Peace Path: Ex-envoys from Pak, India Lay Stress on More Talks
Though the relations between the two nations have been turbulent, former high commissioners believe frequent talks will improve the situation
New Delhi: Eyeing to chart a new journey in bilateral relations that has witnessed roller coaster ride for the past seven decades, senior diplomats from India and Pakistan who have servedashighcommissionersineach other’s country on Friday suggested that the neighbours need to engage even in trying times including discussing issues as contentious as Khulbhusan Jadhav, an alleged Indian agent.
While the Pakistani establishment has tried to hype the arrest of Jadhav alleging that the former Indian naval officer was fomenting trouble in Balochistan notwithstanding snub from Iran, former Pakistani High Commissioners to India Salman Bashir and Aziz Ahmed Khan suggestedthatDelhiandIslamabadmust hold dialogue to address this issue. It may be recalled that the Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar had told hisPakistanicounterpartonTuesday that Jadhav was abducted by Islamabad and that no spy agency would ever send its agent on a valid passport. Bashir and Khan were speakers of a forum where they were joined by yet another Pak high commissioner to India Ashraf Jahangir Qazi. The forum, which debated India-Pakistan relations in the light of Pathankot attacks and arrest of Jadhav, also featured three former Indian high commissioners to Pakistan SK Lambah, Shivshankar Menon and G Parthasarathy. This uniqueforum,whichforthefirsttime ever brought together six envoys of India and Pakistan at one platform, was organised by leading public policy body Ananta Aspen Centre.
Parthasarathy, who had served in Pakistan during both the Kargil War and infamous IC-814 hijacking incident, emphasised that allegations against Jadhav is not bonafide but supported his counterparts that the two sides should discuss such issues. He,however,mentionedthatrepeated attempts were made in the past by the Pakistani authorities to abduct Jadhav, who ran a business in Iran.
But this was not the only issue that dominated the discourse at the forum as former Pak foreign secretary Bashir pointed out that regular contacts between the National Security Advisors have prevented post- Pathankot situation from becoming explosive and hoped that such contacts would help to maintain engagement. Both he and Lambah agreed that leaking of information by the Pakistani side at the very onset of recent Indo-Pak foreign secretary dialogue looked comical.
Referring to the unscheduled visit by PM Narendra Modi to Lahore on December 25 last year Menon, who had also served as National Security Adviser, noted that this trip was worth its value. “As we look back it was an important step,” the former Indian foreign secretary pointed out.
Lambah, who is credited with backchannel talks with Pakistan during two Indian PMs, suggested formula for way forward in relations – keep LoC peaceful, control cross-border terror and early conclusion of trial of 26/11 and Pathankot attacks.
A file photo of foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi