A test of leadership’s mettle


Need to build on Sunday’s breakthrough

Almost every major dispute was mentioned during the parleys between Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh to reassure public opinion back home that the two prime ministers were not oblivious of their national concerns. But there was unanimity on one issue: the peace process cannot move forward till the ceasefire was restored on the LoC. Of the different options that have reportedly been discussed to ensure the ceasefire, an agreement was reached over handing over the responsibility to the Directors General of Military Operations of both Pakistan and Indian Army. The DGMOs have been tasked with suggesting “effective means to restore the ceasefire and a way forward to ensure that that it remains in force and in place.” While no timeframe had been set, it is hoped that the task would be completed at the earliest. According to Pakistan’s foreign secretary, the DGMOs had also been asked to investigate all incidents along the LoC and ensure that there was no recurrence. This will require more interaction among the two military officers which could, if there is a will, lead to reduction in incidents that have derailed the peace process.

Border incidents that took place in January this year led to reprisals and counter reprisals and in the process nullified most of what had been achieved through talks spread over years. There was a deterioration of relations on all fronts. Talks on the Wullar Barrage were put off, the Pak-India hockey series was canceled, and bilateral cricket between the two countries has been consigned to a state of limbo and Pakistani singers were denied visa for ‘Cocktail’ music launch. The CBMs have remained unimplemented; the promise of enhanced trade could not be materealize while the trust deficit was further aggravated. The border clashes that erupted in August were even more ominous as the two armies exchanged fire along the Kargil stretch of the mountains where the ceasefire had held since November 2003. There were several civilian casualties. The agreement to give the charge of ensuring ceasefire to DGMOs is welcome but much more needs to be done to put the relations between the two countries on an even keel.

Pakistan is desperately fighting the existential threat from the terrorists ensconced in the tribal areas. It badly needs to mend its relations with India to be able to fully concentrate on this threat. Unless there is a guarantee of its eastern border being peaceful Pakistan will find it difficult to assemble a force sufficient enough to neutralize and keep under control the Tribal Agencies. India too needs to realize that its own security would be jeopardized in case Pakistan is not able to eradicate the terrorist virus. There is a need to build on the agreement reached on Sunday in the next few months. Nawaz Sharif strongly believes in peace and amity with India. What remains to be seen is if he is able to assert his leadership, allowing none to derail the peace process.