PAKISTAN -INDIA REISA S Insights No. 92 – 4 March 2010
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India and Pakistan: Breaking the Ice
Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury1
But things cannot remain, O Zafar’ Thus, for who can tell? Through God’s great mercy, and the Prophet, All may yet be well.
Attributed to: Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughul Emperor
(Transl: William Dalrymple)
The recent Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan have failed to break the ice with regard to any of the major issues between New Delhi and Islamabad. Yet, for a variety of critical reasons, it is essential to regional peace and stability that the two nuclear-armed South Asian states bridge their main differences. In order to be able to do so, new and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking is necessary on both the process and substance of their bilateral deliberations. The article, based on the author’s own experience of diplomatic negotiations among South Asian nations both at official and political levels, seeks to suggest a way out of the impasse in order to be able to move forward, discarding conflict for cooperation.
Few diplomatic events have had results as predictable as those of the recently concluded talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan. Neither side had expected a positive outcome. Nor did either have any qualms about saying so before the talks commenced. Indeed, the outcome matched the expectations. Not only did the ice remain unbroken, it also appears to have solidified further. The Americans, who had pushed for the meeting, re-learnt the lesson that one could take the horse (or rather the two horses in this case) to the water, but neither would care to drink! There were photo opportunities that showed the best sides of the two senior and elegant South Asian mandarins, the Foreign Secretaries of India...