Efforts for Pak-India talks along with predictions of war

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 02:03 PM, 17 Apr, 2021
Efforts for Pak-India talks along with predictions of war
File photo.

Relations between Pakistan and India have, most of the time, been tense for one reason or the other.  

They have fought three wars, the outcome of which is interpreted by the two countries from their own perspectives. 

Ties between the two, that are also nuclear powers, remain suspended since August 2019, when India revoked the special status of the part of Kashmir under its illegal occupation.

Apprehensive of the likely adverse consequences of persistent stand-off, some countries have started efforts to bring Islamabad and New Delhi to the negotiating table. 

The mediatory role is being played by the UAE, a country for which economic interests are more important than religious matters. It is probably because of this overwhelming consideration that some months ago it established diplomatic ties with Israel, turning a blind eye to the fact that Baitul Maqdas remains under the occupation of the Jewish state and the Palestinians are being subjected to atrocities. 

The UAE’s envoy to Washington - Yousef Al Otaiba - has confirmed that his country is mediating between India and Pakistan to help them reach a “healthy and functional” relationship. 

There are also reports that top intelligence officers from India and Pakistan held secret talks in Dubai in January in a new effort to calm military tension over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. 

The envoy has also been quoted as saying that the UAE played a role “in bringing Kashmir escalation down and created a ceasefire, hopefully ultimately leading to restoring diplomats and getting the relationship back to a healthy level”. 

“They might not sort of become best friends but at least we want to get it to a level where it's functional, where it's operational, where they are speaking to each other,” he said. 

But, significantly enough, the day this report was carried by the media, US Director of National Intelligence has been quoted as saying that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely to respond with military force to “perceived or real” provocations from Pakistan.

The annual threat assessment has also been sent to Congress. 

The report noted that “heightened tensions” in the region “raise the risk of conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints.” 

But the report also said that “a general war” between India and Pakistan during 2021 was unlikely, but “crises between the two are likely to become more intense, risking an escalatory cycle.”

Another US intelligence report to Congress, released last week, had warned that India and Pakistan could go to a war in the next five years over real and perceived provocations. 

These developments raise questions about the future ties between Islamabad and New Delhi.  

Pakistan has to take Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control along and do what is in their interest. It is because of this reason that the Foreign Office has made it clear that for Pakistan Kashmir remains central to any meaningful engagement with India.

“We believe durable peace, security and development in the region hinge on peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry said at a press briefing. 

“We, therefore, believe that the two sides need to discuss all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir with a view to seeking peaceful resolution of this long outstanding dispute as per international legitimacy.” 

About back-channel contacts between India and Pakistan, he said states had ways and means to communicate with other which remained available even during wars, indirectly confirming that behind-the-scene talks were under way between the two countries. 

The spokesman said that Pakistan had never shied away from talks with India and it had always underscored the need for a meaningful dialogue and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. 

He said that, unfortunately, India had vitiated the environment through its illegal and unilateral actions of Aug 5, 2019. The onus is, therefore, on India to create an enabling and conducive environment for a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue between the two countries. 

“As for the role of third parties, we have always maintained that the international community has an important role to play in averting risks to peace and stability in the region and facilitating a just and lasting solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” he said. 

Asked to comment on the US National Intelligence Council’s assessment that Pakistan and India might stumble into a war in the next five years, Mr Chaudhri said Pakistan is a peace-loving country that continues to promote peace, security and stability in the region for the prosperity of the country and of the South Asian region on the whole. 

Observers are of the view that before holding more talks with India the PTI government must take parliament into confidence and seek opposition parties’ proposals. This is a collective cause and everybody should be on board.