, it worries us. We hope they emerge stronger than ever.”