India, Pak talks window is closing

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If BJP’s spectacular electoral victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhund was expected to pave the way for a fresh engagement between India and Pakistan, the subsequent developments so far have belied the expectations. BJP Government at the centre has given little indication that the dialogue with Pakistan is even on the agenda. Neither New Delhi nor Islamabad have made any overtures to each other for the dialogue. And if Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected to use his visit to Kashmir on April 2 to extend an offer of dialogue to the neighbouring country, he didn’t do so. This has given people a cause to apprehend that New Delhi has no near term plan to talk to its neighbour. And this is not a happy prospect to look forward to. In recent months, the situation in Kashmir has looked set to get even worse. Militant funerals and the encounter triggered mobilizations have acquired more frequency. There is an urgent need to undertake urgent ameliorative measures. New Delhi can hardly afford to delay a political engagement with Kashmir. One of the most important steps would be the dialogue with Pakistan which remains suspended following the Pathankot attack in January last year.    

One can only hope that the two countries renew the talks. More so, considering that the current dispensations in the two countries  are now on way to complete their respective terms. Window is fast closing. By the end of this year Pakistan would already be in  election mode circumscribing the chance and the space for a sustained dialogue. And by 2018 also, the government in New Delhi will have an eye on the 2019 polls, dissuading it from a troubled engagement with its neighbour. The period thus will hardly be conducive for a purposeful dialogue. This leaves India, Pakistan the coming few months to try and re-establish the contact and hope to carry it on into the next two years. If they choose to squander the chance,   they are unlikely to get it until after 2019.

As thing stand, there is certainly a chance of a new beginning. Since Pathankot, there has been no major terror attack in a part of India outside Kashmir.  True, there is a fraught road ahead and any resumption of dialogue is likely to face the familiar challenges. This is because the two countries have pursued the dialogue more as a symbolic act of engagement than as a means to resolve longstanding issues.  Besides, the dialogue whenever it has been resumed has hardly accounted for the contingencies of the militant attacks and the response to it. That is why every talks process has invariably collapsed following by now a predictable attack. Any fresh beginning between the countries has to thus ensure that it is seized of the challenges ahead and how to get around to make the engagement uninterrupted and uninterruptible in real sense.

 

 

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