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April 11, 2021

Talking to India

Editorial

 
April 11, 2021

The next Saarc summit scheduled for October this year to be held in Pakistan may offer a golden opportunity for India and Pakistan to initiate talks. As things stand now, the fate of this summit appears to be uncertain. There are certain issues that need attention and resolution before some progress can take place in this matter. Saarc could play a significant role as an organization for enhancing regional cooperation, but sadly for the past over three decades it has remained partially effective. Mainly the obstacles have been the issues between the two largest members of Saarc: India and Pakistan. Both countries have failed to normalize their relations which has impacted negatively on the working of Saarc too. With some recent positive gestures from both sides, there emerged hope for a renewal of talks between the two neighbours but then there was a long silence again.

Pakistan has now once again reiterated that it is willing to open up dialogue with India on all issues, including that of Kashmir. The spokesman for the Foreign Office on Thursday however said the key question is on what issues a discussion with India should take place and towards what ends it should be directed. The note struck by Pakistan is positive though, and the FO has also said that with the Saarc summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan in October, Pakistan is extremely willing to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the event and help in the process of building peace in the region.

The key issue between two countries is that of Kashmir. At the present time, there are continued reports of extrajudicial killings by Indian forces in various parts of Indian-held Kashmir, and people there remain under a reign of tyranny and terror. Pakistan has repeatedly urged the world to intervene in this, but with limited success. Perhaps it can now move on to a stronger footing. With China and the US both eager that New Delhi and Islamabad mend ties to an acceptable level, Pakistan has a good position for which to make some demands of its own. The FO spokesman has also said that the process of dialogue between countries continues at all times and it is a matter of choice as to when it is speeded up or directed towards a particular issue.

No matter how bad relationships are between any two nations, sound diplomacy calls for keeping the doors for talks open in all circumstances. Communication channels give an opportunity to avert conflicts and even wars, which this region can hardly afford. The bitter and prolonged acrimony between the two countries has mired the people of both countries in backwardness, illiteracy, and poverty. A dialogue between Pakistan and India is thus necessary as is a rebuilding of relations. There has been some progress towards this but much more will be needed in the coming weeks and months.