At this month’s US-Pakistan summit in Washington, Islamabad sought US intervention to break the impasse over the India-Pakistan dialogue on Kashmir. While Sharif was advised to engage in direct talks with India, the joint statement called for a sustained and resilient dialogue process to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. And of course, earlier this month the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung sponsored the India-Pakistan Track II dialogue, the longest-running uninterrupted process following the attack on Parliament. They met in Bangkok to revive the dialogue. It also grappled with altering the framework itself, veering towards backchannel methods.
The trajectory is instructive. While the idea of regular dialogue was mooted way back in 1997, it was institutionalised only in 2004 after the unwritten ceasefire agreement of November 2003, proposed by Pervez Musharraf. By early 2005, three tracks of conversation were functional: official composite dialogue; summit-level meetings; and what turned out to be the most productive: a backchannel between special envoys. Between 2004 and 2008, four and a half rounds of composite dialogue had taken place, with the fifth scheduled in Pakistan when Mumbai happened. After the second round in 2005, Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed that the peace process had become irreversible. But the 2006 Mumbai blasts derailed the talks: the threads were picked up after the Havana summit in September 2006, leading to the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism. The composite dialogue was resumed in 2010 after the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting between prime ministers Yousuf Raza Geelani and Manmohan Singh where Balochistan was mentioned, after which the dialogues suffered a minor blip.