Talks over Kashmir – II

When former prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif attended the swearing-in ceremony of Indian prime minister Nardendra Modi on 26 May 2014, it was construed as possibly bringing thaw to the frozen relations between India and Pakistan. Same perception came to the fore when Modi made a sudden stopover at Lahore on 25 December 2015. The heads of all SAARC countries were invited on Modi’s swearing-in ceremony and all heads attended the ceremony. It is proper for the diplomacy to flourish in the region. But things went awry after the attack on the military base in Uri, Kashmir, in September 2016. While India accused Pakistan for its role in the attack, the latter rejected it and called the attack the reaction to Kashmir unrest of 2016. However, political bickering on Kashmir had started a little earlier than that.

Uri attack led to the escalation of tensions between the two countries, almost bringing them to the brink of a direct confrontation and also leading to frequent skirmishes along LoC and the International Border. Since 2016, there has been no positive development in the relationship between Islamabad and New Delhi.

In September this year, foreign ministers of the two countries were set to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but it couldn’t happen as India pulled out, claiming Pakistan’s noncooperation on issues put forth by New Delhi.

The meeting was expected to be a breakthrough in improving the ties between two south Asian rivals. But ‘no meeting’ shattered all hopes. As a result, the two countries are back to the usual blame game ritual. They accuse each other for the failure of even holding talks and for the restive Kashmir situation. Such state of affairs has never been of any help to the politically unstable Kashmir; nor will it ever be. Conversely, the rhetoric adds fuel to fire, prolonging the sufferings of the Kashmiris.

Interestingly in late 2015, meetings were held between the foreign secretaries and the National Security Advisors of the two countries. In those meetings, both the countries had agreed to discuss the issues and roadblocks in their relationship. In November 2015, the two premiers Modi and Sharif agreed to resume bilateral talks. This was followed by a brief visit by Modi to Pakistan. Before that Sharif too had visited India, in 2014, on Modi’s swearing-in ceremony. They also tried “mango diplomacy” with Sharif sending a box of mangoes to Modi in mid 2015. Despite those efforts, the ties between the two countries did not improve and instead the two countries are more hostile than they ever were.

To diffuse the tense situation, the US (in the past) expressed a desire to broker peace between India and Pakistan. It is worthy to note that the US interests in South Asia are important and increasing as China’s influence in the region grows. Besides economic interests, it wants to prevent a major war and to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation in the South Asian region. It wants to enhance economic growth, trade and investment and to cooperate on issues with a stable south Asia, combat drug trafficking and establish peace in Afghanistan. America also seeks to contain China, whose economic muscle is making more countries its allies. For containing China’s influence, America projects India as a leader in the region.

America can show serious efforts aimed at bringing India and Pakistan on the negotiation table. Helping to resolve Kashmir issue can help US in many ways: one, the US would show its diplomatic power by resolving the global issues amicably. Two, it can set an example of peace-making in South Asia without bloodshed. Three, America can erase the impression that it simply believes in muscular approach. Four, India- Pakistan ties can improve if K-issue is resolved peacefully through US help. That can push China on the back foot, winning global goodwill to America.

Both India and Pakistan should stop playing a waiting game, that one country will finally give up and the issue will resolve on its own. Issues are resolved through participation and practical means. Holding unconditional talks is the best way to resolve the outstanding issues. Let India, Pakistan and Kashmiris hold trilateral talks to find out a solution to the long pending K-issue.

Blaming one another for the Kashmir situation has seen its days; so has the denial mode by the stakeholders to the issue for holding talks at any level concerning Kashmir.

Resolving Kashmir issue is neither difficult nor impractical: resolving to resolve the issue is difficult. Left unresolved, the issue can reach the point of no return and way beyond solution. Political maturity and acumen demands that stakeholders prefer talks to resolve Kashmir. ‘No talks approach’ may lead to an avoidable war between the two South Asian neighbours.

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