A better start

Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz’s meeting with US secretary of State John Kerry and Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Brunei ought to be seen with cautious optimism. Broadly speaking, it appears both India and the US seem enamoured of the triumph of democracy in Pakistan; the vibes evinced by their representatives have been positive.Reportedly, our Special Adviser assured Mr Kerry that Islamabad would help his country progress beyond the stalemate apparently ruining the Doha office initiative. Our presence in the reconciliation process is indispensable but even more crucial is that the Afghans should themselves be given the reins of their fate. There is not much time left before the international troops would pull out which also necessitates that haste of any kind should be avoided, particularly when it is the same groups who are being wooed against whom the US came to fight the war. Since Pakistan shares a long porous border with Afghanistan, its anxiety about the future prospects is understandable. Some of the terrorist militias that have been killing thousands in Pakistan, using their hideouts in Kandahar and other border areas should not be given any space on the conference table. Alongside the same summit, Sartaj Aziz and Indian external Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid were able to take some time out for a brief chat, reported to be cordial. Both of them agreed that the bilateral talks should be pursued. What we can witness is back channel means swinging into action as well as formal composite dialogue gather speed from where it last went into a limbo in 2007. But that is where the trouble comes and always; there is an invariable stumbling block from where the two nations find it almost impossible to go forward; this is the core issue of Kashmir. A whole range of different diplomatic strategies and paradigm shifts have been resorted to but that still remains the ultimate brick-wall that seems too high and rather impregnable for anyone to either scale or demolish. If the ongoing bonhomie is going to run into that point, it would be a bad day for all those who stand for peace.Now that an effort is underway by the US to talk to those whom it considered its worst enemy, India that often likes to follow its example, too has to be pragmatic. It ought to realise that the unrest going on in the held Valley can only come to an end if it withdraws its troops and holds a UN sponsored plebiscite. In the next few weeks and months, the trajectory built by the present goodwill will matter a lot; it can be used to catapult the two neighbours past the sate of endless suspicion towards conflict resolution.

(Courtesy: Nation)