July Issue 2010

By | Opinion | Speaker's Corner | Published 14 years ago

Neighbouring countries, Pakistan and India, have had strained relations since the partition in 1947 and gone to war thrice over different disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir. Now, more than ever, there is a desperate need for both countries to hold talks on various long-standing issues and resolve them amicably. Unfortunately, India has always adopted an inflexible attitude towards any such demands made by Pakistan.

But it is heartening for every peace-loving Pakistani and Indian to see the resumption of talks between the two nuclear-armed states after a considerable length of time. A ray of hope for the resumption of composite dialogue was rekindled when Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani met on the sidelines of the Sharm el Sheikh conference in Egypt. A joint communiqué was also issued at the time stating that the issue of terrorism would not hamper the dialogue process. Unfortunately, the Indian prime minister backed out of his statement after reaching New Delhi where he faced a hostile barrage of questions from the media. Pakistan continued its efforts to resume the dialogue process and now, finally, India has agreed to it.

In the latest development, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, in a telephone call to his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has agreed to visit Pakistan on July 15 for talks on core issues bedevilling Indo-Pak relations. This, in itself, is a big achievement. The agenda of this meeting has also been hammered out at a foreign secretary-level meeting in Islamabad. Can we safely assume that this dialogue process will prove fruitful in resolving all contentious issues between us?

Some circles in Pakistan have been critical of our government for imploring India to hold a dialogue with them. They argue that this show of desperation would only harden India’s stance on all issues, be it water, Sir Creek, Kashmir or India’s interference in Balochistan. But do we have any other option? If we do not persuade India to come to the negotiating table, then how can we move forward towards resolving our long-standing issues? We can only make a difference if we remain committed and steadfast in our goal to settle all core issues with India through a composite dialogue. Both are nuclear-armed countries now and we cannot afford to wage a war against each other. We have to behave responsibly and prove that we are civilised before the comity of nations.

There exists a trust deficit between Pakistan and India. One can bridge that gap though confidence-building measures. People-to-people exchanges should be enhanced and encouraged by making the cumbersome procedure of getting visas easy and hassle-free. This will eventually go a long way in promoting healthy relations between the people of both countries.

India also needs to revisit its stance that Pakistan should first do more to tackle the terrorists and the menace of terrorism before resuming the composite dialogue. Being a victim of terrorism, Pakistan is doing all that is possible to exterminate terrorists and miscreants from its soil. India should keep in mind that terrorism and terrorists have no nationality and we can only flush them out by assisting each other. Our strained relations would prove beneficial only to the terrorists.

The international community should also play its role in persuading India to adopt a serious approach towards Pakistan’s repeated calls for a dialogue. Incidentally, whatever happened to the US special envoy on Kashmir, who was assigned the task of presenting a comprehensive report to the Obama administration on Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and the plight of Kashmiri people? If America and other developed countries really wish to see this region become stable and peaceful, they should play their role in resolving all outstanding disputes between India and Pakistan because this is the only way forward.

Resolution of all the core issues demands consistency, determination and a sense of responsibility on the part of both nuclear-armed states. Here’s hoping that the much-awaited July 15 dialogue at the foreign ministers level proceeds without any hindrance and augurs well for both the neighbouring countries.

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