India-Pak Dialogue can Resume if they Stick to Letter and Spirit of Past Agreements

  • With both New Delhi and Islamabad indicating that prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif will meet on the sidelines of the forthcoming Saarc summit in Nepal, caution is in order following developments that took place after Modi's widely hailed invitation to Saarc leaders to witness his oath-taking ceremony . 
  • Massive exchange of fire across the LoC, India's cancellation of foreign secretary talks after Pakistan's high commissioner Abdul Basit met Kashmiri separatists, and Sharif 's reference to Kashmir during his address to the UN General Assembly dashed these hopes.
  • As a result, Pakistan failed to abide by its solemn undertaking that it would grant non-discriminatory market access to India.
  • Against this backdrop Indians and Pakistanis drawn from several fields of public endeavour met in New Delhi on 20-21 November, to discuss ways and means to resume dialogue between the two countries on mutually beneficial terms.
  • The declaration called for an early bilateral summit, with a well-planned and comprehensive agenda, between PMs of both countries. 
  • Its essential components are already in place in several bilateral agreements, declarations and joint statements signed by the two countries ­ beginning with the 1972 agreement
  • Significant in this regard is what the joint declaration has to say on the subject of terrorism:Acts of terrorism must be condemned and combated with a zero-tolerance approach, irrespective of who master minds these, what their motives are, and against whom these are perpetrated.
  • Pakistan would need to provide verifiable proof that it is able and willing to bring to book perpetrators of terror acts on Indian soil and ensure non-violation of the ceasefire agreement along the borders.
  • Once such proof is forth coming
  • Both countries could focus on less contentious issues where a large measure of agreement has already been reached.
  • This includes Sir Creek, the Wullar barrage, perhaps even Siachen, liberalisation of the visa regime and, no less important, expanding bilateral cooperation in the trade, investment, business and economic spheres.
  • Both sides are aware of the mutual benefits of stronger trade ties. 
  • If such opportunities are missed, India and Pakistan would be doing no more than chasing chimeras in their resumed dialogue. 
  • One sure way to avoid an impasse in the future would be for India, and particularly the Indian media, to pay heed to the changing dynamics within Pakistan.
  • Another would be for Pakistan to better grasp the strategic priorities of the Modi government and decide whether it should continue with its self-defeating efforts to seek `parity' with its neighbour or opt instead for mutually beneficial relations rooted in stark realities.