India-Pakistan Relations: Prospects for Conflict Resolution and Peace - Keynote address at a Seminar at the Columbia University, New York on March 6, 1999

I would like to compliment the Organization of Pakistani Students, the Club Zamana and the South Asia Political Awareness Committee for organizing what they call the "Columbia Summit" on India-Pakistan Relations. It would have been a true summit if Ambassador Naresh Chandra could also participate in the conference, together with Ambassador Khokhar. In fact, Ambassador Chandra was planning to come, but he was unable to do so because of other commitments. I am performing the traditional role of the Deputy, who must step in when the Ambassador has to attend to other business. I would like to convey the apologies of my Ambassador.




I am delighted that this opportunity to address India-Pakistan relations has come so soon after the Lahore Summit of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan which has been characterized in both countries as a defining moment in India-Pakistan relations. I am glad that you have seized this moment to explore the entire relationship to see how you can contribute to it. As young people from the sub-continent, you have a responsibility to contribute to the normalization process. Being away from the scene, you have the ability to discuss the issues more objectively than those who are in the thick of it.


Prospects for peace and normalization of relations between India and Pakistan have never been better than now. The two countries have just pledged to work for the resolution of all the problems and drawn up a road map for it. The message that should go from the "Columbia Summit" to the two countries is that no effort should be spared to move forward in the direction set by them in Lahore.


The historic journey that the Prime Minister of India, Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee undertook to Lahore by a passenger bus has captured the imagination of the people all around the globe. Its symbolic value has not been lost on any one. It is not often that a Prime Minister travels by bus to another country. Like it is said that it was difficult for India to keep Mahatma Gandhi in poverty, it must have been difficult to arrange a bus journey for the Prime Minister of India. Apart from that, this was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan in ten years; this was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Lahore since 196 1; this was the first time that an Indian Prime Minister made a public address in Pakistan. It took the Prime Minister of India fifty-one years to take the fifty-one mile journey from Amritsar to the border with Pakistan. The voyage was indeed of great symbolic value.


The Lahore Summit went beyond the symbolic to the substantive in many ways. The very fact that a decision taken in September 1998 to start a bus service between India and Pakistan was implemented was in itself an achievement. Even more substantially, the Indian Prime Minister delivered a message to the people of Pakistan-India 4) s desire for normal, friendly relations with Pakistan and for a secure and prosperous Pakistan, India's respect for Pakistan's national identity, India's resolve to build a total relationship consisting of economic co-operation, trust and confidence and realistic confidence building measures in the context of the nuclear capability of the two countries, India's desire to resolve all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir in a rational and realistic manner and a firm rejection of violence and terrorism. The two countries agreed that a substantive, broad and composite dialogue was the way to build such a relationship.


Significantly, the message that the Prime Minister carried to Pakistan enjoyed a national consensus in India. Unlike in Pakistan, there was not a single word of protest in India against the Lahore Summit.


The Lahore Summit was a triumph for bilateralism, which was recognized in 1972 in Shimla as the way for resolving the differences between India and Pakistan. The Shimla Agreement, which kept the peace between India and Pakistan for twenty-seven years, was reiterated in the Lahore Declaration. India was the country that took the issue of Jammu and Kashmir to the United Nations. We did so because we felt at that time that the new International Organization should have an opportunity to tackle it. But history has taught us that the United Nations has its own limitations in dealing with such issues. The conditions that the United Nations set forth for resolving the issue remain unfulfilled even till today. In the circumstances, there is no alternative to India and Pakistan resolving these issues through bilateral negotiations. I have seen with my own eyes how the rest of the world kept scrupulously out of the substance of the issue whenever Jammu and Kashmir came to be discussed at the United Nations. Although the debate was at the United Nations, the debate essentially was just between India and Pakistan. The others simply urged us to resolve the issues ourselves! Lahore has shown us that it is not only desirable, but also possible to follow the bilateral route.


The agreements reached between India and Pakistan in Lahore on the nuclear issue were equally significant. The reaffirmation of the moratoria on nuclear testing, measures to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, advance notification of ballistic missile flight tests and other confidence building measures were far-reaching. The United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union took several years of Cold War to reach comparable measures between themselves. Within a year of their demonstration of their nuclear weapons capability, India and Pakistan proved that such agreements were possible between them. If the rest of the world still maintains that the India - Pakistan situation is still a flash point, the motivation for it is their concern that India and Pakistan have challenged the discriminatory nonproliferation regime it has sought to perpetuate.


India has made it clear that India's nuclear policy is not Pakistan specific. We exercised our nuclear option after many years of our pursuit of the objective of the elimination of nuclear weapons. Our objective continues to be nuclear disarmament. But in the interim, we cannot deny to our people a minimum nuclear deterrence to safeguard their integrity and independence. Equal security has to be assured either by disarmament or by minimum deterrence. The Lahore agreements must have gone a long way in assuaging the concerns about our nuclear weapons capability.


As our Minister for External Affairs, Shri. Jaswant Singh said in the Indian Parliament the other day, "it is our earnest hope to build on the opportunities that are now available on account of the Prime Minister's historic initiative and his commitment to put behind past contentions and think of the welfare of our children and their children. We trust Pakistan will walk with us down this path." As children of South Asia, you have every right to demand that the two countries should go down the path of peace and amity.


Thank you.