Stalemate in Talks Over, Time to Tackle Key Issues with Care

Published: 12th July 2015 04:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th July 2015 04:08 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: Days of stalemate and pressure from the international community -- both direct and indirect -- may be the reasons behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa recently.

And the bilateral talks have resumed following the hiatus in dialogue. Even after inviting Sharif to his swearing-in last year,  Modi Government had to change its approach towards Pakistan. The last few months of 2014 witnessed the suspension of the Foreign Secretary-level talks. Subsequent relentless cross-border firing had also raised tensions.

The Saarc Summit in Kathmandu in November and the inevitable encounter between Modi and Sharif led to activation of ‘under-the-radar’ channels before the meeting. Prominent Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir said there were “back-channel” talks already under way to cool tempers.

Things, however, started changing after the shocking Peshawar school attack by Tehrik-i-Taliban(TTP) Pakistan, in which 132 students were killed. Modi had called Sharif to express condolences then and the next day and majority of the schools across India mourned the death of the Pakistani students, opening a window of opportunity for bilateral talks.

“The National Security Adviser( Ajit Doval) went and signed the condolence book at the Pakistan Embassy. The next day, we heard that Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was given bail. It was a major setback. For us, the signals were clear,” said a senior government official.

Earlier this year, former Pakistan NSA Mahmud Durrani met Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Doval in February, and that perhaps was another sign of the impending change in environment. Thereafter, Jaishankar’s  whistle-stop Saarc Yatra and its most important stop in Islamabad was another step towards the commencement of the stalled bilateral talks.

Modi keeps close tabs on the developments across the border with Jaishankar, whom he meets daily. Of course, Modi banks in a lot on Doval, who spent years in Pakistan as an intelligence operative. He also kept meeting former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had always been an advocate of bilateral dialogue.

Subha Chandran, director of think tank, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, noted that the “History of India-Pakistan relations is all about making U-turns”. The compulsion for Modi to resume the dialogues may have come after realising that there is no alternative.

Track II Talks on kashmir, siachen

Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz under pressure from domestic critics over omission of K-word in Joint Statement, announced in Islamabad that Kashmir and Siachen issues would be addressed through back-channels. “The two sides also agreed to take up these issues under the back-channel Track-II mechanism for better understanding of each other’s point of view,” the Dawn quoted Aziz as saying.


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