Bajwa-Doval duo good for back-door negotiations: ex-Indian envoy

Satinder Lambah says two countries need people who have seniority and decision making power

News Desk April 07, 2021

Former Indian diplomat Satinder Lambah, who has been involved in backchannel diplomacy between Islamabad and New Delhi, has welcomed the recent thaw in the relations between the two arch rivals.

Lambah, who served as special envoy to ex-Indian premier Manmohan Singh and ran the official back-channel between India and Pakistan, said in an interview with The Hindu that backdoor talks, if true, between Indian National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa would be a “good combination”.

“Our two countries have different power structures, and therefore we need people who have seniority in their own systems, direct access and confidence of the leadership. They need to be able to take on-the-spot decisions,” he said while responding to a question.

The seasoned diplomat said despite all differences between the two countries, Gen Bajwa and NSA Doval would be a “good combination” to oversee the dialogue.

“History shows that Pakistan army chiefs think of improving relations with India only after stabilising themselves. General Zia suggested back channel talks after nine years in office, just before his death. General Musharraf started his peace overtures five years after taking over; and General Bajwa, three years after becoming army chief. Such occasions come after a gap of several years,” he added.

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Lambah welcomed the current development on India-Pakistan ties, saying, "We need people who have seniority in their own systems, direct access and confidence of the leadership".

Lambah, who ran the official back-channel from 2005-2014 stressed that a previous deal on trade that was derailed in 2014, and the agreement on Jammu and Kashmir between Indian and Pakistan are valid even today.

Without elaborating much, the former envoy said the recent backdoor negotiations between the two countries are bilateral and it is very unlikely that any other country including UAE had any involvement. Although it may be influenced by the US President Joe “Biden effect,” he added.

Lambah said the agreement on Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan is still valid because it was not negotiated “for a specific era or political regime”.

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While suggesting steps to improve ties between the two nuclear-armed nations, the former Indian official said he believed that engagement is necessary particularly with an adversary “and I am glad it is being done now”.

“India’s biggest friends and ambassadors are Pakistanis who visit India and then return to tell others about all that we have achieved.

“At a suitable occasion, respective High Commissioners should be reinstated. Track – II dialogues should be held. There is no need to shy away from any discussion, because our fundamentals are strong,” he added.


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