India must tread warily the steps for peace with Pakistan

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New Delhi:

Recent pointers towards possible thawing of Indo-Pakistan relations are a welcome sign that need to be built upon. That the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two armies spoke recently on the hotline and agreed to implement fully the Ceasefire Understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit forthwith” on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir is encouraging.

This reiteration of the ceasefire on the LoC coming on the heels of the ceasefire announcement on May 16 by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh shows a new willingness to move on. Yet, such has been the tendency towards mutual suspicions that the positive moves may not lead to a broader understanding after all if timely follow-up does not come about. 

There is no doubt that it is the Army that calls the shots in Pakistan and stray initiatives from either side amount to nothing if the army’s nod is absent. However, the regular meetings between the national security advisers and the DGMOs of India and Pakistan have shown hopeful signs.

India’s high commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, said recently that recent steps taken by the two sides, including exchange of elderly and women prisoners and progress on other bilateral agreements besides a meeting of the Indus Waters Commission and scheduled meetings of Coast Guard teams, had added to the general level of trust and had set the pace for “bigger moves.”

According to media reports, in the last hotline talks between the two DGMOs on April 27, India’s Lt General Anil Chauhan had told his counterpart that firing by Indian troops is only carried out on the LoC in response to support given by the Pakistan Army to armed terrorists who infiltrate across the border and target Indian Army posts. “The onus of de-escalation along the LoC rests with the Pakistan Army provided they stop supporting terrorists and put an end to unprovoked ceasefire violations to abet infiltration,” the Indian DGMO had then said as revealed in a Defence Ministry statement.

At the political level, the NSAs of the two neighbours have been meeting away from media glare at secret locations to achieve a level of convergence before the ministers step in for formal meetings to move forward.

The joint statement of separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik on Tuesday that they are willing to join talks if Pakistan is involved in the process is an indicator that India needs to tread warily. 

The hardline Hurriyat leadership has exposed itself of being not the true representative of the people of Kashmir. As the raids on their premises a few months ago revealed, these leaders have been getting funding from Pakistan for their separatist activities and have been indulging in subversion against India.

It would be great folly for India to invite them for tripartite talks with Pakistan. As it is, their lack of hold on the people of Kashmir has been proved time and again. They are time-servers who have been functioning with Pakistani patronage and are known to be living in great opulence.

By including them in talks would amount to acknowledging that they are stake-holders in matters relating to Kashmir. The issue in any talks between India and Pakistan has to be complete stoppage of hostilities and infiltration from the Pakistan side and positive measures from Pakistan to prevent cross-border terror. The status of Kashmir is non-negotiable.

Agreements with the civilian establishment in Pakistan have proved to be mere pieces of paper whenever the army is not on board. It is heartening, therefore, if the Pakistan Army is now showing some interest in peace being restored. These initiatives need to be moved forward with care and due deliberation.

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