June 28, 2020
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"India Has To Rise Above Just Saying We'll Talk"

The talks between India and Pakistan are well and properly stalled. All because of differences on the interpretation of the mechanisms to discuss peace and security as well as Jammu and Kashmir, as per the June 23 agreement between the two foreign se

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"India Has To Rise Above Just Saying We'll Talk"

Where do the talks stand now?

Nawaz Sharif and I.K. Gujral have met several times—in Male, in New York and most recently in Edinburgh—but we seem to be at the same position on the two main issues, the security aspect and Kashmir. Unless there is progress on that, the others are just peripheral issues.

What is the problem?

I would say the Indian leadership should look at it realistically, it should take history and geography into view.

What do you want and what does the Indian government say? How do you interpret the agreement signed in June?

It is a dispute. For the Indians to say there is no dispute and to have fought two wars, and in one they just got away with it in 1965, anything can happen.

But India does not deny that it is a dispute. The problem is over the interpretation of all those clauses—working group, etc. How do you see the problem?

Once we get the working group going and discuss this issue, then I think we can make progress and over a period of time have some meaningful dialogue and also reach some conclusions for the resolution of the dispute. However, India has not been able to budge. Their stand has been that there is no tension in the subcontinent despite the fact that on the Line of Control they lose helicopters, in Siachen they get shot down, despite the fact that there are casualties, despite the fact that there are shutdowns in Srinagar, despite the fact that Indian army majors, JCOs get killed...still they say that there is nothing going on.

That means the dialogue process for the moment is as good as dead.

No, no, it is not dead. We are going to continue on this. We will not leave any stone unturned to get the talks going. But they should be meaningful.

But it's been stalled for the moment. And there are serious problems.

I wouldn't say it is a serious problem. But it is stalled, the Indian leadership has to rise above...more than just saying yes, yes, we must talk.

Do you think the political problems facing the governments in the two countries has cast a shadow on the whole dialogue process?

It could be that in the near future both governments might think that such talks would look a little out of place. But they have to carry on despite the difficulties because it's a process in India whether there is an early election, whether there is a vote of no confidence or whether there is a snap election...democracy is still there.

How do you think you can get around this problem if India does not agree to a working group?

We will be patient. Time, geography and history are on our side.

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