Building Trust

LESS than a month after India and Pakistan dramatically re-affirmed the 2003 ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control, the neighbours on Tuesday began discussing their water issues, signalling a return to bilateral dialogue following a gap of many years. The talks assume more importance in view of the situation of the last two years during which the relations between the two countries plunged to their lowest. Pakistan had drastically downgraded its relationship with India following the latter’s withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy in August 2019. Given the consequent state of their relationship, it had appeared unlikely that a dialogue between them could resume anytime soon. But the unthinkable has happened: first with reiteration of the ceasefire agreement and now with resumption of dialogue. In between, the neighbours also restored their sporting ties. Pakistan’s lone skeet shooter Usman Chand recently got a visa to travel to India  to compete in the New Delhi World Cup.
Nobody could have imagined things will move so fast. It appears now a matter of time before the two countries resume a formal dialogue on a broad range of issues including on the issue of Kashmir. Earlier, Islamabad had insisted that there will be no talks with New Delhi untill latter reverses the decision to repeal Kashmir’s autonomy. Now this condition seems to have been given up just as New Delhi seems to have overlooked its demand that for the dialogue to resume, Pakistan will have to end cross-border terrorism. Where the anticipated new engagement would lead, only time will tell. Indo-Pak engagement has traditionally been tough to sustain. Even before things could settle down and move towards resolution of the issues,  the dialogue is cut short either by a terrorist attack or due to some  political reason. This has happened so often that it is difficult to attach any hope to a fresh peace process.
But with statesmanship and the political will, the leaders of the two countries could make it happen this time. On Pakistan side, it seems both the civilian government and the Army are on the same page as far as talks with India. And in New Delhi, we have an absolute majority government in power which has shown it is willing to depart from the status quo to fulfill its political goals. A similar approach to resolution of the issues with Pakistan has the potential to put the subcontinent on the road to peace. Here’s hoping that the dialogue this time not only sustains but reaches it logical conclusion.

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