Need to bridge the gap

Undeniably, the recent slanging match between India and Pakistan during the UN General Assembly session, blaming each other on the vital issue of Kashmir, does not go well with the very spirit of the composite dialogue for resolving all disputes going on for the past many years, though at a snail’s pace. The speeches delivered by the representatives of the two countries, drafted by their respective foreign ministries, only betrays a negative mindset of mutual mistrust, enmity and confrontation. With the leaders of the two countries having agreed to resolve all issues bilaterally through a process of dialogue, there is certainly need to change that frosty mindset and approach. Instead of talking at each through various forums including the UN India and Pakistan need to talk with each other and walk the talk fast.

The window of opportunity provided since the beginning of the composite dialogue must not be lost merely to satiate the lust of the diplomats of the two countries for securing more and more points in their pointless debating exercises. It is for the political leadership of the two countries to assert and resist the attempts of the hawks in their establishments to subvert and reverse the dialogue process and go back to the old game of saber rattling, which has only brought deaths, destruction and sufferings for the peoples of the sub-continent, besides disturbing regional peace. If their faith in resolving all issues bilaterally through a dialogue process is genuine then they must demonstrate political will and capacity to march on the road to peace with speed by removing all road blocks, not allowing the vested interests to create more and more hurdles.

During the recent dialogue at the foreign ministers level in Islamabad the two foreign ministers had expressed their willingness to view all the problems rationally with a spirit of mutual accommodation. Pakistan foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar had particularly hinted that her country was willing to view even the Kashmir problem from “another angle” which speaks of a remarkable flexibility. There is no reason why New Delhi should not reciprocate by shedding the rigid posture of the past. The two countries have no doubt moved forward by deciding about relaxing the visa regime, though what has been decided is not enough. They are still far from the desired need for altogether doing away with the heartless and humiliating visa regime, allowing free movements of the people from one country to the other, as is being done by the countries of Europe. Even the decisions taken during the foreign ministers meeting are not being implemented expeditiously with the bureaucrats in the home and foreign ministries playing their usual games. The two countries have still not taken the desired steps to evolve a joint mechanism for fighting terrorism, an issue which continues to be a source of mutual mistrust and suspicions.

The most important thing for moving forward on the road to peace is to bridge the trust-deficit through a series of confidence building measures (CBMs). Unfortunately the establishments in the two countries are still refusing to listen to the voices of sanity and reason and understand the sentiments of the peoples in the two countries for peace and friendship. It is the common people who have faced the brunt of prolonged confrontation between the two neighbours and have suffered immensely. The best way to remove the mistrust is to encourage people-to-people contacts by removing visa curbs and opening more routes for travel and trade.

Kashmir, no doubt, continues to be the thorniest issue that has been both cause and consequence of the six decades long conflict and hostility. Its resolution by taking the people of the state on board, is paramount for ushering into an era of friendship, cooperation and peace in the region. Not to talk of any move forward on the Kashmir issue the two countries have not even decided on the necessary Kashmir-related CBMs, which are paramount for creating a conducive climate for pursuing the dialogue process for finding a just, democratic and lasting solution of the problem.