In an informal interaction to mark India’s 70th Republic Day, Ajay Bisaria – the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan – stated that building trust between the two sides is essential before embarking on a political dialogue. However, he clarified that owing to the upcoming general elections in India, political dialogue may be quite difficult.
He also revealed that the two countries are in operational contact over the Kartarpur corridor initiative on which basic points have been agreed upon with the exception of zero-point.
The envoy’s remarks signify that his intentions for concrete talks are sincere for long-term stability.
Nevertheless, South Block, New Delhi’s refusal to create a conducive environment for dialogue is a major impediment for peace in the region. Ever since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power in May 2014, multiple talks have broken down or stalled at the eleventh hour owing to several factors.
Key examples include August 2015 secretary-level talks in New Delhi and September 2018 foreign minister-level talks in New York City, which were overshadowed by bitter speeches in the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Other talks such as those held during former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure had no concrete outcome given the overall hostile environment along the Line of Control (LoC) and internal political crisis brewing in the restive region of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
Under the new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, there have been multifaceted efforts for ensuring a harmonious environment. Kartarpur initiative was the first major breakthrough in November 2018 which was welcomed by the Sikh community residing in not only India but other parts of the world too.
It is pertinent to mention that New Delhi unofficially distanced itself from all the glamorous projection of the corridor in Pakistan owing to two key reasons.
Firstly, since elections are just around the corner, the NDA does not wish to lose in constituencies where it could garner votes on communal/anti-Pakistan rhetoric. Especially when the Indian National Congress (INC) is regaining its political prowess in light of the NDA’s populist socio-economic promises being side-lined or struck down. In addition to this, major scandals such as those relating to the French Rafale jet deal have also damaged the NDA’s ability to tackle state-level corrupt practices which have shook the power corridors.
The second reason is the ‘terror’ narrative promoted by India for the last several years. This narrative has lost its credibility to such an extent that several analysts are of the opinion that New Delhi should have a bigger heart when dealing with Islamabad. The repeated shuns have done more harm than good for its foreign policy objectives regarding bilateral ties with Islamabad. Furthermore, the haphazard and directionless approach on peace talks implies the severity of non-seriousness on its part.
However, only time would tell whether a concrete dialogue could be held once the elections are held by May 2019. Should NDA form the next government once again, albeit with a projected reduced majority, then there’s a chance for talks to proceed subjective to regional pulse.
Kashmir dispute will remain one of the core objectives of PM Khan’s government that wishes to reduce hostilities and come up with a tangible solution to the decades-old problem.
The Afghan peace process is already in a breakthrough period when the US and Taliban have finally agreed to a draft agreement on ceasefire to end one of the longest wars in modern history with the backing of Pakistan as a key mediator.
Keeping it in view, a solution for the Kashmir conflict could be achieved and lasting peace between both Pakistan and India ensured for promoting economic integration and regional prosperity. *
Published in Daily Times, January 28th 2019.