The Pakistan-India peace process is slowly inching forward with officials from both countries holding talks in Islamabad to discuss confidence-building measures (CBMs) on conventional and nuclear matters. Some of the proposals that may be adopted give hope that the two sides are ready for peace. Among the suggestions being floated is one regarding the repatriation of people who accidentally cross the border and the demilitarisation of the Line of Control. The former proposal is an important one to consider since the indefinite imprisonment of fishermen who accidentally cross unmarked maritime borders is one of the greatest tragedies of the conflict between the two countries. The latter proposal is equally vital since the removal of weaponry on both sides of the border would be the first step towards an eventual resolution of the Kashmir conflict.
India is likely to once again ask Pakistan to join it in agreeing to a no-first-use policy with regard to nuclear weapons. This was an issue that former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, now with the PTI, railed against at his party’s rally in Karachi. Hyper-nationalists like Qureshi should be ignored. Pledging not to be the first country to use nuclear weapons does not hamper our nuclear capability; it simply acknowledges that the effects of a nuclear strike would be so horrific that neither country should contemplate using it even in case of war.
The talks over the CBMs are important not just for what they might achieve on their own but because they reflect a continuation of the resumption of the peace process since Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited New Delhi. Since then, the two countries have vowed to increase cross-border trade, Pakistan has granted most-favoured economic status to India and promises have been made to simplify the visa process. Ensuring that this thaw continues should be a priority of both countries to show that they have moved beyond the mistrust caused by the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2011.
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