ISLAMABAD: Opinions on the backward channel engagement with India are growing due to what is seen as a lack of strategic clarity on the part of Pakistan.
Concerns are also being fueled by scant details of what is being discussed in the talks, concerns about the Indian intentions behind its alignment, and pessimism about the process that helps resolve the Kashmir dispute.
These concerns are now being expressed in the busy district of Islamabad.
Experts, speaking in a webinar on Back Channel Talks and India-Pakistan Relations at the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) stressed the ascertainment of Indian intentions before investing in further process, the research firm said Monday.
See lack of strategic clarity on the Pakistani side
Presentations by three speakers at the former Secretary of Defense in the webinar Retired Lieutenant General Asif Yasin Malik, former Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador to the UK and US Dr Maleeha Lodhi, and former Envoy to India and Ambassador to Germany Abdul Basit revolved around the possible motive of India behind the opening of the back channel, the nature of the Kashmir discussions and the usefulness of a front channel resulting from these behind-the-scenes conversations between the two countries’ intelligence chiefs that have reportedly continued since December. passed.
The backward channel has thus resulted in the resumption of the ceasefire along the Line of Control, the convening of the Indus India-Pakistan Standing Committee meeting after a long gap, the exchange of messages between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers and Army Chief General Qamar Bajwas Dialogue Islamabad Security.
Discussors noted that optimism in Islamabad contrasted the stoic silence of New Delhi. This, it was noted, pushes people to question the ground of euphoria in Pakistani officialism and the seriousness of the Modi governments ’commitment to discuss all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.
Mr Malik noted that Pakistan and India differed in their perceptions about peace and normalization of ties. He warned that compromise on Kashmir could not be the price of peace with India. Referring to statements from various quarters regarding the economic dividends of peace with India, he asked whether the canal process would end India’s fifth generation war against Pakistan, its negative role in Afghanistan and its opposition to Pakistan in world forums like FATF.
Rather than the process providing selected dimensions of peace, inclusive healthy peace is required, he underlined.
Dr Maleeha Lodhi said she did not share the optimism being expressed in Pakistan about the Modi governments’ willingness to talk about all issues.
It remains to be seen what this actually means when they say India is prepared to talk about all issues. Well India was always prepared to talk about all the issues. That is the way she wants to talk about Kashmir, she continued.
She further said: We all seek peace with honor, but not at the expense of compromising our fundamental position on Kashmir because then that kind of normalization would neither be sustainable nor politically acceptable to the people of Pakistan .
Dr Lodhi asked both parties to appoint and appoint their own channel negotiators. This, she asserted, would show seriousness, otherwise it would seem tactical.
Ambassador Abdul Basit said the Indian move to reach as far as Pakistan was tactical. Therefore, Pakistani negotiators taking part in the talks, he suggested, should be more careful in every step they take. If we invest in a situation where we agree on another round of formal talks, structural talks, that will lead us nowhere. The emphasis at this stage should be on ascertaining who would be the guide for Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Basit said.
India, he said, had to take steps forward to show its seriousness regarding handling the dispute. He said the release of the Hurriyat leadership and permission for them to travel abroad could be an indication that India was ready to resolve the issue. He said the enforceable peace could not be achieved without resolving the Kashmir issue. He, moreover, stressed the need for the inclusion of Kashmir in the process, saying that without their participation no process can succeed.
IPI Executive Director Prof. Sajjad Bokhari said that before any engagement is made in the backward canal with India, key segments of society in Pakistan and Kashmir should be taken in good faith.
Published in Agim, 4 May 2021
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