Kashmir Portal

A digital Kashmir Info Network

Restarting India-Pakistan Dialogue

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 12, 2009

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11 June 2009
The good news is that both Pakistan and India want to resume dialogue and develop bilateral relations. The bad news is that several contentious issues have impeded this development. These issues, even when dormant, remain particularly influential in shaping relations; basically, they arise from the mistrust that defines relations between the two states.

In the absence of conflict—or even episodes of near war—other significant events have played a detrimental role in undermining years of diplomatic effort and confidence building measures. The fact that the Indo-Pak composite dialogue was derailed by the 2008 Mumbai attack, given Indian concerns about the perpetrators of the attack being a Pakistan based terror outfit is well known. Several months later, both governments are still trading rejoinders in a litany of assurances and allegations.

The recent release orders of the Lahore High court for Hafiz Saeed, one of the main accused in the Mumbai attack were not taken well in India, which termed the whole episode an eyewash by the Pakistan government. Irrespective of whether the Pakistan government pursues a repeal of the Hafiz Saeed verdict or adopts another line of action, the inter-state relations need to be addressed. Though it is heartening to hear Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari wanting to start unconditional talks with India and resume composite dialogue, we must not forget that the Indian side has one major condition.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, despite welcoming Pakistan’s initiative, has reiterated the Indian demand that Pakistan must take concrete steps to dismantle its terrorist groups directed against India. While expressing willingness to help Pakistan combat terrorism, Singh said, “If the leadership of Pakistan has courage, determination and statesmanship to act against terror, I assure them we will meet them more than half way.” Though Pakistan may be disappointed by the conditional reciprocation by India, it is obligated to meet its side of commitments made to New Delhi after the incident. At present, Pakistan is engaged in combating Taleban militants in its troubled north. However, it may have to redirect focus on pursuing the alleged involvement of some terror groups in the Mumbai attack, in order to restart the stalled dialogue with India.

Interestingly, both Pakistan President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gillani have of late been urging India to address the long-standing issue of Kashmir, considered key to lasting peace and stability in the region. However, there has been no mention of it, let alone a specific response on Kashmir by the Indian side. Though it may not be in Indian interest to address the issue, it remains a crucial determinant of stability in the strategic landscape of South Asia. Both Pakistan and India will need to address the larger issue of Kashmir at some point. The respective leadership needs to exhibit maturity and strong willed commitment to reach a level of understanding that allows the people of Kashmir to decide their fate.

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