EXPRESSING her “deep disappointment” over New Delhi’s response to skirmishes along the Line of Control, the outgoing foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, rightly called for a lessening of the mistrust that exists between India and Pakistan. Lately, the non-implementation of some key confidence-building measures has blocked the process of normalisation. New Delhi has stalled a more liberal visa regime and on Friday, Hockey India scrapped its series with Pakistan. In addition a resolution has been passed by the lower house of the Indian parliament, asking Pakistan’s parliament to desist from “interfering in India’s internal affairs”. The National Assembly had indeed passed a resolution calling for an end to atrocities against Kashmiris protesting Afzal Guru’s controversial hanging. But with India-held Kashmir recognised internationally as a disputed territory, this was not an illegitimate move.
The recent setback to the peace process began in January following clashes between the two armies along the LoC with voices in India accusing Pakistani troops of beheading an Indian soldier. This was followed by Mr Guru’s execution and the recent attack on an Indian paramilitary camp by militants, for which Pakistan, which condemned the incident, was held responsible. The net effect is that Pakistan and India are almost back to the post-Mumbai stage when the ‘composite dialogue’ that had begun so hopefully in 2004 was frozen. The spirit of the 2010 Saarc summit in Thimphu now seems to be in the ICU.
The truth is that such CBMs are bound to fail if India and Pakistan are unable to solve even less contentious bilateral disputes. Sir Creek and Siachen are often mentioned as issues the two sides could resolve, especially because in the latter case it is the harsh polar weather that is the common enemy. Besides, Siachen is a huge drain on the two exchequers. A willingness to solve these disputes would not only create a propitious atmosphere for talks on the core issue of Kashmir, it would also sustain whatever CBMs have been agreed upon. Ms Khar’s farewell speech on Thursday reflected a keenness to pursue normal ties with India, especially where she mentioned Islamabad had pursued trade with India even though such interaction was not welcomed domestically. The prelude to a Kashmir solution, she said, demanded trust-building. Both India and Pakistan will have to keep this in mind.