By K.N. Pandita
In a surprising development, the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan decided to jointly address a news conference after first announcing separate briefings. The news conference was in addition to a joint statement and, according to Indian officials, a signal that the usually squabbling countries can face the world together. Incrementally, inching towards dismantling six decades of trust deficit, India and Pakistan on Friday agreed to build a constituency for peace at home through cessation of hostile propaganda and strengthening cooperation on counter-terrorism, besides narrowing divergences and building convergences on Jammu and Kashmir. Taking into account the complexity and ever-changing dimensions of Indo-Pak relations, nobody should expect a miracle happening overnight to shape these relations in completely new form. The essence of improving relations that have gone through a long period of stress lies in continued interaction and addressing the irritants one by one and step by step. In a broad framework, one can say that three main areas have been identified by the two officials to be addressed in immediate future namely CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, and countering terrorism.
The right thing Indian foreign secretary said while interacting with her counterpart was that no solution of Kashmir could be possible under the shadow of the gun. If Pakistan is able to respond positively to this basic premise that gun has to be eschewed while Kashmir issue comes up for discussion, then there can be a sea change in the approach of both the countries to the ticklish issue of Jammu and Kashmir. In fact the Kashmir separatist and pro-separatist leadership that has been clamouring for what they call a fair and final resolution of Kashmir dispute is essentially contingent upon abjuring gun as an instrument of resolving Kashmir. Three open and one proxy war on Kashmir have not yielded the cherished result for Pakistan, the desire of grabbing Kashmir. Hence simple logic says that this line of thinking and methodology are hardly helpful in resolving Kashmir issue. The separatist leadership and their cohorts in or outside the valley should have long back come out with a strong denunciation of the use of gun as an instrument of resolving Kashmir issue. Unfortunately they did not see the reason and did not try to build a futuristic vision of a peaceful society engaged in developmental task.
Re-shaping Indo-Pak relations has to be a low key exercise on both sides. Cessation of hostile propaganda and misrepresentation of facts of history as well as the ground realities cannot be helpful in comprehending the broad features of the basics of a solution of the issue. Beyond Kashmir, there are many areas in which the two countries shall have to work together. For example the question of safety of nuclear arsenal and technology is of urgent importance. Likewise water sharing will be a priority with the two countries in times to come. Terrorism is a serious threat to the peaceful societies of both the countries. It is not to be understood in terms of numbers of attacks carried out by the terrorists and the people who have been affected. It is a matter of protecting the state and the nation against a serious threat that would want to rent asunder the very fabric of the states. If the terrorists in India want to wrest Kashmir from the Union, in Pakistan the terrorists want to remove the elected government and adopt rabidly fanatical social structure with zero tolerance towards another society imbibing composite culture. The just concluded foreign secretary level talks in Islamabad were held in a cordial and business-like manner which augurs well for the July meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries to carry forward the process of dialogue. Commentators feel this is the right way to affect a breakthrough in frozen relationship between the two.