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June 24, 2019

Trouble with talks


June 24, 2019

New Delhi appears to be sticking to previous reluctance to resume dialogue with Pakistan, with the Ministry of External Affairs making it clear it had not made any request for talks with Pakistan. The statement came after reports appeared in the Pakistani media stating that following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s congratulatory messages to Prime Minister Modi, a wish had been expressed by India to put the talks process back on track. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has also stated there was no evidence, at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit or elsewhere, that India was in any mood to enter into dialogue.

The exchange of warm messages between the prime ministers of the two countries, even as a diplomatic exercise, is however encouraging. Pakistan’s gesture in this respect brought from Modi a response, saying his country wished to build an environment of ‘trust’ and one that was free of terror and hostility. The need to push away terror and violence was also stressed by External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. It seems then that India is clinging on strongly to its previous line on terrorism and has no immediate intentions of shifting its focus. The lines then are clearly drawn. While Pakistan has said it is open for dialogue on all issues, India has been less enthusiastic and in fact appears to wish to stay away from dialogue, even while talking about regional peace and development. The message about the significance of peace and stability in the region has also been reiterated by Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa while speaking at the prestigious IISS.

It is obvious that there can be no real peace in the region unless core issues between New Delhi and Islamabad are tackled head on. These issues have become especially urgent since the war-like situation which developed early this year following India’s aggressive actions post the Pulwama attack. Pakistan has consistently been mature about the need to keep talking to India. But, somewhat like a recalcitrant child, Modi’s India has kept itself away. If allowed to go on, the status quo will continue to mar cooperation, development and lasting peace in South Asia. It will also mean that the plight of the Kashmiri people in particular will not change. Pakistan needs to bring in influence from other quarters to further its cause. There can be no doubt about the need to resolve conflict and ensure a stable relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. And it would be in the interest of the world to work towards this using whatever means is available to them.

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