In the wake of Nawaz-Modi meeting on the sidelines of COP 21 in Paris the lingering tensions between their countries were expected to somewhat thaw, but not so early and nor so dramatically.
Within a week of their meeting not only have the national security advisors of Pakistan and India met, along with their senior diplomats, in Bangkok, they have also set an agenda for their governments which is nearly as comprehensive as was for the Composite Dialogue.
Even, if believed that some outside powers pushed the two governments into engaging with each other – or now that Prime Ministermindset may be over the hump after his party’s spectacular electoral defeat in Bihar and, the mass surrender of state awards by Indian intelligentsia – the NSA-level contact has the desired potential to walk the talks.
It was an unannounced meeting, although the air pervading the Chaophraya Dialogue moot attended by journalists from Pakistan and India in the Thai capital last week was pregnant with such a possibility. “Guided” as the NSAs were by “the vision of the two leaders [Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi] for a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia” their discussions were held in “a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”. And, these discussions covered “peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and other issues, including tranquillity along the LoC”.
More such meetings are indicated by the joint statement issued after a four-hour encounter of the NSA-led teams, as “it was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement”.
The national security advisors of Pakistan and India were to meet last August, but they did not, as the two sides could not hammer out an agreed agenda for the talks. While Pakistan insisted that it would have the Kashmiri leaders’ input, India stuck to its stated position that only terrorism would be discussed.
Now all the contentious issues that have bedevilled relations between the rival neighbours for so long and sometimes near to triggering a nuclear clash are listed for negotiations.
Hopefully, what seems to be now a paradigm shift in the Indian stand, is not a false dawn. The two sides can give a big start to the promised ‘constructive engagement’ by taking the next steps on some of the issues like the Siachen Glacier and the Sir Creek on which a fair amount of understanding is already in place.
In her expected meeting with PM’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj may like to enlighten us how best to engage in future.
Maybe she is allergic to resumption of the Composite Dialogue, but what the two sides have agreed at the Bangkok interlocution, seemingly pushes the most contentious issue of Kashmir to the centre stage.
That being the core issue between Pakistan and India, its solution can help catalyse the whole range of co-operative moves to resolve disputes between the two countries. And for this, the ball is in India’s court. Thanks to the hard, and ultimate position Pakistan recently took on growing jingoistic clamour in India’s establishment better sense must have prevailed upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose best political bid is business and trade for which a peaceful neighbourhood is a sine qua non.
How problematic is to control and run the government in the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir by sheer force is yet another ‘incentive’ that must have plausibly effected the change of heart in New Delhi vis-à-vis Pakistan’s consistent demand for talks on this core issue.
If the idea about an out-of-the-box solution for the Kashmir problem is also influencing the public mind in the region and beyond, we have no answer to it. But we do observe that this Musharraf-vintage suggestion is now a frequent staple at quite a few forums.
After ex-foreign minister Khurshid Mehmoud Kasuri’s book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’ which generates discussion on rendering the Line of Control ‘irrelevant’. It is supported by the ex-prime minister of Occupied Kashmir, Farook Abdullah, who has ruled outtaking over the opponent’s part of Kashmir by use of force, and proposed the option of firming up the status-quo.
So in a way, a possibility has emerged to resolve differences and disputes that stand in the way of a billion and a half of people of South Asia to move in tandem with rest of the world towards a secure, prosperous future. And this is also a challenge to the level of statesmanship in.