Even as India and Pakistan discuss implementation of new cross-LoC confidence building measures (CBMs), it seems increasingly unlikely that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan will happen any time soon, with progress stalled on key areas like trade and visa.
In Islamabad on Thursday, the joint working group on cross-Line of Control CBMs held discussions, which reviewed progress and discussed ways to “strengthening and streamlining the existing trade and travel arrangements across the LoC”.
Further, a joint statement noted that both countries “discussed modalities for introducing additional cross-LoC CBMs”.
According to sources, officials were discussing the procedures to expand the categories for people to travel across the LoC, which is currently limited to separated families, to other areas like religious travel and tourism. Further, they also discussed the implementation of the proposal for a six-month multiple entry permit, which will be a big leap from the current validity of four weeks.
All these proposals had been earlier suggested at the meeting of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in New Delhi in July 2011.
There had also been plans to introduce banking services to replace the current barter trade between the two Kashmirs, but sources said that the proposal was at a very incipient stage.
While the dialogue process continues ploddingly, the visit of Indian PM to Pakistan now seems highly unlikely. Singh has already made it clear that he will only travel to Pakistan if there is any “tangible results”, but there does not seem any sign of much progress in any of the deliverable issues.
Initially, Pakistan seemed ready to move full-steam on issues like trade and visa liberalisation, but lately Islamabad has been insisting that there should progress across “all” issues, which include Siachen and Sir Creek.
The judicial process in the 26/11 terror attack in Pakistan has been moving at glacial pace. In the latest setback, a Pakistani court had on Tuesday thrown out the finding of its judicial commission which went to India, on the grounds that there was no cross-examination of witnesses.
“The PM is not an independent actor to go to Pakistan, when there is no progress in any area,” said a senior government official.
Last week, Khar had lamented that Singh could have visited much earlier during the term of former Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, as both of them had established a personal rapport.
The current term of the government of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari ends next March, with elections normally expected to be held in June. But, with the Pakistan SC again giving notice to the new PM, Raja Pervez Ashraf, on initiating corruption cases against Zardari, elections could be held much earlier - thereby not giving much window of time for a visit by the Indian PM.