Former Diplomats Pitch for Continuation in Indo-Pak Dialogue

Bashir made the remarks during a discussion on \'India-Pakistan Relations\', attended by six former High Commissioners of both countries.

Published: 29th April 2016 08:22 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2016 08:22 PM   |  A+A-

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Pakistan is at a "loss" to understand whether the Narendra Modi government has any Pakistan policy at all, former foreign secretary of the country Salman Bashir said today, noting that a lot of work was done during the UPA regime which needs to be revived.

Bashir made the remarks during a discussion on 'India-Pakistan Relations' here which was attended by six former High Commissioners of both India and Pakistan who have served in the two countries since independence.

On a question of whether Pakistan faces the threat of another coup, the retired diplomats replied in the negative saying their army just provides "inputs" to the civilian government in matters of foreign affairs and national security issues.

"One issue that strikes me is that we need to pick up where we left. In the UPA administration a lot of work was done. It seems to us that all of this is sort of lost. These two years of this present administration, in Pakistan we are at a loss to understand if there is really a Pakistan policy for India at this point in time.

"If you suspend the foreign secretary level talks just because the High Commissioner has met the APHC (All Party Hurriyat Conference) would to me show that all that was done on the back channel side, have been lost. That's the sort of thing that gives us a bit of unease as you are not quite sure where this government wants to take the relationship with Pakistan," Bashir said.

However, almost all the retired diplomats, including former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Pakistan's former High commissioner to India Aziz Ahmed Khan underlined the need to engage in dialogue to resolve the long-standing disputes.

Satinder K Lambah, former special envoy of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said the prerequisites of a continued dialogue between the the neighbours were peace at the borders, no cross-border terrorism and an early end to Mumbai attacks trial among others.

Referring to the recent foreign secretary level talks, Lanbah said it is good that the meet happened, however, he said certain "strange" things happened making the whole issue look "comic". He was referring to talking points released to media by Pakistan High Commission when the talks were on.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry had held talks here on Tuesday during which Indian side had asked Pakistan not to be in denial over the impact of terrorism on bilateral ties while Pakistan harped on Kashmir terming it as the core issue.

The efforts to resume Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue at the Foreign Secretary-level hit a deadlock after the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase in January that India said was carried out by militants from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group.

G Parthasarathy, who served as India's envoy to Pakistan between 1998 and 2000, said it was to Modi's credit that he has taken the bilateral talks out of media glare which he said was needed to have dividends.

"We have enough scope for both sides to move forward if the will exists...for me it is important we keep at it for our own interest...we need to talk to whoever is running Pakistan," Menon said, who also served as National Security Advisor, said.

Asked about the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested in Pakistan on charges of spying, Bashir said the contacts between the National Security Advisors have helped to manage the "explosivity" of incidents like Pathankot and others.

"As far as Jadhav as concerned, it needs to be investigated and requires cooperation from both sides. I believe it is important to have more communication regarding incidents like this," Bashir said, adding that he was not sure whether the Jadhav issue was taken up by the NSAs.

"But it does go a long way to substantiate Indian interference (in Balochistan) and more as charges are that he was abetting acts of terrorism," Bashir, who served as Pakistani envoy to India between 2012-14, claimed.

On Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's efforts to improve ties with India, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who served as Pakistani High Commissioner to India between 1997-2002, said that the former is serious about it although he does not always have his hands on the levers.

Bashir said it was imperative that the foreign secretaries are allowed to do their job and even the two Prime Ministers need to talk and steer their capacity towards that direction.

The talk was organised by Ananta Aspen Centre, an independent and not-for-profit organization that focuses on International Relations, headed by Satinder K Lambah, former special envoy of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Lambah said the prerequisites of a continued dialogue between the the neighbours were peace at the borders, no cross-border terrorism and an early end to Mumbai attacks trial among others.

Referring to the recent foreign secretary level talks, Lanbah said it is good that the meet happened, however, he said certain "strange" things happened making the whole issue look "comic". He was referring to briefings held by the Pakistani side even as talks were on.

Parthasarathy said talks had a continuity in the UPA regime as ceasefire was maintained and it was an era free of terrorism. He credited Pervez Musharraf for it and praised Manmohan Singh for first taking about "making borders irrelevant".

Menon said that people were involved in a big way in the official and back channel talks during his tenure to make borders irrelevant and stop treating issues like Kashmir as purely "territorial".

"Both in India and Pakistan there were attempts to involve people. I would not say we settled all things but we came close," he said.

Other former diplomats such as Pakistan's Shahid Malik said that there is no "substitute" to dialogue while Ashraf Jehangir Qazi said that the two countries need to address whatever their respective core issues are.

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