On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief Imran Khan to congratulate him on his election victory. The PM, according to the MEA statement, outlined his vision of peace and development in the entire neighbourhood in line with his governments stated objective of neighbourhood first policy. Modi has also expressed hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan. The two leaders have also recalled their conversation in December 2015 during Khans visit to India. Earlier in his victory, Khan had said that Pakistan was ready to improve its ties with India, and hoped that the blame game between the two neighbours, detrimental to the sub-continent, should stop. He also called for the resolution of Kashmir terming it a “core” issue between the two countries. The biggest problem is Kashmir,” Khan said, suggesting that the two sides should come to the table to resolve it.
One hopes that the phone call leads to a thaw between the estranged nations and helps kickstart the dialogue. Having said that, the two countries will soon have to face up to the formidable bilateral and regional challenges. Bilaterally, the relationship between the two countries has for long been hostage to the occasional violent incidents which often reverse the painstakingly made gains on the diplomatic front. And at the regional level, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the shifting regional geo-politics is an area of deep concern. If the two countries have to meet these challenges, they need to deepen their engagement and proceed uninterrupted with a long-term effort to resolve their issues. One hopes that Khan-Modi telephone talk opens up a new window of opportunity which can be built upon for the peace and prosperity of the subcontinent.
The two leaders could be hoped to take steps to resume the formal dialogue. But if at all they embark on a new engagement, the two leaders will need to ensure that it doesn’t follow the by now predictable trajectory. If we go by the past record any major violent incident or the cross-border skirmish is enough to set the clock back. And given the situation obtaining in the two countries, it is unlikely that the forces inimical to the renewed engagement between them will not act to sabotage the process. So if the two countries are serious about dialogue they will need to insulate it from the attempts by vested interests to disrupt it. This can be done when both states factor in all the contingencies, work out a mechanism to deal with them and then move forward confidently. Considering the fact that several promising rounds of dialogue in the past have been unravelled and reversed by a violent incident, it would be a pity if the history is allowed to repeat itself. Only a consistent engagement is a guarantee of a sustainable peace in the region, not the recurrent lapse into hostility.
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