attack alive. Indeed on this issue their reporting stands to the right of Fox news.
When I arrived at the New York Palace Hotel Sunday morning to cover the Foreign Minister’s meeting I made myself comfortable at the ‘media holding room’. Soon after an NDTV correspondent arrived who very bluntly told me that Pakistanis are not allowed in this Indian venue. Well, I waited patiently and other Pakistanis, Indians and Americans soon joined us.
No one was expecting any breakthroughs- and none were delivered. When I asked the Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna if he would characterize his talks as ‘positive’, he responded that the meeting was ‘useful’, but did not elaborate on his dialogue with his Pakistani counterpart. He was abundantly clear that India continues to see ‘groups and individuals in Pakistan’ as a threat.
The Indian delegation was dismissive of the Pakistani media- no contact was allowed. Even the Foreign Secretary was not accessible.
When we came to Roosevelt Hotel to attend Pakistani Foreign Minister’s press conference Foreign Minister Qureshi reminded us that India confined the discussion “ to one issue, that is, terrorism in Mumbai.”
This ‘single issue’ negotiation is rather dangerous. India, it seems, is digging its heel deeper in the sand. Pakistan wants to be flexible but at the same time can’t appear to be losing ground. If not handled carefully this issue can soon become intractable.
The Indian media had made the ‘Mumbai attack’ an irreducible, high-stakes, win-lose issue that does not even have a zone of possible agreement. The Indian government had acceded to the pressure and painted themselves in a box; they see no "way out" because any "solution" would require giving up a perceived “value,” as defined by a jingoistic Indian media.
Indian negotiators understand that intractability of this conflict is doing substantial harm, yet they are unable to extricate themselves. This is because the media (specifically Indian TV) has made it such an emotional issue that any amount of flexibility will have political cost. Let us remind the Indian government that intractability is a perception, not a firm characteristic. They
have the power to change course: elected officials often need to take courageous, unpopular measures for the larger, long-term interests. If a conflict is seen to be moving beyond intractability, then more credibility is given to the peace builders, the people on both sides and in the middle who are trying to broker some kind of agreement.
We don’t need to deny that the “Mumbai attack” has the potential of becoming an intractable conflict, instead we need an image of a "way out," not necessarily substantive, but at least procedural. That is why I asked Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi what is the next
milestone. Instead of telling us anything concrete he launched into a lecture of how Pakistan wants peace and stability: wonderful rhetoric that is meaningless without a plan.
I was disappointed because I was hoping Krishna and Qureshi would at least identify the next few steps, even if a full resolution cannot soon be found. It is unfortunate that the two Foreign Ministers walked away from table without even setting up a procedural next step.
I am hoping that in November when the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers meet at the sidelines of the Commonwealth Head of States meeting in Trinidad, they will come with open mind. I am also hoping that India will demonstrate the magnanimity expected from a more powerful, more prosperous state, and will stop using the Mumbai attack to distract attention from issues like water, Kashmir, Indian involvement in Baluchistan, among others. Finally I am hoping that Pakistan will take action against characters like Hafiz Saeed and demonstrate to the world a clear strategic shift; a departure from a strategy that entailed using non-military
foot soldiers like LeT.