Reviving the backchannel | Editorial

Dialogue is the best way forward on conflicts and disputes. And in case of those involving nuclear-capable neighbours Pakistan and India, it is the only way forward. Pakistan, at least, knows that well and has long been pushing for negotiated settlement of all its outstanding issues with its hostile neighbour. History bears testimony to Pakistan always stepping out first, in search of peace with India — be it General (retd) Ziaul Haq’s surprise visit to New Delhi on the pretext of watching a Test match between Pakistan and India in Jaipur in February 1987 at a time when Indian troops had massed along the Pakistani border, or Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s sudden handshake with former Indian PM Atal Behri Vajpayee during a Saarc summit in Kathmandu in January 2002 at a time of diplomatic freeze in the wake of the Kargil war. A more recent peace initiative from Pakistan came in the shape of the Kartarpur Corridor meant to connect two Sikh holy sites on either side of the border.
Though India’s reaction has all along been void of reciprocity in a genuine sense, Pakistan’s quest for peace continues. Even the incumbent government has repeatedly reached out to India for the resumption of talks on all outstanding issues. There are now reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan is seriously considering appointing a National Security Adviser (NSA) with a view to reviving the backchannel diplomacy with India to sort out some of the most pressing issues. At this time of no contact whatsoever between the two countries, such an appointment would help break the ice. In the past, the two countries have often utilised the backchannel through NSAs to prepare ground for any talks. In 2015, Pakistan’s NSA, Lt Gen (retd) Naseer Khan Janjua, and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval were instrumental in the revival of the composite dialogue between the two countries. As a responsible member of the comity of nations, Pakistan remains optimistic about talks leading to peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2019.

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