NEW DELHI/ ISLAMABAD:
The two South Asian nuclear armed rivals are edging closer to restarting peace talks as Pakistan has proposed dates for resumption of dialogue, officials in Islamabad and New Delhi said on Monday.
According to media reports in both nations, Islamabad has proposed talks on territorial and water-related issues in August and September at the departmental secretarial level. India officials said that they are considering the dates.
Moreover, Islamabad is also pushing for a meeting between the two prime ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, Indian officials told Reuters.
Peace talks were stalled in January after reportedly two Indian soldiers were killed and their corpses mutilated in a clash in the disputed Himalayan region. Peace talks had started earlier in 2004 but suspended in 2008 following the Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people.
Pakistani premier made better relations with India a theme in his election campaign and therefore, the resumption of talks would be symbolically important for Nawaz Sharif, according to former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. “He (Nawaz Sharif) would be able to claim that he has brought India around to resuming the dialogue,” Sibal added.
Not everybody is so excited about the resumption of dialogue and many political analysts remain skeptical. “We’ve been through this process a hundred times and haven’t seen much progress,” said Riaz H. Khokar, former Pakistan foreign secretary and ambassador to India.
“(The talks) are not likely to get very serious for the simple reason that India is heading into elections next year. Manmohan Singh is not in a position to make any substantial commitments.” Khokar told Reuters.
Pakistan must first address India’s concerns over “infrastructure for anti-Indian activities in Pakistan”, a senior Indian government official said, referring to India’s repeated charge that Pakistan arms and harbours militants in Kashmir.
India also wants Pakistan to publicly recognise India’s role in Afghanistan and deliver on its promise to give it most favoured nation trading status, a move that would mean lifting a ban on certain Indian goods, Indian officials said.
Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said he was not aware of any preconditions. “Pakistan wishes to pursue the talks in a positive spirit convinced that solutions to bilateral issues can be found through sustained dialogue.”
With the US and Nato forces expected to leave Afghanistan by December 2014, analysts put even greater emphasis on the need for improving relations between Pakistan and its eastern neighbour.
Indian and Pakistani forces have also exchanged fire along their disputed border killing a Pakistani soldier. Moreover, there are protests in Kashmir following the killing of a four protesters by the Indian paramilitary forces.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.
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