In a heartening development, the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan discussed peace and security, terrorism and issues pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir during a meeting in Bangkok on Sunday. The foreign secretaries of the two countries were also present in the meeting. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua also discussed other issues including tranquility along the LoC. The meeting comes days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif spoke briefly in Paris during current climate summit.
After the brief meeting between the respective heads of state expectations were raised once again on the likelihood of a dialogue process between the two nuclear-armed nations. Similar expectations were raised at the United Nations General Assembly session earlier this year. But the presence of Modi and Sharif at the UN session did not yield any results. However, this time around, the dialogue between the two leaders may have borne some fruit. Suffice to say, talks remain the only way for both sides to erase their differences. “The two sides were guided by the vision of the two leaders for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous south Asia,” a joint statement released after the meeting said. More importantly, the two sides agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement. The meeting is a major breakthrough given that the two sides had engaged in mutual blame game earlier in September this year resulting in cancellation of the NSA-level talks and stalling the interaction process as was agreed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in July in Russian city of Ufa. It was only in September, when Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif warned India of “unbearable damage” in the event of a war and that his troops are ready to tackle any long or short misadventure by the “enemy”. The remarks were in response to Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag who said that the Indian Army was prepared for “swift, short nature of future wars”, in the event of constant cross-border violations by the other side. Before one dwells on the nature of such comments, a little context is required. These statements had reeked of chest-thumping nationalism of the worst kind. Neither side can afford a war at this stage nor should anyone talk of it exist in the public domain.
There is no denying that Islamabad and New Delhi’s flip-flops over the years have largely created the present stalemate in the two countries relations. After fighting three wars, it has been a case of one step forward, two steps back. The Ufa agreement between Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif signaled another attempt to settle all issues between the two countries. However, it is Pakistan’s misfortune that whenever New Delhi and Islamabad took initiatives for peace and reconciliation between the two countries -Ufa being the latest- Pakistan’s powerful army’s bosses sabotaged these attempts. The Modi government’s flip-flops on its Pakistan policy have also contributed to the stalemate in the reconciliatory process. It had canceled the two countries Foreign Secretaries scheduled meeting a day before it was to be held. New Delhi had protested against the Pakistan High Commissioner’s plan to hold discussions with the Hurriyat leaders. In the past, India had never objected to Islamabad holding talks with Hurriyat representatives in the past. Plus, the Hurriyat separatists remain a non-entity in the larger scheme of things. The same charade had played out before the cancelation of NSA-level talks.
The generally held perception has been that the two countries are caught in a test of wills. Each side has been found promoting diametrically opposite visions. Pakistan’s main agenda is the resolution of the dispute over Kashmir. Meanwhile, India has given utmost priority to issues surrounding terrorism. Without addressing that concern, New Delhi seems unwilling to touch any other issue. The meeting between the two NSAs on Sunday, however, may point to a change in that perception. As the world continues to suffer from terrorism, a stable relationship between India and Pakistan has become essential for peace in South Asia. It is critical at this point of time for all stakeholders to come forward and work for sustainable peace between the two nations.