With Pakistan appointing its special envoy for back channel diplomacy with India, all is set for the resumption of Indo-Pak peace dialogue.
However, the Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N government has decided to discuss thorny issues like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek through track-II diplomacy and work on soft matters such as people-to-people interaction and the economic ties via formal diplomatic channels.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised during his election campaign that he would move ahead with the peace process with nuclear neighbour, India.
He said that it was his desire to move ahead in ties by picking up the threads from the peace process in 1999, when former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a historic visit to Lahore.
However, the dialogue process launched for permanent peace and friendly ties between the South Asian nuclear states was scuttled as a result of Kargil war.
Former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf, who was blamed by Nawaz and his other party leaders for being responsible for the Kargil war, however, later resumed peace talks with India and it was in his tenure that back channel diplomacy was at its full swing.
Musharraf government’s foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri even announced that both neighbouring states were close to the mutually agreed solution of Kashmir issue.
According to the officials of Musharraf government, progress on Kashmir was made through back channel diplomacy.
Pakistani Foreign Office on Friday formally announced the appointment of former senior diplomat Shehryar Khan as its point man for track-II diplomacy with India.
“The prime minister has given Ambassador Shehryar Khan the responsibility of conducting track-II diplomacy in order to improve our ties with India,” said Foreign Office Spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry at his weekly media briefing.
When the important announcement was made, Ambassador Khan was already in India and had met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Khan conveyed to him Pakistan’s “sincere desire” to move forward on improving relations with India.
Ambassador Khan is now back in Islamabad and he would brief the prime minister about his talks with the Indian prime minister and other Indian officials this week.
Diplomatic sources in Pakistani capital dubbed the appointment of Pakistan’s special envoy for track-II diplomacy a vital step on part of the PML-N government and said it would help find solution to difficult problems like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek.
Senior Indian diplomat, Ambassador Satinder K Lambah, would be the counterpart of Ambassador Khan from New Delhi, they said.
“It is a well-thought strategy of Nawaz government to use the back channel diplomacy for the resolution of thorny issues like Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and Wullar Barrage,” a source said, seeking anonymity.
He said, “The formal diplomatic channels would be used more to tackle the soft matters like people-to-people interaction and trade and economic relations between the two countries.”
He said both special envoys would work for the meeting of Prime Minister Nawaz with the Indian prime minister and try that the summit level discussions were held soon so that the ‘sluggish peace process’ could be given the thrust from the top leadership level.
The Indo-Pak peace process was stalled after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai back in 2008. The dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi resumed in February 2011 and as a result a liberalised visa policy for the people of two countries was announced but later the military skirmishes on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir once again slowed down the peace talks.
Now that the PML-N government is back in power, it is expected that the peace talks between arch rival nuclear states move ahead at a good pace and there would be meaningful and result-oriented negotiations between the two sides.
A Pakistani official when contacted said Pakistan was willing to resolve Kashmir and all other disputes with India through dialogue and appointment of Ambassador Khan was a clear indication of that.
“We are willing to engage with India in meaningful dialogue and also expect the same seriousness from the Indian side,” he said.