Pak-India track-II diplomacy
IT seems that track-II diplomacy between Pakistan and India has now somehow succeeded to lessen gestures of ongoing tugs-of-war and tit-for-tat syndrome.
Diplomatic resources say that track-II diplomacy with India had been active since 2018 and Indian PM Narendra Modi may have visited Pakistan to participate in the SARRC summit during 2021. It has many phases starting from (phase-I) 2018 to August 2019.
In its phase-II Pakistan’s main emphasis was on the situation in India-held Kashmir (IHK).
According to reliable sources there had been a series of meetings between relevant high officials of the two sides in various locations outside Pakistan and India.
These meetings helped ease tensions and spur dialogue on issues that appeared intractable in public engagement.
Pakistan was concerned about the increasing repression in the occupied territory and the sufferings of its people. It got momentum during 2020 and 2021 too.
Normalization in Kashmir and its change of status back from the union territory towards a state with guarantees against feared demographic change had been one the key points of back channel engagement of Pakistan.
Series of meaningful gestures paved the way towards peace, sensibility and sustainability between both the countries.
In this regard, India and Pakistan DGMOs reactivated the 2003 ceasefire, India allowed Pakistan use its air space when PM Imran Khan travelled to Sri Lanka, meaningful resolve of Pakistan’s Army Chief, Gen. Qamar Javaid Bajwa “ bury the past, and conducive atmosphere in occupied Jammu & Kashmir” during the Islamabad Dialogue followed by tweet of Indian PM Narendra Modi on PM Khan’s illness and later PM Modi’s letter wishing well to Pakistani people on Pakistan’s Day, on 23rd March all indicated existence of a comprehensive back channel dialogue between the two countries.
PM Imran Khan positively responded to Indian PM on 29th March and insisted that talks on all issues particularly Jammu and Kashmir are needed.
But incumbent government unexpectedly, tried to allow imports of sugar and cotton from India which somehow triggered hot debate in the country.
And subsequently, the federal government deferred this decision. But it seems that a caravan of track-II diplomacy is slowly but surely inching towards composite dialogue and development orientations.
Even the chief spoke man of foreign ministry of Pakistan in his monthly briefing emphasized to resolve all issues with India through productive dialogue and meaningful engagement which showed that tracks of track-II diplomacy still maintained.
Now the ball is in India’s court, the onus of moving forward lies with India that has to take steps to restore the statehood of occupied Jammu & Kashmir and has to create an “enabling environment.
Reliable sources in the country insist that track-II diplomacy never ended and always existed and both sides were engaged in a robust process from the early part of 2020 with the help of third countries especially, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It is learned that Ajit Doval, NSA led these discussions with highly placed officials within Pakistan.
UAE had been mentioned earlier in media space, but sources assert that Saudi Arabia and Britain too had been playing a positive role in furthering trust between the two warring states of India and Pakistan.
But assertive diplomatic reach-out of Joe Biden US administration played an important role in it.
Sources of the establishment and policy makers in the country insisted no back stance or sell-out on the burning issue of Kashmir.
It is learnt that Pakistani side has been purposefully kept the focus on Kashmir since the resumption of track-II diplomacy in in early 2020.
It asserted a normalization of human life and peace political activity in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, restoration of the statehood to Jammu and Kashmir with guarantees that no demographic change will be permitted in the disputed territories.
Pakistan has principal stance and expects political autonomy to the Kashmiri people, full restoration of communication links, rights of travel for Kashmiris to AJK and Pakistan on permit and it wants India to extend guarantees on waters from Kashmir.
It seems that successful gradual process would have ultimately led to the visit of PM Narendra Modi to attend SAARC summit in Pakistan during 2021. Trade resumption between countries would have been announced at that stage.
Reliable sources insist that track-II diplomacy will continue with additional Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between both countries and Pakistan welcomes the positive steps taken by India so far, for instance honoring the “2003 Ceasefire” initiative by Pakistan.
In the past, Indian Congress party had maintained that India and Pakistan should defer a decision on Kashmir and improve their overall relations through trade and investments.
Seeds of that thinking were also essential part of the “Musharraf’s Four Point Formula”. Unfortunately that had not been materialized.
If that process had not been abandoned after 2007-2008 then a far more realistic solution could have emerged in the entire South Asia where both countries would have moved closer without bringing a change in the overall political architecture of the disputed state.
The incumbent government should not be shy to engage with all the stakeholders, political parties, factions and pressure groups to develop a consensus before jumping into a composite dialogue in the future.
Indian BJP government must realize the importance of these track-II diplomatic engagements and come up with constructive plans to move forward for the overall socio-economic prosperity of South Asia and beyond because deterrence would not be pro-development in case of any misadventure in the future.
—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics Member Board of Experts, CGSS.