ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India are taking into consideration a proposal to bring their intelligence chiefs on the same table amid a series of confidence building measures to build goodwill between the neighbours.
The proposal is part of numerous mechanisms being explored to reduce the trust deficit between the nuclear-armed neighbours, official sources disclosed here.
One source claimed that the United States was instrumental in persuading Islamabad and New Delhi to discuss the possibility of a meeting between the heads of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
The proposal, if materialised, could mark the beginning of a new phase in the relationship between the two countries which have fought four wars since their independence from the British in 1947.
Relations between the two countries have shown significant improvement in recent months, however, a breakthrough on the most contentious issues is still being awaited. However, hopes are running high with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh expected to travel to Pakistan later this year.
Efforts to arrange a meeting between the intelligence chiefs before the Indian premier’s maiden trip to Pakistan have been ongoing, according to a source. A Pakistani official confirmed that several proposals including regular interaction between the security agencies of the two countries were on the table.
“But it is too early to say anything at this stage,” the official added, referring to the probability of face-to-face talks between ISI and RAW chiefs materialising.
Another official revealed that some Western powers, particularly the United States, were keen on increased coordination and discussions between the two neighbours. The official added that the US wanted to ensure that there was no deterioration in ties between India and Pakistan during the next couple of years as the US-led coalition plan to pull out of Afghanistan.
“Against this backdrop, these players believe that a meeting between the two countries at the security agencies level can go a long way to achieve that objective,” said the official.
However, officially, no one was willing to comment on the matter due to the sensitivity of the issue. When approached, a security official expressed his ignorance about the development. “We are not privy to any such proposal,” the official added.
In the past, efforts to bring the spymasters in the same room have not succeeded. Following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, the government announced that the ISI chief would visit India to help authorities in investigations. However, the trip had to be cancelled after a strong reaction from the country’s security establishment.
In July 2009, the then Pakistani ISI chief Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha reportedly sought a meeting with his Indian counterpart. However, the Indian government refused the invitation fearing implications of such a meeting in view of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
(Read: India key to internal peace?)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2012.