ISLAMABAD, June 26: Pakistan is hopeful of resumption of stalled peace dialogue with India in a few weeks in which trade is likely to take precedence over core bilateral disputes.
Soon after its installation, the PML-N government had signalled to India its desire for restarting the talks held up since January due to flare-up of tensions along the Line of Control. The Indian government has promised to send its proposals for resumption of talks, which are being awaited.
“The schedule of meetings of various segments of the dialogue is being prepared,” one of the government’s top foreign policy aides said at a background briefing.
At the time of the last interruption, the two sides were engaged in the third round of the dialogue revived in Thimphu in 2011.
Had the dialogue taken its normal course, the third round would have been nearing completion by now but, because of the disruption, only commerce secretaries of the two countries have met so far.
Beside recommencement of talks, Pakistan is eyeing reactivation of the back channel often called Track-II.
Though the officials did not say in so many words, it seemed that the PML-N government’s strategy was to deal with softer issues in the official dialogue, while leaving tougher ones to Track-II.
“There would be much more focus on issues that can be resolved,” one of the aides said while speaking about the talks conducted at the secretaries’ level.
No progress was made on the core issues of Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen in the two rounds that have been completed so far.
Instead, India and Pakistan drifted further away on Siachen and Sir Creek that were once considered as “doables” among the list of contentious issues they had been talking about. The only area where the two sides made some progress was trade.
The previous government had promised India the Most Favoured Nation status in trade sector by the end of the last year, but the promise could not materialise due to strong criticism of the move in Pakistan.
The other senior aide said that till now the focus had been on confidence building measures and not dispute settlement. “Therefore, back channel will be reactivated.”
Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif have developed a good rapport since May 11 elections in Pakistan. Plans are being considered for their meeting, which may take place in either of the countries or on the sidelines of a multilateral event.