Long road ahead for improving Indo-Pak relations

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Pakistan and India resolved to open a new chapter in their relations and settle the Kashmir problem and all other conflicting matters as the prime ministers of the South Asian nuclear rivals held a meeting few days back on the sidelines of the 17th SAARC summit in Addu, Maldives. Nonetheless, this resolve on the part of arch rival neighbouring states in not something new as in the past too, on many occasions, they have expressed same determination when their leaders met and they have come up with same optimistic statements.
In the past too, one single act of terrorism led to the derailment of the Indo-Pak peace process as was the case with Mumbai attacks in November 2008.
Hence, the fears and concerns among the people on both sides of the border are not misplaced when they say that despite all the positive gestures and praises for one another by the two prime ministers any terrorist act again could sabotage all the efforts for peace between the two countries. It was in Maldives that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not only appreciated the services for peace by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani calling him the “man of peace” and also accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan by his Pakistani counterpart but only after making it clear that his trip to Islamabad would not be possible before a stern legal action against terrorists responsible for Mumbai attacks by Pakistan.
The conditionality attached by Prime Minister Singh to his Pakistan’s trip shows that the two states have still to cover a lot of ground as for doing away with the mutual mistrust despite whatever they say publicly and all the positive overtures that they come up with towards each other. Given the serious nature of problems that the two states are confronting such as the Kashmir issue, Siachen and Sir Creek problems, a very strong will is required at the top government level on both sides of Indo-Pak border to end their conflicts and normalise their strained relations.
Keeping entangled in same web of animosity would not serve the purpose of peace and leaders on both sides would have to come up with extraordinary courage to resolve the issues that have bedevilled their ties for decades now. In the past as well, Pakistan and India have met and held several round of peace talks on Kashmir and other issues but to no avail as not a single conflicting matter could be resolved by them.The ongoing peace process, which was initiated years back in 2004 by the then president General (r) Pervez Musharraf and former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, got suspended as a result of Mumbai attacks in 2008.
This process aimed at the resolution of all bilateral issues was resumed again some months ago when the US started pushing Islamabad and New Delhi towards the resumption of stalled peace dialogue as it wanted improved ties between the nuclear neighbours for the sake of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Owing to Pakistan’s opposition to growing Indian influence in Afghanistan, the US felt that without the resumption of Indo-Pak peace process, it would be very difficult for it to persuade Islamabad for playing a decisive role for the success of ongoing reconciliation between Afghan government and the Taliban. The resumed dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi is, however, once again moving at a snail’s pace and despite the passage of months, the only achievement that the two states could boast of and take credit for is the Islamabad’s decision in principle to extend the status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) to New Delhi in the field of trade and commerce.
The rest is same as it was in the previous decades as there have been no result-oriented talks on Kashmir or any other issue so far.
And this is why Pakistan is urging India for the commencement of meaningful and fruitful dialogue and the foreign policy makers in Islamabad claim that they have been given firm assurance in Addu by Indians that they would reciprocate.
Whether that is true or not and whether this time the two states succeed to settle their conflicting matters will only be evident from the official level talks on various issues in the months to come, for which a calendar of meetings is currently being worked out.