There is hope that the stalled Pakistan-India peace process would get off to a new start, with the foreign secretaries of both countries agreeing to meet on August 25 to discuss key bilateral issues. The Indian Foreign Secretary, Sujatha Singh, spoke to Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, to discuss modalities and set a date for the discussion which are especially relevant given the new government in India, its policies, perceptions regarding it in Pakistan and also because the Nawaz Sharif government since it was elected in 2013 has not yet really had time to bring the key Indian issue into focus.
It is, however, clear that Mr Sharif is eager to improve ties with New Delhi. As he has said now and during previous tenures, this is vital to stability in the region and hence economic growth in both countries. Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the swearing in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in May this year had marked an important occasion in relations between the two countries. Mr Sharif had also gone out of his way to make positive overtures. However, the reports that came in at the time suggested that Mr Modi, while meeting the Pakistani delegation cordially enough, had delivered some stern warnings which cannot be ignored.
This, of course, makes the task of establishing peace a little harder. The foreign secretaries will have to work earnestly to set the agenda and put a derailed train back on track. This is never an easy task. But the system of communication needs to be got going again given the urgent need for better relations between the South Asian neighbours. There is, of course, a great deal to be discussed. A decision must also be taken on whether confidence-building measures are to come before crucial talks on issues such as Kashmir. In the past, there have been demands for relaxed travel and improved trade. These will no doubt come up again and we can only hope the experienced foreign secretaries from either side can in Islamabad draw up a plan which can restore disrupted normalcy in a process that badly needs to resume for the sake of the people of both nations.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2014.
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