Sunday, August 26, 2012

Track 2 with Pak: Elementary Issue of Terrorism

Peace with Pakistan is definitely among the top cherished wishes of Indian diplomatic leadership. New Delhi has never hesitated from taking the first step and running the extra mile to establish peace with the neighbouring country. And every time, the gesture has been positive from across the border, India has reciprocated the same in good spirit.

The recent visit of an 18-member parliamentary delegation from Pakistan headed by the Senate leader Muhammad Jehangir Badar to Delhi and Patna in the state of Bihar must be seen in that perspective.

In the crucial interactions between parliamentarians from both sides attended by ruling Congress and opposition BJP lawmakers from India, both sides sought a slew of measures, including the introduction of a liberal visa regime, more trade through the Wagah border and resolution of the Siachen and Sir Creek issues.

This is seen as confidence-building exercise especially to boost trade and peace through the track – 2 diplomacy.
The Indian delegation was led an opposition member of Lok Sabha, Yashwant Sinha, who has been also an External Affairs Minister.

In the words of Sinha, “… is quite clear that the people of the two countries want to live in peace and prosper together”.

The MPs from both sides rightly discussed the opportunities of deepening ties between the two countries focusing on easing of the visa regime and taking needful steps in key people oriented sectors like the role of media, education, tourism and local government.

The parliamentarians from both sides also proposed that citizens from India and Pakistan be able to obtain visas exempt from police reporting to avoid harassment during their stay. Delegates also rightly highlighted the importance of health-related travel and religious tourism.

It was this spirit which saw in the 1990s, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee making a bus trip across the border to Lahore. Similarly, the present incumbent Dr Manmohan Singh described his Pakistani counterpart Gilani as a ‘man of peace’.

In February 2012, this track – 2 ‘friendship making’ endeavour was again at display when at the end of her five-day trip to Pakistan, the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had candidly said that she was “pleasantly shocked” to see the love that common Pakistanis have for Indians.

The more recent dialogue between the lawmakers from both the countries is being facilitated by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a think-tank that works for strengthening democracy, or whatever that means across the border.

The dialogues this time around ranging from issues to promote trade to boosting people-to-people contacts is aimed at bridging the trust deficit’ between the two countries.

Now, having said these what is important to be underlined is that the dialogues have come ahead of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Islamabad. During his visit, S M Krishna will hold parleys with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and would review the second round of formal dialogue after the two sides revived their ties. The formal interaction between the two countries had suffered major set back after the now infamous 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai in 2008.

Now, while there is undoubtedly a clamour of peaceful co-existence between the people in both the countries, the vexed issue of terrorism and one is afraid, often the complicity about it from Pakistani side needs to be understood as well.
Although formal dialogues have begun, New Delhi is yet to be satisfied about Pakistani action against the perpetrators of 26/11. While these remain pending, the government of India has blamed again elements in Pakistan for the recent rumour mongering and questionable postings in websites and social networking sites which led to exodus of north east people.

On its part, when it comes to terror elements, Islamabad has been either at denial mood or doing too slow and too little. Hence, it must be underlined with no ambiguity that the true result of any efforts in track-2 diplomacy and enhancing economic ties can only come when there are ample steps taken by the establishment in Pakistan on terror front.

It goes without saying, any country where non-state actors support terrorism, that country owes a legal and moral responsibility to its neighbours and to the world as a whole. Pakistan ought to appreciate this.

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