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PAKISTAN army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has suggested Siachen issue should be resolved by Pakistan and India. This is a step towards establishing peace between the two archrivals.

In any established democracy, the army chief would have been by now fired upon making comments about foreign policy matters. However, everyone in Pakistan knows who really pulls the strings on such issues.

The Indian defence ministry, not the Indian army chief, as this is not his area to comment upon, has welcomed Gen Kayani’s statement. Therefore, Kayani’s views will be greeted as it is from a person who previously took pride as being ‘India-centric’.

One would presume that such thinking represents a real shift in the army’s stand vis-a-vis different issues with India. Time has come for both countries to stop taking a hawkish line that war or the threat of war is the only way forward to keep the other on its toes. There is no military solution to any of the disputes, whether it is Kashmir, Sir Creek or Siachen.

Pakistan cannot win Kashmir by military means. Likewise, India can never win hearts and minds of its Kashmiri population at gun-point.

Diplomacy is the only way forward to resolve issues. The sooner this fact is realised by both countries the better.

Funds allocated for keeping the world’s third and seventh largest armies in fighting gears will be diverted towards education, healthcare and poverty alleviation.

One wishes no one in Pakistan is studying how to respond to India’s launching of April 19 intercontinental ballistic missile. We should not start a new arms race in South Asia. Millions of people, who are living below the poverty line, have no access to clean drinking water and healthcare. Their children are working as labourers instead of joining schools. They do not take pride in continental or intercontinental missiles. One day this wish may come true, perhaps.

MASOOD KHAN Jubail

China as mediator THERE is a need to adopt a negotiated approach among the Third World countries. Pakistan has finally decided to engage in a dialogue with India over the Siachen issue.

A few would disagree with the analysis that Pakistan’s foreign policy has always been overshadowed by rivalry with its neighbour, India. Kashmir has remained a bone of contention between the strategically-important Pakistan and economically-empowered India.

Both countries are spending huge amounts of money in order to swell their defence budgets. Bilateral and multilateral diplomacy seems to be the only solution for resolving outstanding issues.

Both countries have hardly ever used bilateral or multilateral diplomacy. It is imperative to utilise regional associations for developing a symbiotic relationship between states at a regional level without undermining their sovereign status.

With regards to Pakistan and India, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation can be considered a good option for the purpose of ‘accommodative diplomacy’.

Undoubtedly, the association has remained a debating platform since its establishment.

It has played a pivotal role to accentuate common issues and regional interdependence among the South Asian countries.

India being the second most populous country in the world, an emerging economy and a potential market, has left its neighbours with no other option except to live with it as good as they can.

The Siachen issue is often referred to as a ‘dispute within a dispute’ and for this reason it is intertwined with various factors. It is imperative to mutually decide and allocate the defence budget, keeping in view the resources of all the South Asian countries. All the countries should only spend the amount decided for the purpose of their defence.

Through dialogue and negotiation both Pakistan and India should withdraw their troops from what is considered the world’s highest battlefield. Being an observer state of Saarc and Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’, China can become a mediator between Pakistan and India for transforming Siachen into a peace park.

On the other hand, India should remain flexible and comprehend the diplomatic intricacies of the South Asian region which directly affect its development, prosperity and survival.

FAKIHA HASSAN RIZVI Lahore