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Bonhomie through dialogue

Courtesy: Malik Ashraf

RELATIONS between Pakistan and India unfortunately witnessed a nosedive during Modi’s first tenure as Prime Minister and before the general election in India the two nuclear powers almost came to the brink of war in the backdrop of Pulwama incident. That possibility was averted by sagacious restraint shown by Pakistan. It not only released the Indian pilot immediately after his capture but also sought the involvement of the international community in defusing the volatile situation which confirmed Pakistan’s credentials as a peace loving nation in spite of having a matching strength to retaliate against any aggression as it demonstrated during the short-lived confrontation. Pakistan did not lose faith in dialogue to resolve differences with India and the Prime Minister repeatedly reiterated that dialogue with India was not possible before the Indian election and if Modi clinched power for the second time it might pave the way for the much desired talks between the two countries. Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi after the Indian election wrote to their counterparts reiterating the offer for a composite dialogue to resolve mutual disputes for lasting peace in the region, working together for regional development and alleviation of poverty emphasizing the fact that dialogue was the only way of obtaining those objectives. As expected and predicted by the Prime Minister Imran Khan, Indian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in their response to the offer of dialogue have indicated their willingness to resume the comprehensive dialogue which also gives due focus to the phenomenon of terrorism. The expression of willingness to talk by India in itself is a very positive development to say the least. Resolution of disputes between India and Pakistan and regional peace are absolutely essential for nudging the shared regional prosperity. The leaders of Pakistan and India owe it to their people to create a peaceful atmosphere which is conducive to changing the economic situation of millions who either live under the poverty line or are struggling to have a reasonable living. History is a witness to the fact that wars and confrontations have a devastating effect on states and their people and the best and the only possible option to keep them away and resolving the mutual disputes is to engage in a dialogue with sincerity of purpose. Europe was almost destroyed by the World War-II. The warring states realized the futility of war abhorring its dreadful consequences and decided to cooperate with each other in lifting the region out of the devastation it had been pushed into. The success of EU and its emergence as a potent economic and political force on the world stage is a ranting example of the fruits of peace and resolution of disputes through dialogue. Now that a broad agreement has emerged for the need to resume dialogue between the two countries it is incumbent upon the leadership of both the countries to make sure that the dialogue is not only initiated but is vigorously pursued with sincerity of purpose. It is not allowed to be derailed. The success of the dialogue will however depend on showing flexibility by both sides with regard to the taken positions on the disputed issues in recognition of the ground realities. India has been persistently propagating against Pakistan as a country sponsoring terrorism and also found some takers of this rhetoric who saw the things through the prism of their strategic and commercial interests. whereas the reality is that Pakistan has made sincere and determined efforts and rendered unprecedented sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. It has taken indiscriminate action against all the terrorist entities. It abhors terrorism in all its manifestations and has taken action against all the proscribed organizations as per the UN Resolutions. It is also a reality that India has been sponsoring acts of terrorism in Pakistan and promoting insurgency in Balochistan as confessed by the Indian spy Kalbhushan Jhadav. These realities will have to be recognized. The dialogue with a focus on terrorism will provide an opportunity to both sides to clarify their positions on the foregoing issues and perhaps vow to cooperate with each other in fighting the common enemy of terrorism. Nonetheless the real issue and cause of continued confrontation between India and Pakistan is the non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute. UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite to decide the fate of Kashmir, Simla Agreement between the two countries and UNICEP Resolutions No 91 and 122 which repudiated India’s claims of Kashmir being integral part of India and Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution confirm the status of Kashmir as a disputed territory. As a pre-requisite to the success of the dialogue to resolve this issue, India will have to accept the ground realities and abandon its efforts to change the demographic and constitutional status of the Valley as well as the continued oppression to quell the freedom movement in Kashmir. Freedom movements cannot be suppressed with the barrel of the gun. The freedom movement in Kashmir is very much an indigenous phenomenon and even the Indian Army Chief in an interview last year confessed this reality and emphasized the need for dialogue. Kashmiri leaders like Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who have had stints as Chief Minister of Kashmir and a number of Indian intellectuals have also been stressing the need for a dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the dispute. The things can move forward towards an amicable solution and the beginning of an era of peace between the two countries provided India accepts the ground realities. Acting like a war like state would take India nowhere. By maintaining a bellicose disposition towards Pakistan it will not only be undermining its own interests but also continue to pose threat to the regional peace to the detriment of all the people living in the region. Bonhomie between Pakistan and India rests on pursuance of dialogue with sincerity of purpose. — The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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