composite dialogue process agreed between India and Pakistan in 1997 took off
again in June 2004. After seven years and much tension and conflict, an
agreement was reached at Islamabad at the SAARC summit in January this year to
resume that process.
first meeting was on nuclear CBMs from 19-20 June followed by the Foreign
Secretary’s ‘peace and security’ and ‘Jammu & Kashmir’ meetings on 27-28 June.
The Foreign Ministers met at Islamabad on the sidelines of the SAARC Ministerial
meeting in the third week of July. These were followed by meetings on the ‘Wular
Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project’, ‘Siachen’ and ‘Sir Creek’ in end July and
early August. In no meeting was there a breakthrough and none was expected. The
joint statements issued after each meeting expressed the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œcordial and
constructive atmosphereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ť in which these were held. There was also commitment by
both sides to pursue the agenda earnestly at early follow up meetings. The first
round is to culminate in the Foreign Minister’s meeting at Delhi on 5-6
are the progress and the prognosis of the future? What should be done to ensure
a sustained process and carve out a positive path ahead?
should first be accepted that an early breakthrough is unlikely. There is a new
government in India and even though there is consensus on building positive
relations with Pakistan, time has to be provided to formulate a strategy.
Pakistan too has to accept that in complex and protracted conflicts, it is often
not possible to lay down a time table for a resolution. A dialogue does not
entail merely a listing out of possible solutions and ticking off one and
proceeding to the next. Resolving intractable problems often mean identifying a
process and pursuing it with patience and rigour, exploring the many contours
and nuances on several issues.
has to be accepted that progress so far has been tentative and not much beyond a
statement of each other’s positions. But, that in itself is not a cause for
concern at this stage. There has been an agreement to pursue the process without
let or hindrance and ensuring continuity, which is positive and must be pursued.
are already several positive developments. First, the guns are silent along the
LoC since November last year (2003) and this is a major development for the
people living along the Line. Second, there have been substantive measures by
both sides to improve the rhetoric and tenor of interactions. Third, the Kashmir
Valley was near normal this year even though acts of violence and terrorism
continue. Next, the LoC is being fenced, which has already reduced cross border
movement substantially and will dramatically cut it down on completion. But more
measures are needed to build on this and substantial additional confidence
building steps are needed at this stage to strengthen the process.
is to genuinely improve the atmosphere through substantial people-to-people
interaction. Peace is not built by governments, they can only help remove
irritants. The impetus has to come from the people themselves and the perceived
advantages that peace brings to their daily lives. Allowing and encouraging
tourism, cultural and social interactions, exchange of drama, music and film
programmes and groups, sports activities, joint adventure activities by young
people, all help this process. French and German perceptions of each other
changed dramatically after World War II only when organised exchanges over years
brought young students to live in each other’s countries.
artificial barriers preventing trade and commerce needs to go and exchanges that
develop synergy have to be explored. Many more trade and travel routes should be
opened and SAFTA implemented at the earliest. Oil and natural gas pipeline
proposals, those that are still on the table and are commercially viable, such
as from Iran, should be implemented without reservation.
military doctrinal issues and particularly nuclear questions need to be
discussed seriously and early. Nuclear risk reduction measures, discussions on
nuclear doctrines, deployment of missiles and states of readiness and alert are
important questions that must feature in regular discourse between the two
militaries. Greater transparency on force strength and modernisation, on ‘cold
start’, ‘limited war’ and state sponsoring of terrorism and others need to be
put on the table and addressed constructively.
strategic environment is changing and along with it are emerging new issues and
challenges confronting both nations. Today’s world is witnessing the rise of
extremist ideologies leading to terrorism and a new global confrontation. Along
with this is the question of enormous deprivation among the people of South
Asia. Many of these issues can only be addressed collectively and cooperatively
within the region. The need is for a new vision to realise its many