There has been consistent support in these columns for the government of Nawaz Sharif in respect of moves to improve relations between Pakistan and India — but something has to give, on both sides, if this sterile diplomatic impasse is ever to be resolved. There is little point in the respective prime ministers meeting as they recently did in the Russian city of Ufa, where they were attending the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, if there is no follow-on activity. Now the senior foreign policy adviser to the prime minister, Sartaj Aziz, has said that there is to be no formal dialogue with India unless Kashmir is on the table.
There has been criticism from opposition politicians in both countries at the action of their leaders, seeing it almost as a betrayal of principled positions in some instances. It has been said that the joint statement issued after the meeting failed to reflect adequately our stance on a range of issues, Kashmir included. The Indian opposition has pointed out that there is a lack of “seriousness” on the Pakistan side regarding the prosecution of the Mumbai attackers — and the list of grievances on both sides remains much the same as it has for decades.
In reality, not a single issue has been resolved between the two countries since Partition, and the list of grievances referred to above is periodically added to rather than subtracted from. The longer our mutual grievances go unaddressed, the less likely they are ever to be — because both sides come always from a position of entrenched intransigence. Neither side, whatever the nature or stance of the government of the day, is willing to risk losing face and giving the other side a little of what it wants. There is no trading post in the dead ground between the two, and that sterile space is kept from being seeded by powerful lobbies on both sides that neither government is willing or indeed able to challenge — at least not without there being considerable civil disorder. But until the unspeakables get spoken on both sides, nothing will change. We are not expectant.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2015.
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