This is a beauty of diplomacy, it continues even at times of War. Pakistan always remained of the opinion to resolve bilateral issues, including Kashmir, through peaceful means, and diplomacy is a pivotal tool to negotiate peace. Pakistan has always given chance to India for table talk but Indian hawkish approach often end up ruining diplomatic efforts initiated by Pakistan.
The recent example of it is backdoor engagement process between Pakistan and India started way back in 2018. The dialogue engagement between two nuclear neighbours in 2018 initiated by Pakistan involving relevant people at an appropriate level in both capitals connects in order to de-escalate tension and bring normalcy. This process came to a sudden stop in August 2019 when India unilaterally abrogated Article 370. The backdoor diplomatic engagement continues till August 2019, and, after India abrogated Article 370 and 35A and changed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, this process of engagement and defrosting of tensions was pushed to an immediate stop. Both sides got engaged in a major confrontational footing throughout 2019 as both kept coming closer to a brink of an armed conflict. Pakistan holds its principle position on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
On Pakistan’s effort, both restarted their engagement in the spring of 2020. Officials met outside Pakistan and the process encouraged by some influential countries. Such backdoor meet ups helped in relaxing tensions and stimulate dialogue. And the restart of dialogue is the reason both sides agreed to de-escalate tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) and enforce ceasefire.
Issue of Kashmir was at the top of Pakistan’s list concerning the situation in IIOJK and the increasing repression in the territory. Indian officials heard Pakistani arguments and responded to continue discussions on Kashmir. Pakistan also raised issue of New Delhi’s plan of bringing demographic changes in IIOJK, on which Indian officials shown their some willingness in discussing this issue as well.
Resumption of political activity in IIOJK is also on the list of possibilities. Indian officials were of the view that if the ties between both countries get normalized, PM Modi could visit IIOJK to announce some measures that would create an enabling environment for greater normalization and dispute resolution.
India, on the other hand, has raised its concern over cross-border terrorism, Pakistan responded and assured the Indian side that Islamabad is strictly adhering policy of zero tolerance against non-state actors, who engage in any armed activity. With both sides actively engaging with each other in closed doors, results of the engagements do give hope of positive movement towards normalisation between the two countries.
Talks always produce results and the direct outcome of these backdoor meetups came in early 2021 in the form of resumption of 2003 ceasefire agreement at the LoC.
As Islamabad and New Delhi move to implement the 2003 ceasefire agreement in “letter and in spirit,” one must ask how long will the ceasefire hold for in the absence of a bilateral dialogue process. While this ceasefire can be seen as the first step towards thawing relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, the next steps are to launch a political process. The challenge for India and Pakistan, in the meantime, is to uphold this ceasefire agreement until then.
Later, India started vaccine diplomacy and agreed to send Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan. Other by-products of these quiet engagements were the opening of its air space by India for PM Imran Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka and letter of greetings by PM Modi on Pakistan Day to PM Imran Khan.
However the Issue of importing sugar and cotton from India was mishandled as policy was made with an economic sense but the ministry did not follow the required procedures in order to process this policy. However, no reaction came from New Delhi over this step.
Pakistan’s stance is that it wants resumption of peace dialogue with India but for this, India has to create conducive environment particularly in IIOJK. Pakistan will never compromise on its principled position on Kashmir but will try its best to ensure maximum relief for the people of IIOJK.
And with peace driven foreign policy, The Prime Minister of Pakistan, COAS and foreign minister very clearly expressed peace and dialogue with neighbour. That shows maturity from Pakistan to engage dialogue for the regional peace. And, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told Prime Minister Imran Khan in a Pakistan Day message that his country desires cordial relations with the Pakistani people. The fate of the SAARC summit, scheduled to be held in Pakistan in October, appears to be hanging in the balance, with Islamabad making it clear that it can take place only if ‘artificial obstacles’ placed in its way are removed. Delhi had vitiated the atmosphere, and the onus was on India now to create an enabling and conducive environment for talks between the two countries. Pakistan had never shied away from talks with India and it had always stressed the need of a ‘meaningful dialogue’ and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The resolution of J&K dispute will bring economic boost and regional peace.
Affirmative steps including establishment of diplomatic ties are expected to pave the way for the more complex negotiations. Before discussing the structure and nuances of dialogue, it is important to understand its need. Now, India has to act with foresight to use this opportunity to further peace process by activating political dialogue between two nuclear armed neighbors, and response Pakistan’s good intentions for peace with positive gesture.