There is welcome news in that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have together decided to address the issue of the rise in tensions at the Line of Control (LoC) that separates our two countries. It has emerged that their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month had this positive outcome and there will now be efforts to restore the ceasefire which has broken down on a number of occasions recently. To this end, it is reported that senior military officials from both sides will meet face to face next month — currently they talk on the telephone every Tuesday — and they are tasked with evolving a mechanism that will avoid repeats of ceasefire violations. The logistics of the meeting are yet to be worked out, and we may assume that given the sensitivity of what will be discussed, the general public is unlikely to be informed as to their content in any detail.
Whilst our respective military men appear able to overcome their differences to the point at which they can be in the same room together, the civilians are having a harder time of it, particularly on the Indian side. Despite his governments’ decidedly colourless performance thus far, Nawaz Sharif has from the outset been clear that he is committed to reviving the peace process with India.
The issues — there are many — are not only about territory and history; they are about the here and now, the realities of a need to trade, be it in commodities or electricity, to manage burgeoning water disputes and agree to a common agenda for mutual cooperation and prosperity. But New Delhi is not at a point where those positive triggers can be pulled and the negative triggers being pulled on the LoC have a direct bearing on the quality or otherwise of whatever the diplomats are able to piece together. Most of the trigger-pulling seems to emanate from the Indian side and Pakistan has exercised a wise restraint in its response. Neither side wants a war, yet a mutually agreed lasting peace still seems distant. But face-to-face military meetings are a step in the right direction.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2013.