Event ReportsPublished on Jul 12, 2005
'The year old Indo-Pak rapprochement has now reached a stalemate and is in danger of being hijacked by deeply entrenched bureaucracies and hardliners on both the sides', said Lt Gen Talat Masood (Retd), who was Secretary of Defence Production, Ministry of Defense, Pakistan in early 1990s.
Interview: India-Pakistan CBMs
He also served as Chairman, Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board and held several important military assignments. General Masood has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical engineering and a Masters degree in Defense and Strategic studies. General Masood is associated with several regional and global groups that are engaged in promoting stability in the South Asian region. His articles on issues of national significance and on security have been published in the print media at home and abroad. He frequently participates in current affairs prgrammes in the electronic media. 

During his visit to India recently, Gen Masood shared his views on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan with the faculty of ORF Institute of Security Studies in an exclusive interview. Excerpts from the interview are presented below. 

Observer Research Foundation (ORF): Building Greater Indo-Pak Trust…

Lt Gen Talat Masood (TM) : The year old Indo-Pak rapprochement has now reached a stalemate and is in danger of being hijacked by deeply entrenched bureaucracies and hardliners on both the sides. However, many citizens are actively working on the Track-II circuit to prevent a breakdown and ensure that the two countries do not return to enmities and bitterness of the past. Lt Gen Talat Masood (Retd.) of Pakistan, a well-known defence analyst, was in India recently to attend a conference on collective security in Asia. He spoke with Garima Singh and Gurmeet Kanwal on building trust and confidence to sustain the composite dialogue process and take it forward.

ORF: The ongoing composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan is laying immense emphasis on confidence building measures. In your view, are these a means to an end or are they an end in themselves as some quarters appear to believe?

TM : Confidence building measures are required when deep hostilities exist between two neighbours and the stakes are so high that though both the parties would like to avoid war with each other, they are always on a high alert in order to thwart a surprise attack by the opponent. Keeping the forces on high alert for a long time may lead to two major fallouts. One, there are always chances of the 'controlled peace' escalating to an uncontrolled conflict. Two, there are high chances of 'army fatigue' with attendant problems. CBMs are necessary in order to stabilise the situation and facilitate the end of the conflict through a series of parallel processes. Full-scale CBMs must include simultaneous measures in all spheres like the military, political and economic. 

ORF: The cease-fire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir has held for over a year. Do you think the two countries could proceed further on this issue?

TM : At the moment the cease-fire is a declaratory measure. In order to sustain the cease-fire, it is necessary to formalise it. India and Pakistan should enter into a mutually negotiated agreement to make the cease-fire permanent, institute a mechanism to inquire into violations and address each other's concerns. Also, India needs to show greater openness on addressing human rights issues in Kashmir that are an international concern.

ORF: Do you think the time has come to introduce additional military measures and which other measures will help to enhance confidence between the two armies?

: As a first step I think the two armies should consider pulling back their artillery guns deployed near the LoC to positions that are out of range of the LoC so that there are no civilian casualties and there is no collateral damage to civilian property. The year-old cease-fire has completely transformed the lives of the civilians living near the LoC. The next step could be the re-deployment of forces away from areas that are considered sensitive by either side. In due course, we could agree on areas of zero deployment in conflict-prone zones and, gradually, the two armies could begin to thin out on the LoC.

ORF: How do you think the channels of communications between the two armies and the bureaucracies can be improved?

TM : The hotlines between the two DGMOs have been working well on functional-level issues and need to be upgraded with modern technology. But these are not used for larger purposes. For example, the hotline should have been used during the Indian mobilisation to find out why India was mobilising and what the intention was. Flag meetings between local commanders must be re-introduced and institutionalised. Confidence building must trickle down to the ground level. Direct hotlines between the foreign secretaries are also a good idea.

ORF: Are you in favour of exchanging visits by military delegations and officers attending courses?

TM : Yes, most certainly so. We could begin with the two vice chiefs of staff visiting each other's headquarters once a years. If the two National Defence College courses could exchange visits, it would help to generate so much goodwill and trust.

ORF: Southern Asia has been described as a nuclear flashpoint. Are nuclear risk reduction measures being given due importance?

TM : We need to do much more to reduce the risk of accidental and unauthorised nuclear exchanges. There is an inescapable need to establish nuclear risk reduction centres (NRRCs) that are in direct communication with each other. These could be set up on the pattern of erstwhile USSR and Unites States NRRCs. Also, missile tests should become more transparent. Additional data must be exchanged and much more notice should be given; the present 48 hours or so are inadequate. Tests pertaining to cruise missiles should also be included in the list of missiles to be notified prior to testing.

ORF: Do you agree that capping short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) with nuclear warheads is inherently destabilising?

TM : Yes, India's Prithvi SRBM and Pakistan's Ghaznavi (Hatf series) missiles should be taken out of nuclear arsenals. Battlefield missiles should play no role in nuclear deterrence. 

ORF: Are there any other practicable measures that the two sides could undertake in order to give a fillip to the composite dialogue process?

TM : I think both the countries should agree not to deploy their nuclear forces. Also, the air corridor on either side of the border is too narrow at present and needs to be widened so as to avoid incidents such as the shooting down of the Atlantique reconnaissance aircraft by the IAF. Later, as mutual trust and confidence grows, we could consider verification measures such as joint patrolling of the LoC to address India's concerns about continuing infiltration. In economic CBMs, the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is an idea whose time has come. Industry in both the countries needs to invest in the other. This will create a constituency for peace. 

The interview was conducted by Garima Singh, Research Associate, ORF Institute of Security Studies and Gurmeet Kanwal, Senior Fellow.
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