On the face of it, the discussions on the Kashmir issue held between Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Indian counterpart S. M. Krishna at New Delhi on Wednesday and their agreement on “the need for continued discussions, in a purposeful and forward looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences” is a welcome development. It indicates that India has at last acknowledged that the occupied Kashmir is a disputed part that has to be settled through dialogue.
But India’s seriousness about resolving the issue could only be known when these oral expressions of intent undergo the test of substantive negotiations: true representatives of the Kashmiri people are also associated in the talks to elicit their views; the huge presence of Indian security forces in the Valley is considerably pared down; and preparations are set afoot for holding a UN-sponsored plebiscite.On the whole, the outcome of the talks has rightly been commented upon as, “There was little in the way of substantive agreements to back the general mood of optimism.” Considering the short duration of the meeting, there could not have been more than a brief exchange of views on the entire range of issues existing between the two countries the two Foreign Ministers discussed.
The discussion on building “a relationship of trust and mutually beneficial cooperation” through CBMs and people-to-people contacts; the threat to peace and security that terrorism poses; the expansion of trade between the two countries; the decision on the promotion of commercial and economic relations across the Line of Control by enhancing the period of trading days from two to four; and the agreement to include visits for tourism and religious pilgrimage in the purposes of travel across the LoC – these matters would have taken most of the time.
It is an unfortunate reality that Pakistan and India work at cross-purposes while conducting dialogue on any of their disputes, notwithstanding the assertions of both the Foreign Ministers that peace is in the interest of the whole region. New Delhi at best would not like to discuss them at all and would latch on to any event to put the talks off; Islamabad, on the other hand, is eager to engage India to come to peaceful settlement. The upshot of composite dialogue that began in January 2004 testifies to the above conclusion, as not a single issue stands resolved.
While Minister Khar was making conciliatory gestures and talking peace and friendship, the Indian air force chief issues a really provocative statement a day before talks are due to be held. Just out of the blue, he chooses to bring up the subject of ‘in case Pakistan launches a nuclear attack on India’, and harangues and threatens it with severe retribution. Unless such elements are reined in and the atmosphere of trust, which India insists is necessary for talks, is allowed to take its logical course of settlement of issues, the two countries would remain at odds with each other to the dismay of their teeming millions suffering from poverty and hunger. – Nation