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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Failed Theater Artistes Make Disastrous State Actors

Posted by: danish Ahmed 2:08 AM

It is really intriguing what went behind closed doors for 6 hours as the media waited impatiently over the outcome of SM Krishna and SM Qureshi meeting. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect some important announcement coming out when the Indian and the Pakistani Foreign Ministers are huddled for that long period of time. However, what eventually came out was the farce that has lately become the chief characteristic of Indo-Pak bilateral talks. The Indian Foreign Secretary and Foreign Minister say the talks have not been failure, the Pakistani Foreign Minister agrees but Qureshi's statements since then indicates the contrary.In fact Mr Qureshi has gone on to question the credibility of the Indian Foreign Minister, saying that the latter needed to make calls to New Delhi for instructions very frequently during the talks.  I must admit Mr Qureshi has a valid point there.

In a diplomatic negotiation the credibility of the negotiator is a very crucial factor, you can find that in the first page of any text book on International Relations. Ironically, while casting aspersion on SM Krishna's credibility, Mr Qureshi exposes his own shortcomings as a negotiator. His allegations on Mr. Krishna having very little mandate and having to make frequent phone calls doesn't really make sense to me. If anyone has a reason to complain it is India, because such behavior (if at all it happened) undermine the status of the office of the foreign minister,why should that bother the Pakistani foreign minister ?

On the contrary, Mr. Qureshi should have been glad if he were competent enough, a weak opponent in a negotiation can concede concessions otherwise impossible. If that were not enough he went on to commit a series of follies starting with his contradictory statements which suggest the talks failed but at the same time insisting that it has not been a failure! Talks are held behind closed doors simply because the real thing may be unsavory and unpalatable to the media and the population. Mr Qureshi seems to be completely unaware of the conventions and the fact that speaking in a election campaign and addressing a press conference jointly with the foreign minister of the country you view as existential threat are two completely different things.

One of the glaring examples of the fiasco was Mr Qureshi's statement that Mr Krishna too had behind closed doors, condemned GK Pillai's statements, an allegation that the Indian Foreign Ministry has refuted categorically. Let us speculate what could have happened during the talks. Suppose Mr Qureshi were to say that Mr Pillai's statement coming just on the eve of the talks was uncalled for, one wouldn't expect Mr Krishna to vehemently oppose the statement,he maintained silence on the issue during the press conference,for somebody like Mr Qureshi such a silence during the meeting would have meant acquiescence. Any talk on reducing trust deficit would sound farcical if the Indian Foreign Minister were to pounce upon the statement denying it. But that does not imply that he would go on record condemning it. Often negotiators possess the right to publicly refute concessions they may have made in private (as US did after removing IRBMs from Turkey during the Cuban missile crisis),the onus is on the other party to make sure that such things do not get in the hands of the media.

It was the Indian Prime Minister's insistence on improving ties with Pakistan that had led to the inception of this meet. Surely, the meeting of the two delegations wouldn't have come about without a lot of preparatory discussions and working out of modalities by officials led by the Foreign Secretaries of the two governments, Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir. Apparently, Indian delegation was willing to talk on all outstanding issues including Kashmir and Siachen.  Further, given Indian PM Manmohan Singh's support for that talks, it is obvious that Mr Krishna's words were backed the functional head of the Indian State, one very important factor in diplomatic negotiations. Even during the beginning of the talks, they seemed to have reached some sort of understanding but then Qureshi seemed to have lost it when a journalist questioned him on GK Pillai's press statement. Within moments the atmosphere had changed completely, Qureshi was back with his histrionics. If Pakistan really wants to reduce trust deficit, then next time it should make sure that the head of the delegation is familiar with the fine art of diplomacy and not just theatrical art.


[ Caveat:The chart represents findings of a survey that was never held, the numbers are imaginary and the depiction is made purely for fun ]

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