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Feb 24, 2010
Open Space

Talks - the only way forward

Peerzada Arshad Hamid

New Delhi and Islamabad will be meeting formally for talks after an impasse of 14 months. A satisfaction for optimists who see it a step that can usher both the neighbours to a new direction, help them minimise their conflicts and build up a trust that can become a base for lasting bonhomie.

Though pessimists on both sides citing past experiences appear wary of seeing any positive outcome from the impending India-Pakistan talks but one question that reinforces belief in the talks is - what is it that the two countries gained after snapping their ties in the aftermath of November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

The further deadlock between the countries can certainly widen the gap, embolden the extremists and can stoke up the mutual distrust. In the absence of talks both the countries have moved back to zero, which certainly does not go into the interests of any of the two.

The need of the hour is to understand the importance of bilateral relations. The process needs to be strengthened at every level to find a solution to the problems that are plaguing both the countries. For that matter heads of both the countries have to look beyond their personal interests and take some joint efforts that can repose the confidence. After all landmark decisions are arrived at only after keeping personal interests aside.

So officials from both the sides have to remain open minded, shun the preconceived notions and move ahead to chart out new strategies without making the process dependent on certain conditions. The talks should not be left endangered to conditions rather efforts from both sides should act as a guiding principle in moving forward.

Media reports point out that the two countries have differing agendas for the Feburary 25 talks Foreign Secretary-level talks. We are aware of the respective positions of the two sides, their strengths and weaknesses, their respective priorities and the objective conditions under which the dialogue is taking place. Even the arguments and the counter-arguments are known. These are arguments enough for policy mandarins to raise their brow. But does that mean there is nothing new that either side can put on the table to start with to end the apprehension?

At the same time, isnít it enough that instead of getting trapped into the prevailing precarious situation in both the countries, the two neighbours are meeting again?

As the more than 60 year-old nations, arenít we mature enough to address our mutual concerns on the table?

People in both the countries canít afford to remain entangled in the web of the past developments. Whatever happened has happened? Blame games at least at responsible levels have to be stopped.

For ushering into future and to put an end to the further deterioration of our ties, we have to think without keeping our mind occupied with the burdens of past.

Indian and Pakistan are the nuclear powers. Both the countries possess nukes. So the option to bring down each other by the might of weapons sounds unreasonable and childish. As mature democracies, we have to rely on talks, for itís the only way forward and only option available to sort our differences. A food for thought for hardliners as well as moderates in both the countries!

We know that the talks can not immediately play wonders but the process if taken up sincerely can certainly mark the beginning of a new era. The plus point about talking is one loses nothing rather it helps in vitiating the clouds of suspicion that otherwise scare constantly.

Talks should be held to weed out mistrust and instill the enthusiasm instead of talking for the sake of talks.

However, in the process the forces inimical to peace and development will try their best to vitiate the atmosphere of trust between the two countries. Their concern remains to derail the peace process and they will indulge in such misadventures.

The Pune blast at German bakery is an example. But governments on both sides have to keep on investing their energies in keeping the process going on to achieve the desired results, for that only can make them look bigger- which certainly I think they are-than these interest groups hell bent to destroy both the countries.

We have so many positives to count on. The best one is the ceasefire agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad enforced in 2003. The two countries agreed to observe a ceasefire along the International Border and line-of Ėcontrol (LoC) in Kashmir. Though some violations have been reported on both sides, the ceasefire remains in effect until now.

The other example being a considerable decrease in the levels of violence across Jammu and Kashmir. Army officials in Jammu province have started de-mining the land close to LoC to farmers for agriculture practices. Hundreds of people have been maimed or killed by these blind weapons.

Even the composite dialogue between the two countries in 2004 showed good results, the notable among one being restoration of trust and confidence amongst more than hundred and fifty Crore people in the two countries by initiating increased people to people contact. The move went on to build the bridge of trust between the estranged brothers and rekindled a hope for a peaceful and prosperous future to people living in the two countries.

Letís not give up hope. A sustained and sincere effort at Secretary-level talks can ensure resumption of the bilateral dialogue between two countries, which would go long way in dismantling the extremists in both the countries and thereby finding a solution to problems like Kashmir.

Also it has the potential to lend both countries the upper hand in the matters concerning South Asia.

Tail piece

It is incumbent on the governments to find out solution to the problems concerning its people and the country. Inimical forces working against the government are vigilant to pick up shreds to oppose government policies, often for the sake of opposition.

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