Pakistan in a fix after Indian offer to resume talks but not composite dialogue


LAHORE: Describing the recent Indian offer to Pakistan for resumption of the stalled peace talks between as a calculated bait, senior foreign office officials in Islamabad say the move had put Islamabad in a fix and the Pakistani response should be very cautious especially when Delhi has already trumped Islamabad’s desire for revival of Composite Dialogue.

According to well placed official sources, the Pakistani foreign office top brass is busy holding in-house deliberations in Islamabad on the invitation extended to Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir by his Indian counterpart, Nirupama Rao who had offered to discuss all outstanding issues with a focus on counter-terrorism, but after making it clear that India was not interested in resumption of the Composite Dialogue suspended after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. India has already offered February 18 and 25, 2010 as possible dates for foreign the foreign secretaries’ meeting. Though Pakistani foreign office has not taken a final decision, there are reports of strong resistance at the meetings held by the foreign office hierarchy to accepting parleys that do not lead to the restoration of the stalled Indo-Pak Composite Dialogue or having a discussion under a new framework.

The foreign office circles in Islamabad say after internal deliberations are over, Pakistan may decide to adopt a tough stance over India’s offer to resume foreign secretary level talks, as it is interested in engaging Delhi in result-oriented talks instead of open-ended talks without any substantial results. A senior foreign office official in Islamabad opined while requesting anonymity that after is most likely to hold to its position that the composite dialogue process was the only way forward for normalising the bilateral ties. The Indian invitation for talks has nevertheless put Pakistan into a diplomatic dilemma. Accepting the Indian offer for talks compromises its stance on Composite Dialogue, while rejecting it may invite international pressure with powerful world capitals perceiving Islamabad as a blocker. Officials, however, insisted that the mood at in-house consultations should not be used for prejudging the Pakistan’s response. “At the end of the day, it is going to be the decision of the political leadership on whether or not to accept the invitation,” a diplomat said, adding it (political leadership) might come up with some ‘out of box thinking’.

The foreign office circles in Islamabad said it was renewed international pressure and growing realisation in New Delhi that the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan could deprive it of its strategic leverage in the region that eventually forced the sudden change of heart in India regarding ties with Pakistan. They added that it was increasingly being felt by strategists in Delhi that after recent conferences on Afghanistan that endorsed Hamid Karzai’s plan for reintegrating Taliban, India was being left out and Pakistan might take the centre stage. Asked about the Indian proposal for resumption of bilateral talks, the diplomatic circles said that it all started with Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s call to her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, almost a week ago, inviting him to Delhi in February for talks on wide-ranging issues that have been constraining the bilateral ties, particularly in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. She expressed Indian government’s willingness to discuss issues besides terrorism which would remain the focus of the parleys.

The sources said Rao went to the extent of offering negotiations on contentious issues like the water dispute, but stayed short of suggesting resumption of the Composite Dialogue. India’s eagerness for resuming talks was evident from Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s belated admission that there was also a local Indian link to Mumbai attacks for which New Delhi had earlier been blaming Pakistan-based terror groups only. Things afterwards started moving at a rapid pace towards detente. Pakistan sought clarifications and its High Commissioner Shahid Malik met Ms Rao in New Delhi to discuss the agenda and possible dates for the meeting.

Although Pakistan is insisting on accepting nothing short of composite dialogue, diplomatic circles in Islamabad say sticking to revival of the stalled Compositie Dialogue process might jeopardise the opportunity for normalisation of strained ties. Therefore, the thinking in diplomatic circles is that the offer of initial talks should be availed and taken forward to full resumption of Indo-Pak composite dialogue.

Comments are closed.


Discover more from Middle East Transparent

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading