Islamabad, Jan. 5: Pakistan’s former foreign secretary Niaz A. Naik is not the most discreet of diplomats. He had earlier blown the whistle on the back channel diplomacy that he and veteran journalist R.K. Mishra were engaged in before the Lahore bus ride and continuing up to the end of the Kargil conflict.
Now Naik has revealed that national security adviser Brajesh Mishra has had meetings with Lt Gen. Ehsan-ul-Haq, the director-general of the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence. He made the revelation on Pakistan’s newest private TV channel, Geo.
Naik said during a talk show that Mishra and Haq discussed the “security concerns” of the two countries.
For the Indian side, this means how to carry the normalisation and the dialogue process forward by ensuring that the militants in Kashmir keep their guns aside. Naik was of the view that attempts on General Pervez Musharraf’s life “have brought India and Pakistan’s security people together”.
The former foreign secretary also revealed that Mishra had met Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri to explore ways of resuming India-Pakistan interaction on all issues, “including Kashmir”.
He said that Mishra and Kasuri talked about the modalities and the architecture of such future interactions — i.e. whether there should be a summit to begin with or whether the two countries should begin with a dialogue between the foreign ministers or the foreign secretaries. What seemed to have been agreed, however, according to Naik, whatever the process, it must eventually lead to a summit meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India, and Musharraf.
Naik was also of the view that the dialogue process should take place after adequate preparation in the light of what happened at Lahore and Agra.
He referred to Musharraf’s recent interview to Reuters in which the President expressed his willingness to set aside Pakistan’s long-standing demand for a plebiscite according to UN Resolutions on Kashmir. “The door has been opened for positive talks on Kashmir. And we have had a positive response from India,” Naik said.
The former foreign secretary felt that it was a good thing that there had not been any negative reaction from hardline groups like the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) that comprises nine religious parties.
Naik claimed that Musharraf's statement about the plebiscite had taken these groups and the Kashmiri people by surprise and that efforts were underway to make them understand that Pakistan was not going to abandon their case.
“President Musharraf spent three hours with them (the Kashmiri groups) to convince them that these are only modalities for finding a solution),” he said.
Naik said one of the key elements of the Nawaz Sharif-Vajpayee meeting at Lahore was their agreement to abandon their old positions — India would not refer to Kashmir as its “integral part” and Pakistan would not insist on plebiscite.
“This does not mean that we are abandoning the right of self-determination” which, Naik said, was a universal human right and towards which plebiscite was only one of the mechanisms. There were many other ways of reaching the same goal, he said.