What matters most is that both the countries have decided to do away with their rigid stand to get talks going
New Delhi : Taking a step back is a great way to move forward. And both India and Pakistan have done the right thing in Bangkok. Away from the piercing eyes of hawkish media, top security advisors of the two countries met secretly and decided to put the stalled talks back on track. Not talking makes no sense. So, it is a good and modest beginning.
What matters most is that both the countries have decided to do away with their rigid stand to get talks going. It has been a major diplomatic departure from their stated positions. New Delhi’s decision to engage with Islamabad is a major shift in its position as it wanted talks on terror only as a pre-condition from its earlier stated stand of no talks till its neighbour stopped terrorist activities in India. And so far, there is no firm commitment from Pakistan that it will not allow its soil to be used by terrorists against India. Right from the beginning, Pakistan was opposed to limit talks to terror only as it would have put it in a tight corner and wanted a broad-based dialogue. The fact that India has ceded too much ground in Bangkok to re-engage with Pakistan shows its desire to have normal and peaceful relations with its neighbours.
The meeting in Bangkok offers a ray of hope, something Ufa could not produce. Unlike Ufa, a joint statement issued in Bangkok talks about “peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir and tranquility along the Line of Control” apart from terrorism. It encompasses the main issues which bedevil the relationship between the two countries. Pakistan can’t be expected to join talks if the Kashmir issue is kept under the wraps.
No democratically-elected government of Pakistan can afford to go against the wishes of the Pakistani military which considers Kashmir as the most disputed issue between the two countries. India, too, considers Kashmir as a disputed territory and it should not be seen as a country which is wavering from taking up the issue. Kashmir remains an unfinished agenda for India as it considers the territory occupied by Pakistan as illegal.
The Bangkok talks have paved the way for Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan, the first ministerial-level visit in three years. Her scheduled meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his advisor on security and foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, would give a further push to the new initiative. If all goes well then it could also clear the way for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Islamabad in November next year to take part in the SAARC Summit, which has often been a casualty due to frosty ties between the two estranged neighbours.
While it is too early to comment on the success of talks, what is more important is that the next rounds of dialogue would certainly help bridge the gap and melt the chilling relations. Both countries need to go beyond the conventional ways and explore out of the box ideas so that the innocent people don’t suffer. The situation demands mature response from the leadership of the two countries.
Both India and Pakistan would do well to take up the less volatile issues first where chances of convergence are bright. Trade, for one, is one area where both countries and their people stand to benefit. The trust deficit between the two countries has taken a heavy toll on business, which otherwise, has great potential.
All said and done, the talks in itself don’t mean much if the two countries don’t have the courage to bite the bullet. The two countries will need to address each other’s concerns seriously than paying mere lip service. Both nations can attain success only if they catch the bull by its horn. But given the history of talks, the future looks uncertain if not bleak. – ANI
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