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Pak-India dialogue

Updated Mar 20, 2017 11:58am


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PAKISTAN High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit has made a sensible and timely observation: important as the terrorism issue is to bilateral ties, there are other matters of equal importance that deserve to be focused on and therefore dialogue needs to be revived at the earliest.

The high commissioner’s remarks came on a day that the BJP shocked India with its nomination of a controversial, hard-line Hindu priest to the post of chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state. The reaffirmation of a message of constructive dialogue on Pakistan’s part at a time when India may be lurching further to the political right is necessary; the stakes are simply too high for India and Pakistan to drift into a new era of turbulent relations.

The high commissioner’s remarks, then, are a welcome reminder that right- thinking individuals in both countries are continuing to dwell on the need for dialogue and not jettisoning the shared experience of the past seven decades, which has proved that while dialogue is difficult to initiate and even harder to sustain, it is the only realistic option.

Consider the so-called low-hanging fruit that Mr Basit referred to: Sir Creek and Siachen. Sir Creek in particular was once regarded as an agreement within reach — a border and maritime dispute that can be resolved by technical teams, if the political will to do so exists.

Similarly, the mindless stand-off in Siachen, more than three decades old and a growing environmental concern, could be resolved in a manner that satisfies both the military and political leaderships in both countries. But the freezing of dialogue has stalled all progress, in disputes small and large. And in the case of Siachen, there is a sense that the intransigence of the Indian military and its growing influence in the national security and foreign policy domains have effectively cancelled the low-hanging-fruit status of the Siachen dispute. Unhappily, the absence of dialogue is allowing other factors to intervene and make historical and already complicated disputes even more complex.

The revival of political will to engage in dialogue is the obvious starting point.

Having established his party as the dominant political force in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an opportunity to pivot and return to the path of dialogue with Pakistan. Mr Modi also now has the benefit of greater experience — the unexpected return to dialogue and the unveiling of the so-called comprehensive dialogue process with additional baskets in late 2015 was a commendable effort, but was not adequately militancy-proofed. The subsequent Pathankot attack caused a rupture where more experienced and committed dialogue partners may have found a way to sustain the process.

Almost a year and a half later, with Pakistan having taken a few steps against India-centric militant groups and large-scale counterterrorism operations under way across the country, the dialogue process can be restarted in a more conducive environment.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017


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Comments (52) Closed

surinder kade Mar 20, 2017 05:58am

Hon.High Commisoner and your editorial board forgot to mention cross border trade and route to Afganistan for trade and trucks.Pakistan can collect lot of toll/transit fee.. How about a simple thing that HC should not invite/meet Huryat leaders before important meetings.

Pinchoo Mar 20, 2017 09:56am

No thanks. India does not need you.

Pukudenguta Mar 20, 2017 10:24am

"Pakistan having taken a few steps against India-centric militant groups" OH, really, pray enumerate what are those "few steps". My two praise of contribution to this topic: THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY TALKS. Please hammer this into your thinking. Period.

asif Ali Mar 20, 2017 10:47am

" shared experience of the past seven decades, which has proved that while dialogue is difficult to initiate and even harder to sustain, it is the only realistic option." How it going to help or solve our problems which are more realistic for us- "According to the report, more than 177,000 children die annually in Pakistan before their fifth birthday due to their or their mothers’ malnutrition." "ISLAMABAD: Eighty-four per cent of the population does not have access to safe drinking water in a country." "UNICEF has given a figure of 5.5 million children, out of school in Pakistan"

Anwar Shahid Mar 20, 2017 12:56pm

A timely suggestion...dialogue is the only way to reach a compromise ..It is more in the interest of India than in Pakistan as it has much greater problems to handle to adopt a pragmatic approach if not magnanimous.

rana Mar 20, 2017 01:05pm

What will India get from these talks.You never want to give access to Afghanistan and you want to have bilateral, it is most likely unilateral talks.Bilateral means give and talk.

salaM Mar 20, 2017 01:21pm

Fundamental Hindus and Indians are flying high on their UP victory... This is sadly not the time they will consider talking to anyone.

Vectra Mar 20, 2017 01:55pm

Condition ripe? I don't think so, mere attending a parliamentary conference (Which India have to being an parliamentarian democracy itself) and agreeing to water talks makes less sense when the $15 billion dam work recently approved goes on as usual,nevertheless talks are always welcome.

Shakil Mar 20, 2017 02:20pm

Of course, dialogue is the only viable option between these two powerful neighbours. Arms race will only bring destruction. The only way forward is through economic competition that will bring prosperity to the people of the two countries.

wellwisher Mar 20, 2017 02:20pm

divorce is better than a painful marriage

BNJ Mar 20, 2017 02:29pm

Indians are happy the way they are. Thanks for your concern.

Rahul Mar 20, 2017 02:31pm

From India, we really need to ascertain, if there will be any value add .. if we initiate dialogue once again... or will it add more sourness/miseries in our already delicate relations.

Arun-KS Mar 20, 2017 02:47pm

Low hanging fruits! ..... Let the time come, let them ripe naturally. Do not throw stones to have them.

Please Mar 20, 2017 03:01pm

@salaM dear, can you please compare the govts of Pakistan and India honestly and then tell us who is fundamental.

bulesha Mar 20, 2017 03:14pm

No road route to Afg, No MFN status ( Which India given to Pak in 1994), No action on state actors, what you going to talk??

Taimoor khan Mar 20, 2017 03:24pm

Pakistan can make all the goodwill gesture but under current dispensation in New Delhi, the normalization of ties will remain a pipe dream.

R.Kannan Mar 20, 2017 03:29pm

Modi's electoral victory has nothing to do with Pakistan talks. BJP campaigned on the development plank and Pakistan was hardly mentioned. India Pakistan talks were suspended due to terror attacks and Pakistan has to demonstrate its seriousness on that score for meaningful talks.

Pukudenguta Mar 20, 2017 03:26pm

Talks? Talks did not help in the past nor will they help in the future. Actions such as removal of terror, speedy trial of Mumbai terror criminals may help. Try these actions first and see what happens.

ak Mar 20, 2017 03:45pm

No use of starting a dialogue, the political sand storms have finally made the two nations really hate each other to the bone. Nothing will last.

ak Mar 20, 2017 03:43pm

Indians are commenting as if Pakistan wants to talk. India never said anything on khulbushan.

Shankar Mar 20, 2017 04:02pm

The gaps are too wide, I doubt if taks will help. They might just open up the wounds!

Faisal Basheer Mar 20, 2017 04:08pm

India should stop this anti Pakistan rhetoric coming out from the govt circles,and trying to declare Pakistan a pariah state and stop sending suicide bombers terrorist through Afghanistan, our PMLN govt will bend backwards any agreement should be with dignity and on equal terms India and Pakistan need peace

Devendra G Mar 20, 2017 04:16pm

@ AK " the two nations really hate each other to the bone. Nothing will last."

I agree with your view .

khalil Mar 20, 2017 04:19pm

@asif Ali great response to the editorial. These are what we need to live a happy life.

last word Mar 20, 2017 04:23pm

The chances of Indo-Pak dialogue are extremely remote. Pakistan has failed to address India's concerns on cross-border terrorism which remains the major hurdle in resuming the dialogue process. Moreover, India is quite dissatisfied with follow up action in Pathankot attack case and cosmetic measures taken against JuD chief.

timetostopthis Mar 20, 2017 04:22pm

@Taimoor khan What goodwill gestures are you talking about?

Sher khan Mar 20, 2017 04:36pm

@surinder kade - We don't need, and no compromise on National Security.

henrysmith0 Mar 20, 2017 04:50pm

yes, Minister Narendra Modi has an opportunity to pivot and return to the path of dialogue with Pakistan. Mr Modi also now has the benefit of greater experience

GENGHIS khan Mar 20, 2017 04:52pm


arnav Mar 20, 2017 04:56pm

@asif Ali brother we too have so many problems within us which are of similar kind and I would be more happy if we ALL the ...intelligent people from both the countries c join hands together for a suitable solution rather blaming each other and fight on some unnecessary issues such as RELIGION as I believe some people.... mostly FUNDAMENTALIST from both the sides would not AGREE....SO I SAID INTELLIGENT PEACE LOVING GOOD HUMAN BEINGS.....

Kumar Mar 20, 2017 05:03pm

I still don't understand what there is to talk about. India will not budge an inch for her stance and neither will Pakistan.

arnav Mar 20, 2017 05:10pm


amit Mar 20, 2017 05:12pm

@Taimoor khan what are the gestures pakistan has made by the way....

Iftikhar Husain Mar 20, 2017 05:22pm

It is now certain that the terrorism i Kashmir is purely home grown and Pakistan has no hand in this. Improve the condition of people of Kashmir and listen to their demands will help India to take the confidence of the people.

Ramadosa Mar 20, 2017 06:21pm

@asif Ali ; Yes! But getting "IHK" territory is MORE urgent and important! Focus.

Ramadosa Mar 20, 2017 06:25pm

@asif Ali ;Good Post and points!

Masood Hussain Mar 20, 2017 06:48pm

Talks are viyal for peace and progress of our two countries.

rana Mar 20, 2017 06:56pm

@Masood Hussain Talks are much needed for Pakistan as compared to India.

Anil Pinnala Mar 20, 2017 07:04pm

@wellwisher Well said. And move on our own paths. Sad, but better in the interest of the both countries. I would always like to visit Pakistan as much as I hate to see the cross border issues.

kaliraja thangamani Mar 20, 2017 08:12pm

PAKISTAN High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit has the responsibility to bring the relations to normal.

Helloall Mar 20, 2017 10:53pm

What the editorial said is 100% unrealistic. There can't and won't be resumption of any meaningful talks unless both sides are willing to give up hostility & show genuine willingness to consider improving relations. However, this can't happen until we have fair-minded and honest brokers who are willing to listen to the other side rather than their own stories.

asif Ali Mar 20, 2017 10:52pm

@Ramadosa , Sir you are free, take it now.

shahid Khan Mar 20, 2017 11:47pm

We have separated and will remain separated. What's to talk about as it is just a waste of time and money

Balti Mar 21, 2017 12:15am

folks from both sides want no war hysteria, and hate war mongers but it's the political interest which always moves with hatred that is because it engulfs "I" i.e. things befitting to me. Therefore, love and helping hand should be nurtured in political domain. Hatred and smear is the only incurable disease that is selling out around free of cost, which has no sustained destination, but expanding more hate. Unless the culture of love won't be flourished on the two sides the dimensionless vilification will escalate even more.

syed ali Mar 21, 2017 01:00am

For a start, your suggestion is good.

Kumar Mar 21, 2017 01:23am

@henrysmith0 Who does he talk to? Who has the power?

SaidRehman Mar 21, 2017 04:01am

Time is Right when Modi decides so. Please wait.

Sana Mar 21, 2017 06:32am

@henrysmith0 he is not "Minister" Modi but Prime Minister of India There are thousands of Ministers in India only one PM

baanke khan Mar 21, 2017 06:36am

Why Abdul Basit sahib is wasting his time? Why not approach UN?

Dv Mar 21, 2017 06:41am

The sooner the better.

Mr Satyabrat D Singh Mar 21, 2017 08:35am

One cannot fool a hard-line leader like Modi.

RAVEENDRA NATH Mar 21, 2017 02:21pm

Any right thinking individual, whether Indian, Pakistani or of any nationality, would accept that dialogue, bilateral dialogue, only way to peace. However, Pakistan should desist from involving the Kashmiri separatists and other third parties in the "bilateral" dialogue. Pakistan should also first have cohesion among themselves, i.e. civilian authorities, military and militants. They should also resolve 26/11, Pathankot, Uri incidents, LOC firings, cross-border infiltration, etc. before a meaningful "bilateral" dialogue can take place. Pakistan should also realise that peace with India is of more importance to them than to India.