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Dec 21, 2009 at 10:06am IST

Ball is in India's court, it must talk: Pak

Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. One year after 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks where exactly do India-Pakistan relations stand. Karan Thapar asked this to the High Commissioner of Pakistan, Shahid Malik

Karan Thapar: High Commissioner, let's start with the Pakistani view of the India-Pakistan relations. Last week you have said that the absence of dialogue between India and Pakistan was unfortunate.

You have proposed this solution of the de-linking of the dialogue process from action on terror. Isn't that exactly what the Prime Ministerial statement issued at Sharm-el-Sheikh agreed to do?

Shahid Malik: Absolutely, Karan. You have said it absolutely correctly that we are at a stage when we are not talking to each other in any sense, there is no diplomatic exchange, there is no dialogue.

These remarks that I have made about a week ago--which was picked up by the Indian media--I did refer to the Sharm-el-Sheikh statement of July 16.

Karan Thapar: But if today you're proposing something that the two governments agreed to do way back in July are you then suggesting that India has gone back on a central commitment to Sharm-el-Sheikh that is reneged on that central commitment?

Shahid Malik: These are two strong words. I won’t like to use that, but I was only referring to the commitment and the agreement that the two Prime Ministers have made on July 16. If you look at the joint statement, it’s very clear that the dialogue is the only way forward.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely. In fact, the joint statement says action on terrorism shouldn't be linked to the composite dialogue process and these shouldn't be bracketed. But given that India has committed itself to this at the level of the Prime Minister why are you reminding India? Are you worried that India has forgotten this commitment? Are you worried that India is not acting on this commitment?

Shahid Malik: It's not a question of being worried. This has been our consistent stance right at the highest level--the President, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Foreign Minister. What we are looking for is a result-oriented, focused dialogue between the two countries, and this is in the context of the composite dialogue.

We already have had four rounds of the composite dialogue. We are hoping and still continue to harbour that hope that the two countries would get down and talk to each other and discuss all the issues.

Karan Thapar: But in reminding India, of a process that India has committed to, are you not suggesting that India is not acting on its commitment?

Shahid Malik: Well, India knows exactly what the two leaders had agreed to do. This has been our hope and we have been continuously asking India. You see the point that I'm making is that not only Pakistan if you look at public opinion, the media, particularly in India, a spate of articles have appeared in the recent past and they have talked about a "diplomatic vacuum".

This is the phrase actually that is being used in one of the articles. A diplomatic vacuum exists which is not helping the cause of peace in the subcontinent.

Karan Thapar: That vacuum exists because India is refusing to talk to Pakistan; that's your interpretation?

Shahid Malik: Well, to put it fairly. The ball is in India's court because...

Karan Thapar: So, what you did in last week was to remind the Indian government of a commitment that they have made it in July; which the Indian government has so far not acted?

Shahid Malik: You may call it reminder or whatever, but this is the policy that the government of Pakistan has continuously, consistently been saying.

Karan Thapar: In fact last week, you went one step further. You have said that Pakistan had made many requests to resume the dialogue.

Let me ask you; how many such requests have you made and what has been the response from the Indian side?

Shahid Malik: You know the response. You have said it in your opening remarks that the fact of the matter is that the two countries are not talking to each other. Requests (for talks) in the sense that I was referring to the statements that are made by the (Pakistani) leaders, by the President, by the Prime Minister, by the Foreign Minister seeking a focused, result-oriented dialogue.


This was in regard in reference to the commitment made at Sharm-el-Sheikh in the joint statement.

Karan Thapar: So, as you say your leaders, your President, your Prime Minister, your Foreign Minister have made repeated requests in connection with the commitment made at Sharm-el-Sheikh to resume the dialogue. What's the response from New Delhi?

Shahid Malik: Well, requests in the sense that there have been statements. Whenever our leaders have been questioned about the current state of Pakistan-India relations the obvious, the correct response has been that we would like to resume the dialogue process with India.

Karan Thapar: When you say you would like to resume the dialogue process what does Delhi say in reply to you?

Shahid Malik: It is obvious that, so far there has been no response.

Karan Thapar: Silence or has that been in fact an attempt to say no, not yet?

Shahid Malik: I think it's a combination of both. No, not yet in the sense--and these are based on statements and reports that one has heard in the media that Pakistan needs to do more in the context of the ongoing Mumbai investigations.

Karan Thapar: But you're saying that in response to the statements from Pakistan that resume the dialogue process the answer is either silence or no not yet or a combination of both?

Shahid Malik: Combination of both in the sense that if you look at the joint statement, where you have just said that the two were de-linked. The efforts that we are continuing to do in the context of terrorism and the dialogue process they have to be de-linked and they are not to be bracketed.

Karan Thapar: The silence, or the answer no, not yet, is actually re-linking rather than de-linking?

Shahid Malik: You can put it that way.

Karan Thapar: Let me once again quote Sharm-el-Sheikh to you. The statement also said both the Prime Ministers recognised that dialogue is the only way forward. Then the statement added that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues.

Shahid Malik: Including all outstanding issues.

Karan Thapar: In which case, it is clear that these are two sentences that are important to you and you know them by heart.

Let me then ask you. Is it not also then the case, as Pakistan interprets the situation, that India has either forgotten or is ignoring these two sentences?

Shahid Malik: The reason why I know this verbatim because I was present at Sharm-el-Sheikh. So---

Karan Thapar: Absolutely. Is India ignoring these two sentences in not resuming the dialogue?

Shahid Malik: The commitment is there and we are hoping and we will still continue to hope that India would one day get down to the negotiating table...

Karan Thapar: Will you accept this that commitment was made six months ago and for six months that commitment hasn’t been acted upon?

Shahid Malik: You can read the text of the joint statement and we are hoping that India would one day get back to us and start the dialogue process.

Karan Thapar: So if you're hoping they will one day get back that also means that they have so far they haven't and therefore so far that commitment has not been acted upon?

Shahid Malik: Commitment, you see--it's a strong word to use against the leadership of a country.

Karan Thapar: But you have used the word commitment. I' m only recommending your phrase

Shahid Malik: Yes, commitment was made in the joint statement.

Karan Thapar: It hasn’t been acted upon so far?

Shahid Malik: The fact of the matter is that there has been no dialogue since then. Obviously it shows that the agreement made in Sharm-el-Sheikh is yet to be implemented.

Karan Thapar: Alright. The agreement we made in Sharm-el-Sheikh is yet to be implemented. I'm repeating it because it's important. Is that right?

Shahid Malik: Well, implemented in the sense that something we had agreed in July---

Karan Thapar: hasn't been acted upon?

Shahid Malik: (It) hasn't been acted upon.

Karan Thapar: Does this then mean, that as of today, there is no communication of any substance and value between Delhi and Islamabad over all the issues and questions that the two countries need to address together?


Shahid Malik: In the context of the commitment that was made in Sharm-el-Sheikh what has been stated in the joint statement yes, you're right.

Karan Thapar: No communication?

Shahid Malik: Communication in the sense that we have our diplomatic channels which are open.

Karan Thapar: But no substance and value

Shahid Malik: No, let me very clear. The two foreign officers are in touch with each other on a variety of subjects, but when it comes to holding a structured, composite dialogue that hasn't taken place.

Karan Thapar: How is New Delhi's post Sharm-el-Sheikh behaviour viewed by the Pakistan government?

Shahid Malik: To start with, there is no talk.

Karan Thapar: How did they view that?

Shahid Malik: The point that I have made repeatedly in my interaction here--not just with the officials but with the people that I meet—and this is my personal view that the positions unfortunately are getting harder day by day in Pakistan.

The public opinion, the media, the think-tanks, the civil society- are continuously raising their voices--and only you have to read the Pakistani media about it--that here is Pakistan, which has been asking India repeatedly to restart the composite dialogue process but there has been no response.

So, I have talked about the "diplomatic vacuum". My only concern and worry is that by not talking to each other we are strengthening the forces which do not want the two countries to make any progress.

Karan Thapar: Extremist forces are been strengthened, liberal forces that are for cooperation of dialogue are being weakened.

Shahid Malik: Absolutely. That is the point I want to make.

Karan Thapar: Does Pakistan also feel rebuffed?

Shahid Malik: Rebuffed. Karan, again you are using strong words in today's interview. Rebuffed in the sense, that there has been no response. Let's put it that way.

Karan Thapar: It feels slighted?

Shahid Malik: Not really, not slighted. We have our stance, we have a position and we have always sought a result-oriented focused dialogue between the two countries. So we are hoping that one day we would get around to that stage.

Karan Thapar: Rebuffed and disappointed?

Shahid Malik: Disappointed. Yes, personally disappointed. Rebuffed, I won't use that word.

Karan Thapar: High Commissioner, let's now look at India and Pakistan relationship in the Indian point of view.

India believes that Pakistan is deliberately dragging its feat and bringing the Mumbai accused to justice. There is no doubt that your President, your Prime Minister, your Foreign Minister have repeatedly promised to do so, but your action doesn’t match your words?

Shahid Malik: I won't agree with that at all. The trial--there is two aspects to it. One is the trial of the seven accused (of plotting the Mumbai attacks), who are already in custody----

Karan Thapar: It took so long to actually get off-- you had to change judges twice, you had to change in court once, in between for seven weeks nothing happened what so ever--the indictment has been repeatedly postponed. It's almost miracle that it happened at the end of November.

Shahid Malik: It is important to realise that we didn't do it on our own. It was a matter of normal routine. A judge retired and once you're retired then another judge had to be appointed.

The trial of the seven accused and the FIR was lodged in February of this year, within four months of this tragedy. The trial is continuing. As a matter of fact on October 10, the formal trial against the seven accused began and it is going on a weekly basis and at a high security---

Karan Thapar: The only reason is going on a weekly basis is because each time the court convene, it is adjourned for another week. That's why it is on a weekly basis.

Progress, if at all, is so small that it is not even incremental it is minimal. It's disappointing to an Indian audience, who believe they need justice, they want justice and they see this as a way to delay in justice.

Shahid Malik: I'm sure the Indian audience does not expect law of the jungle to prevail in Pakistan, surely it does not.


Fortunately you and I--that is India and Pakistan--we follow the same legal system and these decisions and these matters can't be decide at it overnight. After all the accused has every right to put up its own defence and there is a defence team which is arguing the case on behalf of the accused.

The judge can't just summarily get up and pronounce a judgment, he has to listen to both sides.

Karan Thapar: I will accept that argument with one small quote to say judge can't do any of the things when he is not there. The problem is that you have changed judges so often and in changing judges so often delays have been imposed.

Let's come to a more substantive sense in which India believes that Pakistan is in fact dragging its feat. Let's take the example of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has put it on the terrorist list and yet even today that organization operates completely freely in Pakistan.

It raises funds, it recruits cadres, it even distribute leaflets on the streets calling upon the people to join Jihad against Kashmir. Why are these things permitted?

Shahid Malik: You are referring to the UNSC-1267. Once that came to affect in the government of Pakistan took immediate steps and proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

Karan Thapar: Forgive me. You have not proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

Shahid Malik: No.

Karan Thapar: You have not proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa?

Shahid Malik: Let me tell you the assets of the operatives of Jamaat-ud-Dawa they were frozen, there was travel ban, restrictions on their movement, there was restriction on their activities.

Karan Thapar: I'm correcting the mistake that you have made when you said you proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa. When Hafiz Mohammed Saeed was arrested by you in September in the anti-terror charge for different reasons not just connected to Mumbai, he was released by the Lahore High Court because it was proven in court that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa was not a proscribed and banned organisation. Really you have not banned it.

Shahid Malik: Fair enough. But the fact of the matter is that who ever forms part of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the operatives-- there assets have been frozen, their activities have been restricted, all the practical steps that were required to be taken by the government of Pakistan have been taken.

Karan Thapar: I hate to contradict you and embarrass you, High Commissioner.

Shahid Malik: I'm not embarrassed at all.

Karan Thapar: I'm quoting Amir Mir, a leading Pakistani authority on Taliban. He is the author of the book ‘Talibanisation of Pakistan’ and he himself has reported that Jamaat-ud-Dawa not only is recruiting on the streets of Pakistan, not only raising funds for itself but also distributing leaflets calling upon people to join jihad against Kashmir.

What activities are restricted?

Shahid Malik: The government of Pakistan has taken every possible step to curb the activities of the people, who we feel are a threat not only in to the outside world but also to Pakistan.

Karan Thapar: So, if you say that you have taken every possible step then obviously you are not good at taking the right steps because these activities are continuing blatantly.

Shahid Malik: It's a matter of opinion. We feel that sufficient steps have been taken and their (JuD) activities have been restricted.

Karan Thapar: Can I quote a leading Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader, Maulana Saifullah Khalid; in a sermon on a Friday very recently said Muslims under the leadership of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa will conquer entire South Asia. He then added, pointedly, no can stop us from fighting India.

When leaders of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa say these things then why hasn't been action been taken against them. Why aren't they being stopped?

Shahid Malik: Action has been taken against them.

Karan Thapar: In what way?

Shahid Malik: You can't prevent an individual just get up and make these kind of statements.

Karan Thapar: Quite right. But you can when he has made these statements. Action against him afterwards that hasn't happened.

Shahid Malik: Action is being taken against them.

Karan Thapar: Where?

Shahid Malik: We have the Maintenance of Public Order Act under which all such speeches which are inflammatory in nature people have been taken into--


Karan Thapar: You have the Maintenance of Public Order Act--that precisely is in fact the order under which you have arrested Hafiz Saeed.

Do you know that even when he (Hafiz Saeed) was released by the Lahore High Court, your government has done nothing but procrastinate over the appeal. It got to the point when your Supreme Court upbraided the federal government and imposed an Rs 50,000 fine on the federal government for unnecessary and deliberate delay. That's the sense of speed and urgency with which you are pursuing the matter?

Shahid Malik: I hate to point you out that your research is not up to the mark. Because once the Supreme Court, once the Punjab High Court exonerated Hafiz Saeed saying the federal government and the Punjab government went into a appeal against the release for Hafiz Saeed and that case--

Karan Thapar: That is the appeal I'm talking about. Forgive me my research is correct. Is that appeal you have procrastinated over and in October the Pakistan Supreme Court upbraided the Pakistan government for unnecessary and deliberate delays and imposed a Rs 50,000-penalty on the government---

Shahid Malik: I'm glad that you bring that point in because it brings me to the point that we are looking for credible, actionable evidence against an individual so that our case is full proved and we are able to argue that case and in that context--

Karan Thapar: But do you accept the point that your government has be upbraided by your own Supreme Court for procrastination and delay.

Do you accept that I'm right when I point out to you that Rs 50,000-penalty was imposed to your government because your Supreme Court told your government-you are not moving fast enough? When that happens people in India say this is again proved that Pakistan is dragging its feet.

Shahid Malik: I'm glad that you have made that reference that we are not moving fast enough because this is exactly what we have been asking the Indian government as well as our own investigations that please give us sufficient evidence so that it strengthens our hand in taking the case forward in the Supreme Court.

Karan Thapar: High Commissioner, can I put it like this. When you claim that you don't have sufficient evidence against Hafiz Saeed, even though the LeT is known to known to be responsible for 26/11,that's a bit like saying that al-Qaeda may be responsible for 9/11 but we don't have evidence to act against Osama bin Laden?

Do you really expect people in India to believe you

Shahid Malik: I'm referring to the case which is sub judice, which is before the Supreme Court and I'm sure you will grant me to that much that once the government of Pakistan has sufficient evidence, it will surely strengthen the hands to----

Karan Thapar: You have the evidence but just you don't choose to see it or if you see it you choose to ignore it but you're not acting on it.

Shahid Malik: I don't agree with you at all on that front.

Karan Thapar: Can I put it this to you? In Indian eyes the belief is that Pakistan is not serious about acting against the Mumbai accused--it's not doing so in good faith. How do you convince India that you are serious and that you are acting in good faith.

Shahid Malik: I don't have to convince India, the facts are quite in front of everybody here and as I said earlier we follow the same legal system.

The leads that have been provided to us we are acting on those leads. I would like to repeat that the law of jungle does not operate in Pakistan. If anybody in India expects that we will be able to just get up and prosecute a person it will not happen.

Karan Thapar: Expect for the fact that you have the evidence and you are choosing not to act on it. Your Supreme Court is accusing you of procrastination

Shahid Malik: No, I don't agree with that.

Karan Thapar: Let me then end with one simple question. Given this impasse between the two governments do you see the relationship languishing where it is at this moment?

Shahid Malik: The relationship is languishing the sense that we are not talking to each other and there is no substitute for sitting across a table even if we agree to disagree.

Karan Thapar: High Commissioner, a pleasure talking to you.

Shahid Malik: Thank you.