ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Talking with Pakistan

Does the current situation - in Kashmir, in Pakistan and here in India - really justify the starting of a fresh dialogue with Pakistan or offer a modicum of hope of a dialogue yielding worthwhile results? A different view.

Is there a well-orchestrated drive to prepare public opinion in India for starting immediate talks with Pakistan, without any preconditions? The news reports of the past many days would suggest so. The immediate cause for these calls for talks, despite increased violence in Jammu and Kashmir, was provided by the natural calamity in Gujarat. Not only did Pakistan send a planeload of relief material for the earthquake victims, the CEO of Pakistan, Gen Musharraf, personally talked with the Indian prime minister to offer his condolences. A section of the Indian elite and opinion-makers would want the government of India to respond grandly to this gesture and open negotiations with Musharraf at once. Despite several recent acts of terrorism, the enthusiasm to start talking with the Pakistani authorities is undiminished among some. Many individuals with goodwill at heart, often retired civilian and military personnel and academics once close to the centres of power and labelled these days as part of the ‘Track Two’ diplomacy, have repeatedly called upon the government to start talks with Pakistani at once. This is against the background that, for quite some time now, Indian spokesmen have maintained that talks with Pakistan are possible only after cross-border terrorism is ended. In such a situation, it is relevant to ask if one humanitarian gesture on part of the Pakistani CEO has altered Indo-Pak relations to such an extent that India should feel called upon to alter its long held position?

In fact, in his statements the CEO of Pakistan has gone a step further. In an interview to a west Asian journal, he has declared that he is ready to meet India halfway in solving Indo-Pakistani problems, meaning Jammu and Kashmir of course. He has indicated that he may even be ready to make a trip to India if it would help get the talks going. The Pakistani representative in India has echoed his chief, adding that this is the best time for a person-to-person meeting, that the talks be started without delay. Another dimension was added to the political front when many past and present cricket players came out in the open, lamenting the cancellation of the quake relief tournament in Sharjah. They have many supporters, both lay persons and specialists, who would not only want to keep cricket and Kashmir separate but also wistfully recall the so-called ping-pong diplomacy of the bygone days and pine for its replication in Indo-Pak relations. As if the pious words of the Pakistani rulers, the appeals of well-meaning individuals on both sides of the border and the anguished cry of the sportsmen were not enough, there is also a dash of dire warnings from unnamed CIA sources, coincidentally coming at the same time, about the dangerous fall-out from the possible escalation of the nuclear confrontation in south Asia. Most recently, the new US president has added his voice to the chorus and advised India to resume negotiations with Pakistan immediately.

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