India, Pak Deadlock

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THE Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) heads of government meeting was held on Monday without the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan attending it. The summit is held every year at the level of prime ministers and deals mainly with the trade and economic agenda of the SCO. However, earlier this month PM Modi, Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping had joined the virtual SCO summit, chaired by Russia. This meeting was chaired by India and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu represented the country. On Pakistan side was the meeting was attended by its Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas.

In his address, without naming Pakistan, Naidu highlighted India’s core concern of cross-border terrorism calling it the biggest challenge for countries. In his response, Pakistani parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism inflicted upon people living under foreign occupation in disputed territories.

As happens in the multilateral meetings attended by India and Pakistan, they indirectly take potshots at each other. India always brings up terrorism sponsored from across the border and Pakistan makes counter accusations and also seeks to highlight the situation in Kashmir. This acrimonious exchange is a routine spectacle at United Nations where the mutually antagonistic positions are ritualistically rehearsed at various meetings.

The SCO meeting has witnessed the reiteration of this spectacle. If anything, it also underlines the lingering estrangement between the neighbours that has further deepened since New Delhi’s withdrawal of Article 370 in August last year. Situation can be expected to improve if the leaders of the two countries deem it in their core interest to engage.

And if not then we can only hope that the current climate of distrust and antagonism doesn’t lead to further escalation of tensions. The intermittent exchange of fire along Line of Control and the lingering turmoil in Kashmir that recently killed five soldiers over two days has created a fraught situation with a potential to further worsen the bilateral ties. More so, when due to suspended talks, the two countries lack the diplomatic tools to manage the fallout. It is therefore important that the two countries get back to the dialogue and work towards resolution of their longstanding issues for a durable peace in the region.

The only hope for a redeeming difference lies in a summit meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries. They owe it to the peoples of their respective countries to resume a long-stalled dialogue to forge a way forward and renew hope for a reconciliation and the resolution of their long-festering issues.

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