In her statement in both houses of Parliament on her recent visit to Islamabad External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday expressed the hope that the “renewed dialogue” between India and Pakistan will open a new chapter of peace and development in the region. Going by the past records, her optimism that a “comprehensive bilateral dialogue” marking “a new beginning” will start and foreign secretaries of the two countries will work out the modalities under the “new dialogue” for peace and development in the whole region would be taken with scepticism. Of course, Swaraj’s meetings with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad is a significant part of the series of talks the two countries have had recently at various levels. First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Nawaz Sharif during the conference of parties 21 climate change summit meeting in Paris on November 30 and discussed “how the two countries can build an atmosphere conducive for re-engaging with each other again”. They also decided that both sides should hold a National Security Advisor-level meeting, which took place in Bangkok on December 6. So, there is seriousness on both sides to engage in a dialogue after a long conversational standoff, though it will take much more to believe that it would lead to a material shift in Pakistan’s position.
Swaraj says she emphasised the need to speed up the judicial process in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack by Pakistani terrorists. “The Indian side was assured of the steps being taken to expedite its early conclusion,” she claims. Now, if Pakistan really has an intention to take steps to help expedite the conclusion of the Mumbai terror attack case, we should be expecting them to hand over materials of evidence and the accused for trial. So far, they have refused to do anything of the sort. Pakistan today faces a dangerous internal situation owing to the ruthless activities of a number of terror groups. The Pakistan government and Pakistan army are trying to deal with the terror groups striking at innocent targets in the country with a very strong hand. Terrorists are being killed; and they are being sentenced to death by special courts. Yet when it comes to promoting terrorism in India, Pakistan follows another standard. Sushma Swaraj said the two countries during their recent meetings discussed terrorism, peace and security. But concerns over terrorism expressed on the part of Pakistan could only be a case of duplicity: Terrorism is bad in Pakistan, but good in India.
Pakistan has been encouraging terrorism in Kashmir in its design to internationalize the Kashmir issue. Pakistan’s ambassador to India meets Kashmir separatist leaders. Nawaz Sharif raised the Kashmir issue in his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, urging him to intervene in “defusing tensions” between Pakistan and India. He called for holding of a plebiscite in the state. Sharif raised the issue in the UN General Assembly. Pakistan’s stance for the past six decades has been that the “fundamental right to self-determination” was denied to Kashmiri people and that they have been fighting a war of independence. The Indian armed forces had unleashed the “worst form of torture and oppression,” but the “valiant people of the disputed state had neither abandoned hope nor given up their legitimate struggle for the self-determination.”
The reassuring part about this is that Pakistan has failed to get the international community to intervene in the Kashmir issue. With the signing of the Simla Agreement by India and Pakistan in 1972, the UN role ended. The Simla Agreement, which was reached between the two countries after their third war in 1971, secured the commitment of the two nations to solve the Kashmir dispute in a bilateral framework. The Simla Agreement has to be the basis for any negotiations between the two countries. Whenever bilateral talks have seemed to be making progress in the past, both the countries invoked the spirit of the Simla Agreement. Let us hope that this time too Pakistan will honour the same spirit and have an open, broad-minded and broad-based dialogue. Both countries share history and culture over centuries. They were integral parts of the same geography. Even Kashmir should be discussed with broad-mindedness and openness and in a give and take manner. Pakistan has seen that nothing can be achieved except loss of human lives by promoting terrorism to keep Kashmir in international focus. India must see that it is in its interest to have dialogue. While the Indian army and state police forces can always be deployed for nation’s security, peace, friendship and cooperation with Pakistan alone can be the best security.