Art of Diplomacy

Elusive talks Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval
Elusive talks Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval

Look at the issue from a different perspective. India wished to discuss terrorism. Pakistan wanted to discuss terrorism and Kashmir. But aren’t the two related. Imagine a conversation between Aziz and Doval. The latter talks about cross-border terror unleashed by militants supported by Pakistan’s intelligence and army. Aziz counters that the terror was the work of independent groups, which supported the Kashmir cause and wished to help their brethren across the border.
Doval puts his foot down: we cannot discuss Kashmir; it is not included in the agenda. Aziz reminds him: I am talking of terrorism but it is intrinsically related to the Kashmir issue. Doval gets angry: you are violating the letter of the deal. Aziz retaliates: but Kashmir comprises the spirit of the agreement. The point is that there can be no meaningful discussion on terror without Kashmir.
War of dossiers
Days before the scheduled meeting between the two NSAs, the Indian media speculated that Islamabad turned cold because Doval had prepared a stinging and damning dossier against Pakistan’s involvement in terror activities. The evidence became damaging especially after the arrest of the terrorist, Naved, who spilled the Pakistan beans and gave leads about terrorist leaders, who freely operated from across the border. This scared Islamabad.
At his press conference, Aziz waved three dossiers and hinted that New Delhi was scared because he had prepared three dossiers that proved that Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external intelligence agency, was involved in several acts of violence in Pakistan. He said that he planned to hand them over to his Indian counterpart. He added that if the NSA talks were cancelled, he might get the opportunity to do it a few weeks later if the two happened to meet in New York. In fact, towards the end of the conference, Aziz posed with the dossiers for the photographers.
The posturing incensed Swaraj. At her press conference, held a few hours after Aziz’s, she accused him of breaking protocols. Such dossiers, according to her, were sensitive documents and shouldn’t be waved at a press conference. They should be secretly handed over to the relevant Indian counterpart. She added that such dossiers are not carried across the world, and handed over anywhere and everywhere. There was a certain procedure to do so.
In fact, she publicly taunted Aziz. She said that the Pakistan NSA talked of the evidence against RAW. How would that compare to the proof that New Delhi possessed in the form of a ‘living’ person. She obviously referred to the recent capture of Naved. A few experts felt that in diplomacy, words and their usage meant everything. And it was Swaraj who overstepped in this case.
War on Dawood
As the war of the words between the two neighbours escalated, the media on both sides became the stage to carry on the attacks. Aziz accused that New Delhi waged a diplomatic sting operation against Islamabad through its newspapers and news channels. Swaraj said that this wasn’t true; the journalists were briefed after the events, as they should be in any democratic setup. But Aziz’s accusations seemed true when a Delhi-based newspaper, followed by an English news channel, carried seemingly-sensational disclosures on India’s most-wanted terrorist, Dawood Ibrahim.The newspaper claimed that it had copies of Dawood’s Pakistani passport and his travel details to Dubai. It also had access to documents that showed that the gangster’s wife had also travelled to Dubai, and copies of recent telephone bills in the wife’s name. They collectively proved that Dawood resided in an apartment in Karachi, which was denied by Islamabad. The news channels showed clips of telephonic conversations with Dawood’s wife, who revealed that she did stay with Dawood in Karachi. She added that her husband was asleep in the house at the time of the calls.
Many speculated that this was another reason why Aziz felt uncomfortable to come for the NSA-level talks. Doval, had irrefutable proof that Dawood was in Karachi, and was helped by Pakistan’s military and intelligence. Obviously, Aziz felt that confronted with such evidence, he wouldn’t be in a position to deny Dawood’s presence in his country. This would enable New Delhi to take the next step — lobby with the US and Interpol to seek the terrorist’s extradition.
However, there are three loopholes in this logic. First, some of the newspaper’s documents were old ones; it claimed to show Dawood’s new look but this was published in the past. Since the early 1990s, when Dawood escaped out of the country after the Bombay blasts, Indian intelligence has revealed phone bills and travel documents to prove that Dawood had several valid Pakistani passports. This evidence was presented several times to Islamabad.
Second, in the case of the news channel’s telephone calls, there was more confusion. The female voices on the two audio clips that it played regularly seemed different. Even their tone was not the same. The first voice in the call made at 12.24 pm on 22 August sounded sleepy. The second voice in the call made shortly after was awake and clear. Her voice sounded elderly compared to the first; the second female even addressed the caller as ‘beta’ or son in the way elderly people do. Therefore, it was impossible to conclude that both the females were the same person and Dawood’s wife. When one repeatedly heard to the two conversations, it seemed like they were the voices of the maid servants. There were more gaps. The woman, who picked up the first call, responded in ‘Ji’ to questions such as whether she was Dawood’s wife and whether she lived in Karachi. For most of us, the ‘Ji’ will seem like an ‘Yes’ or an acceptance of the fact.
However, if one converses with a Punjabi, Muslim or many of the North Indians, the response is mainly to acknowledge the conversation. Like one will use ‘Ji’ to mean ‘Ji batayein’ (Please ask) or ‘Ji boliye’ (Please speak). It cannot be assumed to be a ‘Haan’ or Yes’. If the two female voices were those of the maids, then it would be more logical to assume that the first female’s ‘Ji’ meant the former, as in please speak or please ask. In fact, even when many of us use the word ‘Haan’ in our daily talks, it does not always imply a ‘Yes’ but is meant to carry on the conversation.
Finally, time and again, it was proved that what New Delhi considered irrefutable evidence on various issues against Dawood turned out to be inconclusive. This has happened in Indian courts! A recent example was when the Delhi Session Court threw out the prosecution’s charges that three cricketers and bookies, arrested during ipl’s sixth season, were involved in match-fixing. The court concluded that the prosecution could not prove that they were part of an illegal cartel, headed by Dawood, which controlled match-fixing from Pakistan and Dubai.
Therefore, Aziz wouldn’t be so bothered about Doval’s evidence against Dawood. Or by the capture of Naved since Islamabad had earlier dealt with the arrest of another terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, who participated in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. The war of the words between the two nations was related to their uncertainty on how to carry the process forward, maintain the balance of power in the region, and reach a diplomatic equilibrium between peace and war.