|Push forward peace process|
|All the issues need to be sorted out with a sense of urgency and seriousness|
| The recent decision taken by Indian and Pakistani agencies to return each other’s inadvertent border crossers immediately imbues some hope of building a stronger edifice of the much desirable and much needed peace process between the two countries. Much, however, would depend on the implementation of the commitment made as also on how various other related issues are tackled. The issue of inadvertent crossers and exchange of prisoners is a vital issue and would be major confidence building measure in the region but unfortunately despite reiterated commitment, not much progress has been made on this regard in recent years, not only because of snapping of dialogue process between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of 26/11 but also because of the tardy pace of negotiations and petty politicking and bureaucratic hurdles getting in the way of dealing even with issues that are less ticklish.
There are no majorrisks involved or strategic complications in proceeding ahead with the issue of exchange of innocent people who stray across the borders, primarily the case of the fishermen along the gulf of Kutch, and the exchange of prisoners. However, adamancy and hawkishness has forbidden both sides from setting in place a sustainable mechanism for even exchange of information and list of prisoners or for better treatment to each other’s prisoners. Last year, the mysterious deaths of two Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails and one Pakistani prisoner in an Indian jail demonstrated the inherent biases with Indians in Pakistani jails an echo of which is found in the Indian jails with Pakistani prisoners. Therefore, the need is to bring into focus the question of the overall plight of such prisoners caught in the territory, often being cases of inadvertent crossings. Many of those charged with espionage activities are often unsuspecting innocents, especially those from the border areas on both sides, are co-opted and coerced to be sent across for spying but later disowned by intelligence agencies they were deputed by when they get caught. They either end up rotting in jails or go through the endless misery of playing the double agent and getting nailed either way in the end. Whatever be the nature of the case and crime, these prisoners on either side are not provided any consular access and it takes years for family members to discover about the fate of their jailed kin. The joint judicial commission agreed upon by the two governments for managing the affairs of such prisoners must become a finality and should be strengthened enough to take up the vital issue of prisoners facilities and their exchange.
The issue of prisoners is only one of the several immediate do-ables that the two sides can immediately and amicably begin work upon. Many other issues both New Delhi and Islamabad stand committed to are the relaxation of visa regimes and facilitating free travel between the two sides, issue of, cultural and educational exchange, all of which can go a long way in building mutual trust both at the official level and the people to people levels. However, the sustainability of peace would hinge on tackling not just the less complicated matters but also in inching forward towards resolving the knotty issues as well, whether it is Siachen, Sir Creek, disputes or the far more complicated issue of Kashmir. None of these can be put on the back burner. The more complicated the dispute, the more potential it has for ensuring longer, lasting mutual trust, friendship and peace in the region. Needless to point out that co-operation and trust between the two neighbours is necessary for peace and progress in the entire sub-continent. There is no other way to move towards such a phase than sitting down and sorting out the disputes with a sense of immediacy and seriousness they all deserve. The sooner the begins and the faster it is, the better it is for everybody’s interests.