When Modi met Nawaz

Both PMs have baggage to shed. And a dialogue to revive.

Narendra Modi, Nawaz Sharif Pakistan is where India’s biggest challenges lie — basic questions of strife and tranquility are involved, and a long history of bitter hostility.
Published on:May 31, 2014 12:47 am

steps are being taken to curb hostile cross-border activities. There is a sense in India that the civilian leadership in Pakistan may not be fully in command, and that the army and security agencies may have their own views on this matter. Such apprehensions have been repudiated by the other side but cannot easily be laid to rest. Notwithstanding their significant differences on this vital matter, it is necessary for the two sides to remain engaged and seek some common ground against the threat of terrorism. A revived dialogue would also need to address other long-standing disputes, like Sir Creek and Siachen, and, as has often been suggested, it may be time to re-examine and expand the structure of the dialogue process itself in order to obtain better results.

One key issue on which talks have not come to a halt is Kashmir, which has been under discussion through a special back channel between the two governments. Reports from knowledgeable individuals engaged in this effort suggest that they have actually got somewhere. A four-point formula for a settlement has emerged from the secret talks, which could be a significant advance on this most intractable of issues. It may be that the time has come to bring the back channel conclusions out into the full light of day. They derive from the efforts of the previous government but may still offer a chance of bilateral reconciliation.

Ultimately, progress in Indo-Pak matters depends not so much on negotiations between experts as on the conviction and commitment of the leaders. The abiding model is Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bus yatra, which was a direct thrust to the core of the matter. A comparable effort is needed today to achieve the results everyone desires. It may not be possible to resolve all issues in one go, but it will take a hard push from the top if we are to get anywhere.

The writer is a former foreign secretary

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