Event ReportsPublished on May 09, 2009
The First R K Mishra Memorial Lecture was delivered by Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani. He was Pakistan's National Security Adviser till January 2009. A former Ambassador to the United States, General Durrani has been closely associated with Mr RK Mishra, and Observer Research Foundation, in promoting peace and dialogue between India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan - Bridging the gap

Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani, 68, was Pakistan’s National Security Adviser till January 2009. A former Ambassador to the United States, General Durrani has been closely associated with Mr RK Mishra, and Observer Research Foundation, in promoting peace and dialogue between India and Pakistan. In India, General Durrani is often referred to as ``General Shanti`. General Durrani has also been active in other theatres of peace. His efforts to promote US-Pakistan relations have earned him the US Legion of Merit. He has been decorated with Sitara-e-Basalat and Hilal-e-Imtiaz (military). As part of a UN sponsored process, he worked with former senior officials from the US, Russia and Iran to find a peaceful settlement to the Afghan crisis. Durrani has authored several books and studies, including "India and Pakistan: The Cost of Conflict and the Benefits of Peace", ’Pakistan’s Security Imperatives Year 2000 and Beyond", and "Pakistan’s Strategic Thinking and the Role of Nuclear Weapons" (2004).

It is an absolute honour for me to have been invited by the President of ORF, Mr. Rasgotra to deliver the inaugural lecture in the memory of my friend Mr. R K Mishra. I feel handicapped intellectually but my commitment to peace between our two countries, for the good of our people, is total. It is this commitment which gave me the strength to accept Mr. Rasgotra’s invitation.

Mr. R K Mishra, my friend and the late Chairman of the ORF worked tirelessly for peace between India and Pakistan. While we both remained steadfast in our objective of peace between our two nations we did occasionally differ on the how. I hope my submissions here today will please RK’s spirit. I also take this opportunity to say farewell to him. "Farewell RK, may your journey be a peaceful one in the hereafter". I evoke the blessing of the Almighty on your soul -Ameen"

It is a pleasure for me to be here in India to talk about a subject nearest to my heart, which is: improving relations between our two countries.

Globalisation is a fact of life and planet earth is like a series of interconnected spaces, in which resources, pollution, scarcity, security etc., affect all. The sooner we understand this and learn to live together the better for our individual and collective good. It has been said often enough "War is no more an option between India and Pakistan" and this has been recognized by the leadership on both sides. So let us all give peace and friendship a helping hand.

In my opinion, the acrimony between India and Pakistan has not allowed the South Asia Region to develop its full potential. I am certain, if Pakistan, India and Afghanistan had good working relations, each could play an important role to develop and improve energy, trade and communication infrastructures in the region to make South Asia a hub of economic activity that yields mutually beneficial results for its entire people. Geographically,

Pakistan has the potential to be the trade and energy pivot for the extended region. I believe good relations between our three countries are an economic and security compulsion, not only for us but also for the growth of the extended region beyond South Asia.

I would like to make a brief mention of our extended region, in which South Asia is a centre piece. The extended region, to which I refer, stretches from the Middle East and Iran in the West; up to and maybe beyond Thailand in the East and to the North inclusive of Central Asia. I am convinced there is great potential for trade, sharing energy, academic and cultural exchanges, expanding of democratic traditions and maybe at some stage in our history even the development of an interlocking security architecture.

In a globalized world we have to be aware of the geo-strategic and economic interests of other world powers in our region. The US is already involved in and around our region and we cannot discount the strategic interests of Russia, Europe and others. Hopefully we will learn not to be sucked into the rivalry of external powers. Friendship with all should be our guiding principle, of course without compromising our national and possibly our regional interests.

The two regional forums which could be models for us are ASEAN and the European Union. To many in India and Pakistan modelling after EU or S E ASIA is a pipe-dream but I honestly believe that if India and Pakistan can get their act together, a strong and potent SAARC is within our reach. Again an effective SAARC would not only improve our collective bargaining position in various world forums but would enhance the prestige of individual countries. Collectively we could manage the geo-strategic interests of other world powers in our neighbourhood. In addition collectively we could efficiently resolve the primary problem of our people, which as we all know is poverty. The answer is a more cooperative and less competitive relationship between us, the two dominant countries of South Asia.

Frankly, never in our history has there been a greater need to bridge the gap which continues to divide us. Since our very creation we have perceived each other as a serious security threat. Being the smaller country the sense of insecurity has been greater in Pakistan. Today, for the first time we face a common threat, a threat which if not contained and rejected will surely destroy us, piecemeal. It will destroy the secular credentials that our forefathers had enunciated for both our countries. Terrorism, Religious Bigotry, Intolerance and a warped sense of Nationalism are the numerous facets of this threat. I can assure you time is not on our side. We have to fight this threat jointly and move beyond the usual rhetorical statements and the blame game.

Why does this threat thrive in countries like Pakistan and India? Essentially poverty, illiteracy, poor quality education, lack of social justice and poor governance are the main ingredients which provide a fertile soil for the growth of criminality, extremism and terrorism.

Indeed today it is Pakistan which is facing the brunt of this threat in the form of AI-Qaida, Taliban and narrow minded religiosity, but it would be naive not to see the signs of this threat in India. Ayodia, Gujarat, Mumbai and Kashmir represent the leading edge of this threat to India. While this threat is gnawing at our vitals, what are we doing about it collectively? A lot of blame and counter blame. To me it seems the Mumbai investigation is being conducted through the media. I do not understand why India and Pakistan are unable to field a joint investigation team. At some point in time we have to move beyond our mistrust. And that time is now.

I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the people in India and Pakistan want the establishment of a permanent peace between our two countries. I recollect the euphoria in both countries when Mr. Vajpayee visited Lahore to meet his counterpart. I see the same desire for friendship when I roam around Chandni Chowk or go to the Delhi Golf Club for my fish tikka fix. Where then is the problem? In the past I have felt that it is the historic mistrust amplified by the three and a halfwars that we have fought. 1 now realize that the problem is far more complex and needs to be addressed on a broad front. In all humility and with the deepest of respect for my many friends in this audience; bureaucratic inertia, especially amongst the security agencies, is another major obstacle to a forward movement. If the final decision to move forward is contingent on approval by the security agencies then with every step forward we will continue to take two steps backwards.

The most important element for forward movement is strong political will, a political will which can override the negative static produced by the establishment. The main reason why the late RK Misra and I could not complete our mission was because of the "ifs and buts" of the entrenched establishment who were able to sway the political leadership on both sides. Surprisingly, the political leadership has time and again shown the will but it seems they were not strong enough to overrule the establishment.

While we take other steps to bring India and Pakistan closer, removing or at least reducing the mistrust between our people, our establishments, our media and above all our security agencies is essential. This mistrust is historical and accentuated by recent events like the Mumbai carnage, for which I offer my deepest sympathy to the people of India. Killing of innocent people, what ever the cause, is abhorrent. In my understanding the deep rooted mistrust cannot be removed by a decree but only through patient and sincere dialogue at multiple forums, plus reaching verifiable agreements and a step by step mechanism to resolve disputes, starting with the simpler disputes and going to the more complex issues. This of course does not imply inertia.

I am afraid I have no magic pill or Amrat Dhara and will outline some of the steps which have been presented time and again by various forums and even in my book (India and Pakistan, The Cost of Conflict, The Benefits of Peace). At the cost of repetition I will re-emphasize dialogue; without dialogue the relationship comes to a standstill. I am sure there are more effective ways to express displeasure rather than break dialogue. For the credibility of the dialogue process it is important to achieve meaningful progress. A dialogue should not turn into a game between the bright boys of the Foreign Service, to score minor diplomatic victories and loose the war of peace. Here again the driving force behind the formal dialogue process has to be the political leadership. I will come back to the official dialogue a little later.

The People to People Track II interactions are very useful and effective. It is this unofficial channel of communication which besides developing an effective lobby for peace, tests out new ideas and acts as a sounding board for the official channel. It is important to understand that the Track II channel can only be helpful in a meaningful way if it is independent of the two governments. Track II should influenCe the Governments rather than be influenced by the Governments in their deliberations. I strongly recommend and support multiple Track II efforts between our two countries. The requirement of the Track II is greater when the official level talks have stall.

Another equally important track is the "back channel" and as we all know this almost secret channel worked effectively during the time of the BJP Government here in India and the Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf Governments in Pakistan. Quite honestly I am not sure what the status of the back channel is today. I would urge the two Governments to utilize this channel. Though representing the highest political leaders of the two countries, the back channel, has the advantage of deniability and is able to develop innovative solutions away from the glare of publicity and public debate. The back channel should not and cannot replace the formal dialogue but its usefulness is undeniable.

We will now discuss some of the other activities which will support peace and reconciliation. In my assessment the three most powerful instruments which can help build bridges are the media, academia and the business community. I know there are institutional linkages between these instruments but unfortunately they don’t seem to be focused on friendship and building bridges. Some elements in the media are busy dramatizing the differences and adding fuel to the fire. I believe this type of activity almost caused a war after the recent Bombay carnage. The Pakistani media has come a long way and is now a powerful instrument like their colleagues here in India. Does the media reflect public opinion or moulds public opinion? Today in Pakistan, I believe, the media is molding public opinion and at times filling in for the political leadership. Is it asking too much of the media to work towards developing a better understanding between our two people? It would be exciting to embed correspondents between the media of our two countries to gain perspective of the other side. This is my challenge to the media on both sides. I place great stock on the positive role of the media, if they indeed decide to lead the peace offensive.

I am aware that there has been some exchange of faculty and students amongst the educational institutions but these needs to be expanded by a factor of at least 100. Some of the old boy’s networks exist but old boys like me are getting too old or disappearing from the scene altogether and therefore the requirement to pump in new blood. I would urge the private academic institutions to take the lead as they are less hamstrung by government rules and regulations. There have been cases where free medical assistance was provided to a few Pakistani families by medial institutions in India. Very commendable indeed. Why can’t universities and colleges in both countries offer scholarships to students from the other country? Scholarships, exchange students and visiting faculty would go a long way to reducing the mistrust in the new generations.

I am convinced there is phenomenal scope for enhanced trade and business between our two countries. However a large number of industrialists and businessmen in Pakistan are worried that India could swamp Pakistan with its cheap goods and destroy Pakistan’s industry. I would therefore recommend an incremental approach and not kicking the door open. Likewise I would also recommend a level playing field. Traders and businessmen could become the biggest stakeholders in the peace process. Transit of Indian goods for the Afghan market and beyond is a thorny issue being dealt with at the official level. However Pakistan can only become a true trade and energy hub of the region if there is increased trade between India and Pakistan. I would like to re-emphasise that this should be done incrementally as a win win proposition. It may not be possible today but the future lies in a free flow of goods and services in the SAARC and the region beyond.

Coming back to the formal dialogue or what we now call the Composite Dialogue. I have a few comments and two suggestions to offer for consideration of our two governments.

I believe we have completed four rounds of the composite dialogue since January 2004. Yes, we have made some progress but I believe the forward movement is slow. Many a times both parties repeat their respective positions and call it a day. This respectfully is not my understanding of a meaningful dialogue. Forward movement can only be achieved in a spirit of give and take and not dictation by one or the other party. I understand some issues are intricate and cannot be resolved in a few meetings but to maintain the credibility of the composite dialogue we need to make brisk progress on many of the issues which are eminent doable. For example; simplification of the visa process is one such issue. How does police reporting help; or how does restricting the point of entry help or for that matter how does restricting the number of places to be visited help either country? This kind of regime may have been relevant about a hundred years ago but in this time and age it is an embarrassment for both countries.

I believe India and Pakistan are the closest of kin, born out of the same soil however the sixty odd years of adversarial relationship has created a major gap in our understanding of each other; it has de-humanized the relationship.

Today the common man in India feels that every female in Pakistan is under a burqa and walks three steps behind her talabanised husband. A lady I spoke with in India was surprised to discover that females in Pakistan speak fluent English. Similarly there is a strong belief in Pakistan that Muslims in India are second class citizens constantly been chased and often murdered by saffron clad Hindu extremists. There is an urgent need to humanize the relationship, to show each other that deep down we are humans, no different from each other, following the same broad moral principles, with the same desires and aspirations to live decent lives. I have two broad recommendations to bridge this gap. First is the opening up of the visa regime between our two countries, I mean really opening up. Second, allowing broadcast of TV programs from one country to the other. I can watch all the TV channels of India in Pakistan but I believe my friends here in Delhi cannot watch Pakistani TV channels. I don’t understand why. Is it possible that the Indian establishment is worried about a cultural invasion from Pakistan?

The Sir Creek issue has been lingering since the creation of our two countries, in fact even before that. I believe, today this issue is ripe for a solution. Minor differences need to be resolved or brushed away by the political leadership. I was informed by two naval officers, one from Pakistan and one from India that delaying the resolution of the Sir Creek issue will be against the national interest of both countries. Maybe Admiral Nayyar, if he is here today, can throw some light on this.

Siachen is yet another solvable issue. We are losing precious lives in an inhospitable terrain and wasting vast resources. Both countries lose more lives to weather than hostile action I am told we came very close to a solution till one of the countries backed out. As a beginning we must demilitarise the Siachen region. As follow-up we may consider declaring Siachen a common heritage and establish a "Joint Glacial Research Centre" which will help both countries to manage their water resources.

The Indus Water Treaty of 1960 is n example where India and Pakistan were able to sign on to a fairly complex agreement; this is a tribute to the maturity and flexibility shown by our two countries. I think it is in our joint interest to preserve the letter and the spirit of the Indus Water Treaty and resolve issues like the Wuller Lake and the Kishanganga waters through its mechanism. The question is why are we not able to move in the same spirit today to resolve our current problems?

During my last visit to Delhi as Pakistan’s NSA, the Honourable Prime Minister of India assured me that India would follow the letter and spirit of the Indus Water Accord and that Pakistan would receive its due share of water, I found that very reassuring as I trust your PM’s words.

As I mentioned at the outset terrorism is the most serious threat to our national security and we need to fight this menace jointly. Unfortunately the Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism has not achieved much. I feel there is an urgent need to expand the JTM, to include senior representatives of security and intelligence agencies. Instead of using the media and accusing each other for supporting and abetting terrorism there is a need for a serious catharsis between our intelligence agencies. Today there is a firm belief amongst the intelligence and security community in Pakistan that India is actively supporting insurgency in Baluchistan and some even believe that India has a hand in the turbulence in FATA. I was also assured by some friends in India that Pakistan’s security agencies are equally involved in destabilizing India. I feel we need to move beyond this state of affairs. This can only be done through a frank and candid dialogue between our security and intelligence services.

Incidentally I have personally known over six bosses of the ISI, a few senior to me and the rest junior to me and most of them were my colleagues in the Anny. Without exception all were honourable, profession soldiers, trying to serve their country to the best of their abilities. Luckily I came to personally know at least two RAW and one IB chief, thanks to the Track II. Like my own countrymen I found the Indian spy masters equally professional and decent human beings. I therefore feel confident that after a couple of meetings the spy masters could learn to work together.

I have made a number of comments on selected elements of the Composite Dialogue I now dare to make two recommendations, which I believe will benefit the common man in both countries. Most of my countrymen and an equally large percent of Indian live in the rural areas and are dependant on the agro economy. I have driven through the breadth of Indian Punjab and visited two modern farms there. One farm was focussed on improving the yield of sugarcane and wheat while the other farm was in the business of producing organic fertilizer. I am confident there will be enormous benefit for our people by cooperation in this non-controversial sector. As most of Pakistan’s and India’s land mass is arid we should set up a joint “lndo-Pak “Arid Agriculture Research Centre", my choice of location would be Chandigarh but place it in Multan or where ever. I urge both countries to include agriculture as a major component of the composite dialogue.

Energy is the lifeblood for the economic growth of both our countries and unfortunately we are deficient in this commodity. In fact today Pakistan has a full blown energy crisis. Besides moving on the stalled joint pipeline project we need to cooperate in areas like water, coal, wind and solar energy. Ideally, we should set up a common electricity grid which will allow Pakistan to buy electricity from India. The system should allow a reverse flow of electricity from Pakistan to India. Therefore my second suggestion is that energy too should become a major component of the Composite Dialogue. Both agriculture and energy are very important and also non¬controversial, with benefits for the common man

Before I wrap up, I will touch upon Kashmir. I am sure very few in this audience are aware that I started my schooling in Srinagar. My father in his wisdom decided to send me to a boarding school (Burn Hall) in Srinagar in 1947, while I was still under seven years of age and living in Abbottabad. My childhood memories of Srinagar are of a beautiful place, with house¬boats, shikaras, the Dall Lake, gushing streams and a wonderful peaceful people. Kashmir is in my blood as both my mother and wife are Kashmiris. I am not going to push the Pakistani official line because our foreign office reminds you of that frequently, nor will I advance a new formula for the solution of this lingering dispute. My only submission is that the people of Kashmir have suffered immensely; they need peace and space to re-build their lives. I will support any solution which is acceptable to the majority of the Kashmiris. The bottom line -Kashmir for the Kashmiris

I will now summarize my recommendations which to the best of my intention are to bring the people of India and Pakistan closer and reduce the acrimony between our two states.

  1. Strengthen SAARC so that it truly becomes a forum for the good of the people.
  2. Terrorism, religious bigotry and intolerance are a common threat to both India and Pakistan we need to work together before this threat destroys our way of life. Let our governments give teeth to the Joint Terrorism Mechanism ( JTM ) and move beyond meaningless statements.
  3. Chiefs of our primary intelligence agencies need to have periodic meetings to bridge their differences and cooperate on counter¬terrorism.
  4. We must not interrupt dialogue between our two countries, what ever the provocation. Communicate your anger, frustration and views through dialogue. Lack of dialogue helps neither country. I am not in favour of a dialogue just for form but primarily to move forward.
  5. Track II efforts need to be supported and increased.
  6. The back channel needs to be revived to help the primary dialogue process and address thorny issues.
  7. The media, the academic community and the businessmen in both countries needs to play a forceful role in bringing the two people together and reducing the mistrust.
  8. Simplify the visa process drastically. Abolish police reporting and city specific visas. We should treat each other at least like we treat other foreigners, if we are unable to treat each other in a better fashion.
  9. Both countries should open up the airwaves and allow airing of each others TV programs.
  10. The Sir Creek and Siachen issues are ripe for resolution, let us put them behind up. We should set up a "Joint Glacial Research Centre" in Siachen.
  11. The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 must be respected by both parties and all water disputes should be settled in the letter and spirit of this treaty. No smart reinterpretations please.
  12. Give space to the suffering Kashmiris. Guiding principal for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute should be based on the spirit of "Kashmir for the Kashmiris".
  13. Inc1ude cooperation in the field of agriculture as a component of the Composite Dialogue. Set up an "lndo-Pak Arid Agriculture Research Centre".
  14. Inc1ude cooperation in energy as a component of the Composite Dialogue.
  15. Lastly but most important is the role of the political leadership in bridging the gap between our nations, they need to show the resolve to guide the dialogue process to a logical conclusion

Born out of the same soil, unfortunately India and Pakistan have had a turbulent relationship since the very beginning. Although it was the intention of the founding fathers that India and Pakistan should live together as friendly neighbours but unfortunately the relationship began to unravel right at the beginning and we landed up fighting three wars. There is a small but well entrenched segment of the Pakistani society which believes that there can never be friendly relations between our two countries. I believe that such a sentiment also exists in India. However, the good news is that the vast majority of Indians and Pakistanis share my desire of peaceful coexistence.

I believe a strong stable and prosperous Pakistan is in the best interest of India, just as a vibrant, dynamic and robust India is good for Pakistan and the region. Destabilizing Pakistan would be a very short sighted and counter productive policy for India. Similarly Pakistan has to accept and respect India as the big brother. I have outlined a number of steps which if followed with commitment will launch us in the direction of peace and cooperation. Our biggest challenge, as we all know, is to reduce the mistrust that exists between our two nations, not an easy undertaking but very much doable.

I thank you for your attention.

< class="heading11verdana"> •  Tribute to Shri R K Mishra

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