Pak-India dialogue: A step forward or stalemate?

Posted by on Mar 06, 2015 | Comments Off on Pak-India dialogue: A step forward or stalemate?

ISLAMABAD: Mixed statements have emerged from the government’s defence and foreign office divisions in the aftermath of the closely watched meeting of Pakistan and India’s foreign secretaries this week.

A day after the meeting between foreign secretaries Aizaz Chaudhry and S Jaishankar, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told BBC in an interview that in his assessment, it was India’s intention to create border tensions to divert Pakistan’s attention from its efforts in combating militants in the northwestern parts of the country.

“We want to live in peace with India,” he said. “Instead of blaming each other, we should find the perpetrators and then draw conclusions.” He added that Pakistan desires an immediate end to cross-border violence and is hopeful in that regard after the meeting of the foreign secretaries.

The Foreign Office, however, toed a more diplomatic and subdued line, with spokesperson Tasneem Aslam on Thursday saying the talks between the high-level officials earlier this week were “positive”.

Responding to a question on the talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, Aslam said: “I would not like to characterise the foreign secretaries’ meeting as a failure. India characterised it as a visit in the context of Saarc. We view the meeting as an icebreaker taking place in lieu of the August visit,” she said.

“It is a process…the meeting was held in a constructive and positive atmosphere,” the spokesperson said.

During the FO’s weekly briefing today, Aslam emphasised that lack of success in deciding a date for the next meeting between India and Pakistan does not spell failure, and that “blaming others for terrorism related incidents without investigations is not a good approach”.

Pakistan and India on Tuesday took the first tentative steps towards reviving their stalled peace talks by pledging to work together to find common grounds, but it remained unclear when the dialogue would reconvene.

“Both sides would reflect on today’s discussions and then decide on moving forward,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry told journalists after talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar, the first high-level Indian official to have visited Pakistan since the dialogue broke off in January 2013 because of hostilities along the Line of Control.

Despite clear commitment from both sides to narrow divergences and build on convergences, Chaudhry avoided giving any timeline for resumption of bilateral engagement.

“We’ll move when both sides are ready. We’ll remain in touch and see how and when to take the next step,” he had said while replying to a question and hastened to add that there was a need to seriously addressing each other’s concerns.

The Indian foreign secretary who was here as part of a regional tour, together with his host Secretary Chaudhry, tried to explore the way forward in the stalemated relationship.

For the Pakistani side, the main interest was likely to try and determine how the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to address the bilateral relationship in the immediate future.

Is the approach to remain wrapped up in the broader Saarc context, a sign that Mr Modi is content to let ties remain frozen, or is the Saarc emphasis really to provide domestic political cover while Mr Modi engages Pakistan and seeks some genuine progress on the major issues?

For New Delhi, the main interest was likely to determine whether the military-dominated, but civilian-fronted Pakistani policy on India is willing to address its concerns about regional terrorism and India-centric militants tolerated by Pakistan.

What is discussed behind closed doors though will eventually be reflected in the public positions. If the resumption of full-spectrum talks is the goal, then this hesitant dance dubbed as ‘talks for talks’ is well worth the effort.

In truth, on some issues there is really little of substance left to negotiate — Sir Creek and Siachen in particular. And much depends on political will. So how the talks are structured may in fact determine what the outcomes are.

Mr Modi has already shown his petulant side by cancelling foreign secretary-level talks last year and the state here has shown its intransigence over the Mumbai attacks-related trials. Political leadership is what’s needed, but will it materialise?

Advertisement

Subscription

You can subscribe by e-mail to receive news updates and breaking stories.

————————Important———————–

Enter Analytics/Stat Tracking Code Here