By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

The Indo-Pak Foreign Ministers level meeting held in New Delhi on July 27, 2010. In order to set the agenda for this ministerial level meeting, the foreign secretaries of both countries met a day earlier in New Delhi. Upon arrival back home, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Ms. Hinna Rabbani Khar, said that Indian authorities have assured her that the long derailed Indo-Pak relationship would be back on track with a new direction.  While Pakistan has assured India that, it would facilitate and welcome, any positive development on the unresolved bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, its principled position on Kashmir issue, and other unresolved issues remained unchanged and firm. As stated in the joint statement, both sides held the talks “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere.” Beside other issues, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed in length, and it was agreed to continue discussions on it, “in a purposeful and forward-looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences.”

During the meeting, foreign minister of both countries, “reviewed the status of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction on the holding of meetings on the issues of Counter-Terrorism (including progress on Mumbai trial) and Narcotics Control; Humanitarian issues; Commercial & Economic cooperation; Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project; Sir Creek; Siachen; Peace & Security including CBMs; Jammu & Kashmir; and promotion of friendly exchanges.” However, neither there has been any major breakthrough nor was such a development expected. Nevertheless, a mutual trust was developed between both countries based on which it is expected that, there would be a tension free environment in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent.  “Nevertheless, what Pakistan's Foreign Minister and S M Krishna, her Indian counterpart, have achieved arouses hopes for a tension-free relationship between the two South Asian neighbours.”

The most significant achievement of this foreign ministerial level talk was discussion on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute between India and Pakistan, contrary to hardliner Indian rhetoric that, it is integral part of India.  As the statement said, “On the face of it, the discussions on the Kashmir issue held between Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Indian counterpart S M Krishna at New Delhi on Wednesday and their agreement on 'the need for continued discussions, in a purposeful and forward looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences' is a welcome development.”  Relaxation of some of the restrictions on cross LoC trade has been a welcoming step. As agreed the, cross LoC trade between Kashmiris on both side of divide, would now be undertaken on four days a week basis, rather the two-day basis as being practiced. As announced,The number of trading days stand enhanced from two to four days per week…Regular meetings between the Chambers of Commerce and traders of both sides will be facilitated.” Besides, it was also agreed that, “both sides will expedite the processing time for applications.”

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Though Indian authorities did not like the meeting between Pakistani Foreign Minister and the Kashmir leadership of APHC, yet Pakistan thought it significant to know the viewpoint of those, whom it represents during either the bilateral dialogues with India or else at the global forums. The only input, Kashmiri leaders of APHC gave to the minister was that, Kashmir should be made part of any Indo-Pak dialogue and that, their future should be determined as per their wishes, as determined through UN resolutions. These proposals otherwise have a backing of international community and even India, being part of it.   These are indeed the just demands; India should not have made a cry over these.  The comments of Mr Omer Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Indian Occupied Kashmir, are very interesting, who desired that mainstream Kashmiri political parties should also be consulted by Pakistan. Pakistan would welcome these comments. As far as the Azad Kashmir is concern, its political parties are always taken into confidence by Pakistan, however, in future political parties like National Conference and PDP should also be taken into confidence as they are increasing showing their confidence on Pakistan, which always talks for the right of the self-determination of Kashmiris.

At the global level, international community hailed these foreign minister level talks. Indeed, the nuclear-armed South Asia is really a dangerous place and international community would like that there should remain a bi-lateral engagement between India and Pakistan for the resolution of their bilateral issues. In a statement from Mr Ban-Ki Moon, the incumbent UN Secretary General, it is said that, he “welcomes the recent constructive discussions between the two foreign ministers in New Delhi. The Secretary General encourages the two countries to resolve their outstanding issues through dialogue in the interest of the peoples of the two countries and regional security.” Earlier, in October 2010, Mr Moon, shown his willingness to make use of his good offices for the resolution of this long-standing issue. However, the mutual consent of all parties is a pre-requisite for such a step, towards which India has never shown its keenness. 

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On its part, Pakistan is committed to the dialogue process, as said by Prime Minister said that, dialogues are the “only way forward to improve ties with India.” In the same context, Ms. Khar, the Foreign Minister, hoped that the talks between India and Pakistan should be “result-oriented.” Surely, Pakistan is positive in its engagement and desires that, India too should show some optimism towards peace and harmony in the region. As wished by Indian Defence Minister, that, both countries should be “able to find a solution in the long run” for all outstanding issues between them. In addition, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said that, “We have every reason to be satisfied with our joint endeavours for the cause of peace and stability and for good relations between our two countries.”

Towards the end of the ministerial talks on July 27, 2011, the Indian External Minister showed his optimism about the future of talks once he remarked that, “the outcomes have been as per our expectations. Above all, we have reaffirmed our commitment to resolve all outstanding issues through a comprehensive, serious and sustained dialogue. While being fully cognisant of the challenges that lie ahead, I can confidently say that our relations are on the right track. We have some distance to travel, but with an open mind and a constructive approach, which has been demonstrated in this round of dialogue, I am sure we can reach our desired destination of having a friendly and cooperative relationship between the two countries.” This is a very mature and optimistic statement from a seasoned diplomat. It encourages and morally bounds both sides to remain committed for the peace in the region.  

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Let us the optimism shown by Krishna and Ms. Hinna to continue and both countries should resolve their bilateral issues especially the issue of; Kashmir, water and Siachin.  This would relieve our future generation from carrying the burden of history and there would be a peace and prosperity in South Asia and Indo-Pakistan. After all, for how long we will fight among ourselves, ignoring the other essential issues like poverty, human rights violation and economic development of the region. Being the major regional state, India should respect the sovereignty of other regional countries and promote its relations with them based on equality, mutual trust and mutual respect. 

But, will the better sense prevail, remains a million dollar question.