Millennium Post

Losing the momentum

Losing the momentum
There is no doubt that relations between India and Pakistan are in better shape than they were some months before. Though some momentum has been lost owing to the internal upheavals within Pakistan, which have resulted in the change of the prime minister, talks have, nevertheless, continued between the two countries. Progress has not been uniform, with forward movement on certain issues but with stagnation on others. There have been some major gains with the potential to translate into lasting good relations. A major plus has been that India and Pakistan have liberalised commercial ties. In recent months, Pakistan has drastically reduced the number of Indian products barred from the country and has said it will eliminate bans completely by the end of the year. It has also granted India the ‘most favoured nation’ trade status, which reduces tariffs. With India having arrived on an agreement on visas, it will be easier for business leaders to cross the border. India is lifting the ban on Pakistani investments as well, and is talking of exporting electricity and petroleum to its energy-starved neighbour. However, this progress on the economic front is not found in important political and strategic issues and disagreements persist. Last month, the two sides held inconclusive talks over the Sir Creek dispute and the demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier. The fragile peace dialogue between India and Pakistan has also been undermined by fresh tensions over the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Though the recent talks between Indian foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani were meant to review the dialogue process and focus on ways to bolster peace and security, including confidence-building measures aimed at easing trade and travel between the two countries and the promotion of friendly exchanges, they were clouded by India’s recent arrest of Abu Jundal, alias Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari. The testimony of Jundal, who was a key handler for the Mumbai attackers, members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, points more firmly to the role of state actors in Pakistan in organising terrorism against India, providing more evidence that state elements in Pakistan were involved. This Sunday, foreign minister S M Krishna gave to his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, in a bilateral meeting in Tokyo, more evidence about terrorist activities currently taking place on Pakistani soil against India, based mostly on disclosures made by Jundal. Thus India-Pakistan relations remain hostage to the issues of terrorism. Clearly, further progress in the relationship is dependent on the measures that Pakistan is willing to take to dismantle the terror machinery aimed at India on its side of the border.

Nonetheless, talks between the two countries should continue and efforts should be made to resolve outstanding issues, though this is best done in a step-by-step process.
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