It is good news that India and Pakistan are showing some commitment again to put bilateral relations back on even keel. Exterl Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is flying out to Islamabad on Tuesday where she will attend a two-day summit on Afghanistan and meet Pakistani premier waz Sharif. As the Pak army fights a bloody battle of attrition against the Taliban and affiliated outfits on the western front, it is in Islamabad’s interest to make breakthroughs happen in dialogue with Afghanistan and India. This development comes close on the heels of the talks held at Bangkok between the tiol security advisers of the two countries, attended also by their foreign secretaries. In turn, the Bangkok meeting is being seen as the first constructive engagement between the two sides after Prime Ministers rendra Modi and waz Sharif broke the ice on the sidelines of the Paris Climate summit. That the NSA meet focused upon the terror angle while discussing Kashmir and the situation at the LoC has been considered significant. With the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad stepping up operations in Kashmir, the Indian side is learnt to have put up its assessment of how such outfits may strike further within Indian soil, and what Islamabad can do to prevent this likely escalation with all its attendant risks at the border. Meeting away from media glare at a third country also helped both sides keep out irritants like the Hurriyat leaders pushing their own separatist agenda.
In fact, the Bangkok meeting is said to be the first where India has formally discussed Kashmir with Pakistan in a third country; in August last, Sushma Swaraj had categorically ruled out the possibility of talks in a third country, insisting that any such dialogue would ‘take place either in New Delhi or Islamabad’. Expectedly, the Congress has dubbed the latest Indo-Pak rapprochement ‘a grand betrayal’ — asking what has changed between September and December this year that the two sides have suddenly begun talking after much hostile vibes earlier, and that too in a third country. Such a negative response exposes the hypocrisy of the Congress when it comes to talks with Pakistan, after recent public comments by two of its leaders Mani Shankar Aiyar and Salman Khurshid that bilateral relations will only make headway after the NDA government is thrown out! Be as it may, Prime Minister Modi is due to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad next year. Terrorism is now high in the agenda before the intertiol community after the Paris attacks and continuing war in Syria and Iraq against the IS jihad machine. Before intertiol talks begin for a fil settlement on Afghanistan, it is imperative for New Delhi and Islamabad to discuss matters of conflict thoroughly and how to go about addressing this with a definite road map. After all, both neighbours are on the frontlines as far as the global campaign against terror is concerned; unless they keep talking with readiness to think out of the box when needs be, there will always be mischievous elements seeking their own advantage.