Backchannel diplomacy: Pak-India civil societies to set the agenda for peace

Published: March 29, 2012

Former civil-military leaders to attend conference in New Delhi on March 29.

ISLAMABAD: The ‘ultimate goal’ of peace will be top priority for a group of former military and civilian leaders from India and Pakistan who are due to congregate in New Delhi at a two-day conference on ‘Pak-India strategic relations’ from March 29 onwards.

The conference, organised for ‘civil society to review strategic relations’ between the two arch-rivals, is more than a mere conference. The participants will be sitting down to discuss the current level of strategic relations between the two countries and make recommendations for a way forward.

“The conference is a part of US- sponsored backchannel diplomacy and it proposes to formulate recommendations for both Islamabad and New Delhi to move forward towards its ultimate goal of turning the two foes into friends so that they live as ‘peaceful neighbours,” a participant said.

The United States has been using backchannel diplomacy as a means to keep communication links open between the two countries. Furthermore, it has also used it as tool to avoid an escalation or worsening of ties during strained times between the neighbours, such as the days after the Mumbai terror attack.

At least a dozen heavyweight speakers, including prominent PPP leader and renowned lawyer Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, retired generals and former foreign secretaries, whose voice matters in opinion-making at home and abroad, are participating in the conference.

It is generally believed that the views of Pakistani speakers will provide valuable input for Islamabad and New Delhi in framing their respective future bilateral foreign policies.

Aitzaz Ahsan, who is currently defending Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, will be a keynote speaker at the opening session of the conference and his participation is said to be of extraordinary significance. Other than Aitzaz, Pakistan’s former ambassador to US Gen (retd), Mahmood Durrani, Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood and former foreign secretary Najamuddin Shaikh are also among participants from the Pakistani delegation.

Representing the other side of the border at the conference will be former deputy chief of army staff of India Satish Nambiar, former Indian finance secretary SP Shukla, former Indian minister and Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar, former foreign secretary of India Rajiv Sikri and Michkund Dubey.

The agenda distributed among the participants said: “The governments of both India and Pakistan have set the relations at a see-saw, swinging to respective concerns other than the need for peace and security in the region.”

According to the agenda, the conference will attempt to put together a consensus reflecting the view of participants on the issues of strategic importance and make specific recommendations to their respective governments to ground relations in an institutional and meaningful dialogue with specific time-bound action to move forward to make this region peaceful and stable. The conference will also help facilitate civil society to review some major issues, such as Afghanistan, Kashmir, terrorism, nuclear issues and water.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • munna
    Mar 29, 2012 - 10:48AM

    Seems to the end is near. The end of all problems.

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  • osama
    Mar 29, 2012 - 10:48AM

    We don’t want peace with India until India forces quits from Kashmir… Peoples who are talking about peace with India and ignoring Kashmir issues are traitor of Pakistan… And we will deal them like we deal with traitors.

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  • wonderer
    Mar 29, 2012 - 11:47AM

    @osama:

    You should take part in the conference. It will ensure no time is wasted and everyone gets back to ground zero quickly.

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  • WoW
    Mar 29, 2012 - 11:49AM

    @osama:
    I thought OBL was killed. Do I see a reincarnation of him in you?

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  • Khalid Aziz Chaudhary
    Mar 29, 2012 - 12:04PM

    Lets hope for a prosperous, progressive SAARC. Lets hope Pakistan and India behave in a responsible way to make SAARC a vibrant and promising economic region.

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  • Senman
    Mar 29, 2012 - 12:05PM

    India should stop wasting their time and money, this is not productive at all. Just buy few more guns which can be used to hunt the rebels who are born in different country but cross border to fight in India.

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  • A reader
    Mar 29, 2012 - 12:09PM

    @Osama – Yes because it is obviously more important to care about Kashmir than it is to look to your own and fix that first.

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  • Hafiz Shah Ali
    Mar 29, 2012 - 12:22PM

    Hmmm……………….

    Nice to note that Mr Atizaz Ahsan’s food poisoning is gone and he is in New Delhi attending conference where is is one of the main speakers on 29th and 31st.

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  • Truth Teller
    Mar 29, 2012 - 12:41PM

    Till such time GHQ is not on board nothing will materialize! GHQ calls all the SHOTS as far relations with India is concerned.

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  • Mar 29, 2012 - 2:08PM

    Indian army calls the shots in all relations pertaining to Pakistan. nothing will happen since Indian army does not want peace and wants a perpetual state of war with pakistan for its own interests. As if Indian army’s appetite was not whetted by annual increases of more than 20% every year, now they want more money so upgrade their army. Indians, be warned, your army is ruling you than the other way round.

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  • Mar 29, 2012 - 3:18PM

    Peace is alright – but think twice before being friends

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  • malatesh
    Mar 29, 2012 - 4:05PM

    @Osama
    You already got killed.
    After your death also you didnt get any territory. Your body has been thrown in to sea.
    You need Kashmir?

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