New Delhi, February 7
Islamabad is looking to raise the ante on Kashmir as India and Pakistan seek a mutually convenient date for foreign secretary-level dialogue which is meant to launch the recently announced comprehensive bilateral dialogue (CBD) process. Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Saturday that Kashmir was going to top the agenda for talks, expected to begin with foreign secretary S Jaishankar’s visit to Islamabad soon.
On ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’, which fell on Friday, Sharif himself had reiterated that development and peace in South Asia would not be possible until the Kashmir issue was resolved. Aziz was on Saturday quoted by Radio Pakistan as having said that Islamabad was urging the international community to fulfil its responsibility towards implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir.
Pakistan seems to have made up its mind, as sources in Islamabad said, that no progress in bilateral ties is possible until the comprehensive dialogue to discuss outstanding issues, most notably J&K, is held. Pakistan is clearly not inclined to have a meeting between the national security advisers, even a clandestine one, until the foreign secretaries meet.
Pakistan’s focus on Kashmir has made it important for India to ensure that the comprehensive bilateral dialogue (CBD) itself is not seen as a trade-off for Islamabad’s commitment to address the issue of India-specific terror in the NSA dialogue. While the government still believes that talks and terror can’t go hand in hand, it has also said that it will go ahead with talks on terror. It will need more than just semantics though to convince all that the primacy of the issue of terrorism has not been diluted in the re-engagement with Pakistan.
Foreign secretary S Jaishankar has already said New Delhi will continue to engage with Pakistan as that’s how India can ensure that Pakistan keeps its commitment to act against terror targeted at India. While India and Pakistan had decided, before Pathankot attack happened, that the issue of terrorism would be addressed by the NSAs, government sources said Jaishankar would look to emphasise upon Pakistan the need to act further on the “actionable” leads provided by India in the airbase attack case. “Counter terrorism is very much a part of the CBD too and as significant as any other issue mentioned in the Islamabad (where the resumption of dialogue was announced on December 9) statement including J&K; it’s not that only NSAs can discuss terror,” said a source.
Unfortunately for India, just as it looked to break free from the vice-like grip which the Mumbai attacks seemed to have on bilateral ties, the attack on Pathankot airbase happened. The Pathankot attack, in fact, has again brought to the fore the need for India to keep insisting that the ongoing trial of the Mumbai accused, including mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, is brought to its logical conclusion as soon as possible. As the MEA said recently, the Mumbai attacks remain a test of Pakistan’s commitment to act against terror groups targeting India.