New Era of Peace: Prospects and Constraints

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In the latest move, Government of Pakistan has announced a comprehensive schedule for talks with India on six of the eight subjects on the composite dialogue framework. The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the President of Pakistan who have given the assurance of their personal support for efforts to work for peaceful solutions of all bilateral disputes set the tone for these talks.

Sr. No.

Date of Meeting

Agenda

1

July 28-29

Wullar Barrage (Islamabad)

2

August 3-4,

Friendly Exchange Of Artists,
Journalists And Parliamentarians (New Delhi)

3

August 5-6

Siachen (New Delhi)

4

August 5-6

Tulbul Navigation Project,
Sir Creek Dispute (New Delhi)

5

August 10-11

Terrorism And Drug Trafficking
(Islamabad)

6

August 11-12

Economic and Commercial
Cooperation (Lahore)

7

August 24

One-Day Meeting of the
Foreign Secretaries

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A ray of hope shone through the composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan in New Delhi. In which, the foreign secretaries of both the countries met in New Delhi and signed a joint declaration, which was indeed a great achievement. It contained useful measures that could be claimed as great success in the total context of violate relation ships between Pakistan and India.

Both countries were eager to restore their respective embassies to full strength. They were also mutually agreed to open the consulates in Karachi and Mumbai. Arrangement The exchange of civilian prisoners, and release fishermen caught in each other’s waters were also thoroughly discussed in the meeting. The mechanism of new nuclear doctrine along with other nuclear confidence-building measures was also one of the key items of agenda of the meeting. They agreed to conclude an Agreement on pre-notification of flight-testing of missiles, and entrusted the Experts to work towards finalizing the draft Agreement. The two sides proposed a comprehensive framework for conventional CBMs aimed at initiating and enhancing communication, coordination and interaction. In a surprising move, India gave a quiet ready to burial to its lingering desire to settle other issues first, even within a composite dialogue. Kashmir was discussed in the very first foreign secretary-level talks.

The foreign secretaries Riaz Khokhar and Shashank held composite dialogue in positive, constructive atmosphere; talks on Kashmir. The Foreign Secretaries reiterated the hope that the dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides. This was the first time that the Kashmir issue was discussed in such detail, with reference to the principles of the UN Charter and also of Shimla Agreement. In the meeting, Government of Pakistan also had moved a long way from its previously held national position about many issues and Kashmir was the key issue.

The most important shift was Pakistan’s recognition of the Shimla agreement and its commitment to implement it in letter and Spirit. It was decided that in Jammu and Kashmir the line of control both sides should be respected resulting from the ceasefire of December 17, 1971, without prejudice to the recognized position of either side. Neither side should seek to alter it, unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations. The initiative of President Gen Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee to address the Kashmir issue, which is recognized as South Asia’s nuclear flashpoint will, however, bear fruit only if truthful efforts are made with perseverance for the restitution of the Kashmiris’ legitimate right to freedom and liberty. Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or use of force in violation of this line. The Governments of Pakistan and India have agreed to abide by the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations in their relations.

Today, although Pakistan interprets parts of the treaty differently from India, the inclusion of this one clause in the declaration has created a base in international law on which to build a future agreement. Let us give peace a true and simple chance and wish to have safe heavens on earth. First giant step has been taken in right direction. There is a vast gap, in both the countries perceptions and expectations, which needs to be bridged. The Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar, and Foreign Secretary Shashank talks focused on confidence-building measures such as lowering of troop numbers along the borders in Kashmir

It is unfortunate that the foreign secretaries of both the countries could not find a common leveling play ground on the issue of cross-border road links between Jammu and Sialkot, and Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. Both the countries have serious reservations on these issues. Government of Pakistan did not want the travel to require passports and visas as that would amount to de facto recognition of Kashmir as a part of India. New Delhi did not agree to permit travel on special papers for only Kashmiris as that would amount to withdrawal of the instrument of accession. Both governments should take step away from legal particulars in the interest of the Kashmiri people. A special travel document valid only for travel between Pakistan and India must be a workable compromise.

It is interesting that United States of America is taking keen interests in the ongoing peace normalization process between Pakistan and India. Christina Rocca, US Assistant Secretary of State South Asia made an official visit to New Delhi during the foreign secretaries level meeting to what was being considered to the globe (USA involvement) to the historical peace talks. She interacted with Foreign Secretary Shashank, Deputy to National Security Adviser, Satish Chandra, and senior officials as also with American Ambassador to Pakistan, Nancy Powell in order to make the peace process a successful and fruit exercise. The recent visit of Richard Armatage, US Deputy Secretary of State, to India and Pakistan should be seen in that context. The stakes of US in the Asia and especially in our region are very high and US needs our cooperation and help to counter all the possible threats not confined to terrorism, Iranian craze of nuclear technology, nuclear proliferation, rising of China a economic and military power, complete possession of natural reservoirs of central Asia, control and stable government in Afghanistan and above all reduce permanently the border tensions between Pakistan and India. Sustainable peace in whole South Asia is certainly an essential prerequisite for progress and development of the two countries and one of the key foreign policy features of US.

Prospects and Constraints

It is the wish of all the people living in both the countries, that there should be peace and harmony in the region. People need progress and prosperity. Political commitment is very much there to resolve all the controversial issues of both the countries. Global support apparently or secretive shape is there. USA, Russia, China, UK and European Union is taking all possible measures to support both the countries to resolve their longstanding issues including Kashmir.

It is in favour of Pakistan and India to bury the hatch and start a new era of friendship, peace and respect in order to prepare themselves for incoming future emerging regional and global socio-economic and geo-strategic problems like, WTO, Free Trade in the region (SAFTA), greater militarily involvement of USA in the region. Excessive and to some extend irrational spending on defence budgets of both the countries are making life more tougher and harder of common people. Increasing alarming ratios of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, societal fragmentation, and above all common people’s increasing annoyance towards political systems and shattered belief on democracy and institutions may disturb some of the targeted goals of both the countries.

The hardliners or hawks of both sides may disturb the on going process of peace between Pakistan and India. Arms race is one of the key constrains in peace building process. Let us hope that people of both the countries will not be cheated and there will be ear of peace and harmony in the region.

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