Talks over Kashmir—I

A pragmatic approach involving talks as the option is essential to resolve the Kashmir issue.India and Pakistan often see tension between them escalating to an alarming level. To de-escalate the tension, sincere and sustained efforts are needed. As war is not an option, a pragmatic approach involving talks as the option is essential to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Though engaging in talks and getting backing of all quarters, the bitter truth is that talks do not occur on the ground level for one or the other reason. Unfortunately, no concrete measures are taken to create conducive climate for talks to happen.

Consequently, the tension between these two neighbouring countries rises, threatening to snowball into a catastrophe beyond control.

Recently, Pakistan’s premier Imran Khan had written a letter to India’s premier Narendra Modi. The letter brought Khan’s proposal for the resumption of dialogue between the two countries.

But his offer was not accepted by Modi government which cited the present security situation as the reason for dismissing the offer.

The rejection of the offer highlights the level of hatred and distrust operating between the two sovereign states. It also reflects the complexity and unpredictable nature of ties between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Both express a desire for mutual good relations but fail to make it happen. They fight at the regional and global platforms but in vain.

India as usual demands that for talks to happen, Pakistan must stop ‘sending men and arms to India’. But Pakistan reiterates that talks must happen under all circumstances to resolve the conflict over Kashmir.

The end result is that talks never occur and the situation deteriorates further: distrust rises, ties sour further and border clashes pick up at the cost of life and property on both sides of the border.

The current alarming situation seems far away from improving at least in the foreseeable future given the two countries’ firm stances over Kashmir and controversial points of view toward talks to happen.

Though the two countries share history of bad ties, the fact is that at times, they have preferred talks and signed various agreements of peace-making.

The relation has been marred by the violent partition of the British India in 1947, the Kashmir conflict and a number of military conflicts between the two countries. True, the two neighbouring countries share cultural, geographic, economic and linguistic links but their ties have been seriously affected by their mutual hostilities and distrust.

The violent partition did succeed in creating two sovereign nations- secular India (with a Hindu majority population) and an Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with a Muslim majority) but it displaced about 12.5 million people and killed about one million.

Immediately after gaining their independence, India and Pakistan established diplomatic relations but the violent partition and the subsequent territorial claims gave a severe beating to the relationship.

The two countries have engaged in three major wars while the skirmishes, military standoffs continue almost as a routine on the border. In this situation, both the countries are losing their men and material. The main cause of the conflict has been Kashmir.

Talks have taken place to sign Shimla Agreement, Agra Agreement and Lahore Agreement, but the relationship soured significantly from 1980s, in particular, after the Sachin conflict, the Kashmir armed rebellion in 1989, Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 and the Kargil war in 1999.

Some Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) like the well-known 2003 Ceasefire Agreement and the Delhi-Lahore bus service, definitely were able to de-escalate tensions. However, these CBMs lost merit and message due to the occurrence of some attacks in India.

The 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament had almost pushed the two nuclear armed countries to the nuclear war. The 2007 Samjhuta Express bombings soured the relation further. The most toxic blow to the ties was given by Mumbai (India) attack in 2008.

In the wake of coming to power of new governments in both the countries (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Government in Pakistan in 2013 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi Government in India in 2014) , a brief thaw was felt in the troubled relation between the two warring countries.

There were some bilateral discussions and visits by the top government dignitaries from both sides but the friendly gestures and the bilateral discussions stalled again after the 2016 attack in India on its military base.

B

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