Indo-Pak Dialogue – VIF View Giving Peace A Chance

More than a week after National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan met in Bangkok, it is becoming now clear that resumption of talks between the two neighbours was always a possibility, given that the leadership of both country’s – definitely India’s- have much higher priorities of development, economic growth and poverty alleviation to tackle for their respective citizens.

We at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) have always felt that dialogue is always positive and not talking to each other is never an option in international diplomacy. The Bangkok meeting, away from the glare of the media, was recognition of this fact. Both sides have walked half way down the path of possible reconciliation. India's main concern--on terror emanating from Pakistan--continues to remain on top of the agenda. Islamabad wanted J&K to be part of the discussion which India has agreed to.

Why has the Indian leadership agreed to talk now when less than four months ago, it cancelled the foreign secretary levels talks between the two countries? What has changed? We feel two factors contributed to the change in New Delhi's approach. One, the venue. By holding talks in a third country both sides took the Hurriyat question out of the equation. The dialogue in Bangkok was thus strictly bilateral, which is what India has always insisted on. The second reason is more important from India's point of view: the appointment of Lt Gen Nasir Janjua--regarded as Pakistan Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif's confidant-- as Pakistan's National Security Advisor in place of Sartaz Aziz- has meant that the Army (which largely dictates Pakistan's India policy) is now indirectly involved in the talks.

This is a welcome development. If all stakeholders in Pakistan are on board in respect of talks with India, the chances of a forward movement are brighter than before. After a year of talking tough with Pakistan and acting tougher on the border--Indian retaliation to Pakistani provocation on the border has been punitive without being escalatory--India has shown admirable maturity in extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan.

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