Twist in Indo-Pak­istan re­la­tions: Neem­rana track 2 diplo­macy is back

People's Review - - COMMENTARY - BY N. P. UPADHYAYA, NEPAL

Pol­i­tics never re­mains static whether it be na­tional, re­gional or even global. Dy­namism is thy name pol­i­tics. Even a sin­gle mi­nor event may change the en­tire path of pol­i­tics in and around the im­me­di­ate com­mu­nity. Lay­men may not go deep into the im­pli­ca­tions of an event that may have hap­pened lo­cally though, but yet its im­pli­ca­tions could be felt some­where else near and far in its own mode. The crux of the mat­ter is that since we are liv­ing in an in­ter­de­pen­dent world and thus any event that has taken place in, for ex­am­ple, Nepal's neigh­bor­hood or any part of the world, its im­pact may ap­proach us though it may take some time which may also de­pend on the mag­ni­tude of the po­lit­i­cal event thus taken place. Rip­ples could be felt sooner than later. And if the ori­gin of the po­lit­i­cal turn of events is close to our own en­v­i­ron then it is sure to have its bear­ing on the coun­tries sit­u­ated in the same area or say neigh­bor­hood. To come more closer, if India or Pak­istan take steps to mend their dif­fer­ences or even other­wise, that would have its pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive im­pact in the en­tire South Asian re­gion and the coun­tries neigh­bor­ing India and Pak­istan may feel its im­pact, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive both, de­pend­ing on what steps they have taken? Whether it is for en­sur­ing se­cu­rity or dis­turb­ing the same shall much de­pend on the steps taken by th­ese two coun­tries. And here we have a good news this time. Thanks wis­dom ap­pears to have pre­vailed among a sec­tion of the in­formed and peace lov­ing cit­i­zenry on both sides of the bor­der. Need­less to say, India and Pak­istan af­ter the par­ti­tion have fought sev­eral wars and some po­lit­i­cal fa­nat­ics on both sides at times en­cour­age their re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments to spit venom against each other and the me­dia adds fuel to the fire. The po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of the two coun­tries, mostly the In­dian side, has been play­ing tricks with their peo­ple its side to garner votes at times of the elec­tion. This may ap­ply to Pak­istan also. How­ever, at the peo­ple to peo­ple level, the ties are more than pleas­ant and vi­brant even as of to­day and gives an im­pres­sion to the out­siders that the two na­tion theory is all back­wash and gaffe and that ba­si­cally the par­ti­tion of the sub-con­ti­nent re­mains lim­ited to ge­og­ra­phy but still re­mains pul­sat­ing so­cially in the minds of the peo­ple across the bor­ders that they were sin­gle an united. The lan­guage and cul­ture brings them even closer as could be no­ticed. This can be felt eas­ily de­spite the fact that the LoC, (Line of Con­trol) still re­mains in a tensed sit­u­a­tion and the army men of both the coun­tries could be seen di­rect­ing their ri­fles against each other. Though the two gov­ern­ments, India and Pak­istan, are not even is speak­ing terms and both un­in­ter­rupt­edly ac­cuse each other of fo­ment­ing trou­bles along the bor­der and in­side but yet there is a feel­ing on both the sides that “peace must be given a chance” so that the en­tire South Asian coun­tries can take a sigh of re­lief. Un­der­stand­ably, it is the smaller neigh­bors of India and Pak­istan in South Asia re­main in a con­stant fear that th­ese two arch ri­vals can go to any ex­tent any time they wish and may cre­ate se­cu­rity threat in the en­tire re­gion. In ad­di­tion to this threat there is the ad­di­tional men­ace of a nu­clear war should the two sides think of teach­ing a les­son to the other. Both India and Pak­istan are now coun­tries equipped with nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Any wrong and hasty de­ci­sion taken by any one of the two shall bring in a sort of catas­tro­phe in the en­tire South Asian re­gion and be­yond that is unimag­in­able to com­pre­hend the dan­ger­ous con­se­quences of the nu­clear dis­as­ter. Such a sce­nario could be­fall on SA should the wrong but­ton be pushed ei­ther by Pak­istan or India. How­ever, de­spite the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ties in be­tween the two, the wrong but­ton has not been pushed. Thanks the two ri­vals from Nepal. Good news is that the Neem­rana track-2 ini­tia­tive com­pris­ing of ex­perts, for­mer gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and re­tired diplo­mats from India and Pak­istan have met re­cently, to be more pre­cise last month end, in Pak­istan and held a two day meet and dis­cussed on how India and Pak­istan live in peace for all time to come. Re­ports have it that the In­dian team was com­prised of two in­flu­en­tial per­sons in their own right. The first one was Vivek Katju, a per­son pre­sum­ably very close to the rul­ing BJP gov­ern­ment and the other one was for­mer Am­bas­sador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood. Mr. Sood served in Nepal as India's Am­bas­sador. He was ex­ces­sively ar­ro­gant and thus was mis­be­haved by some na­tion­al­ist na­tion­als while tour­ing a hilly district in Nepal prior to his de­par­ture to Delhi. The Pak­istani side was rep­re­sented by For­mer for­eign Min­is­ter Inam-Ul Haq and for­mer gover­nor of State Bank of Pak­istan, Mr. Ishrat Hu­sain, write Pak­istani news­pa­pers. The Neem­rana track 2 ini­tia­tive is a Western ef­fort ini­ti­ated right in the early 1990s, to be more pre­cise 1991 Oc­to­ber, which later be­came dor­mant for some un­known rea­sons. Neem­rana is a fort lo­cated in Ra­jsthan in India and this ini­tia­tive came into ex­is­tence with the ac­tive sup­port of United States In­for­ma­tion ser­vice, USIS. Need­less to say, the sud­den emer­gence of this Neem­rana track-2 diplo­macy must have been the back­ing of the US in­for­ma­tion agency which is in it­self not bad as this prefers to bring in peace in the en­tire South Asian re­gion more so in be­tween the es­tranged neigh­bors, India and Pak­istan. What is re­mark­able in the re­vival of this track two diplo­macy this time is that the In­dian del­e­ga­tion com­pris­ing of the two gen­tle­men as stated ear­lier trav­eled to Pak­istan and were treated by their Pak­istani hosts in a be­fit­ting man­ner? The cli­max was that the in­cum­bent For­eign Sec­re­tary of the Pak­istan Gov­ern­ment, Ms. Tehmina Jan­jua threw a lav­ish din­ner in honor of the men en­gaged with the Neem­rana track two diplo­macy thus hint­ing that the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment with­out hes­i­ta­tion rec­og­nizes the ef­forts be­ing made by the pri­vate sec­tor. Avail­able re­ports have it that the two sides though have not is­sued the for­mal joint state­ment of the out­come of the two day meet held in Islamabad, how­ever, what has been so far given to un­der­stand that the In­dian and the Pak­istani sides shall sub­mit the fi­nal out­come to their re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments soon. This is sim­ply an ear pleas­ing news in that both the coun­tries have kept the com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels open de­spite the fact that the war­like sit­u­a­tion yet pre­vails along the Line of Con­trol. Re­vival of peace process should be hailed by India's neigh­bors as well in that the South Asian se­cu­rity de­pends much on the set­tle­ment of the long drawn Kash­mir im­broglio. Now whether or not peace be given a fresh chance de­pends much on In­dian PM Mo­dias to how he takes up the Neem­rana out­come and then ex­presses his will­ing­ness for an ac­tive en­gage­ment with Pak­istan or not? The same theory ap­plies to Pak­istani side also. Since it is a two-way-af­fair and thus the two war­ring sides must come to the table or else the Neem­rana ini­tia­tives and the ef­forts made by it shall have no mean­ing at all. In yet another sur­pris­ing po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, the Pak­istan Army Chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, has made it clear that “peace and pros­per­ity in Pak­istan could be brought only by hav­ing mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with India”. In a grand de­par­ture from the usual prac­tice and per­cep­tion, the Pak Army Chief per­haps has spo­ken some­thing that is ap­par­ently very close to truth. But what makes Mil­i­tary Chief Bajwa to speak so? Let the do­mes­tic ex­perts in Pak­istan them­selves be­gin dwelling on the is­sue as this state­ment in many more ways than one de­mands se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions for mul­ti­ple rea­sons in­ter­nally. How­ever, since he has spo­ken of peace then ob­servers in Nepal at least find no valid rea­sons to dis­miss Gen­eral Bajwa's frank ad­mis­sion sum­mar­ily. That Gen­eral Bajwa said or hinted so has been re­vealed by one think-tank based in United King­dom the Royal United Ser­vice In­sti­tute, RUSI. Mr. Ka­mal Alam, ex­pert on South Asia and the Mid­dle East claims that the Army Chief of Pak­istan re­cently in­vited the In­dian Mil­i­tary At­taché Mr. San­jay Vish­warao and his en­tire team to ob­serve the Mil­i­tary day pa­rade held in the Month of March, 2018, and per­haps con­veyed through the In­dian at­taché that “he wanted peace and di­a­logue with India”. In­ter­est­ingly, India and Pak­istan are all set to take part in a joint mil­i­tary drill to be held in Rus­sia this Septem­ber wherein China too re­port­edly is to join the said mil­i­tary ex­er­cise. Very in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ments in­deed. What ap­pears above ground is dif­fer­ent than what is go­ing un­der­neath. Tricky pol­i­tics that it is al­ways. The two ri­val na­tions, India and Pak­istan, are set for this drill de­spite the daily scuf­fle

along the bor­der. Un­sub­stan­ti­ated re­ports have it that Ma­jor Gen­eral Ahmed Hayat, the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the ISI au­thored the planned “In­di­atalk plan” as back as in 2013 it­self, how­ever, but awaited the right mo­ment on how and when Pak­istan should ap­proach India for peace talks. And here is Gen­eral Bajwa speak­ing on the same lines. “It is no brainer that one can't live in an en­vi­ron­ment of per­pet­ual en­mity with a neigh­bor six times your size, but yet the in­di­ca­tors back home have to be right, said gen­eral Ahmed Hayat. All put to­gether, it ap­pears that both India and Pak­istan need peace, more so Pak­istan has al­ready ex­hib­ited its de­sire for hav­ing peace with India and that since the al­most dor­mant and de­funct Neem­rana Track 2 diplo­macy ap­pears very much alive and kick­ing and has be­gun al­ready work­ing in help­ing India and Pak­istan to mend their dif­fer­ences so a ray of hope could be seen in the South Asian hori­zon hint­ing that soon a day may come when the two de­clared arch en­e­mies join their hands and change the face of the trou­bled South Asian re­gion. The best way would be to re­sume the func­tion­ing of the SAARC re­gional body wherein the two lead­ers from India and Pak­istan could shake hands with each other on the side­lines of the SAARC Sum­mit. This is what Nepal be­lieves as cur­rent Chair of the SAARC re­gional body. The Pak­istani Army Chief has thrown the ball now in India's court. How India re­sponds to this Neem­rana ini­tia­tives and the Army Chief's peace pro­pos­als shall per­haps de­ter­mine the se­cu­rity of the en­tire South Asian re­gion and be­yond. But thanks US in­for­ma­tion ser­vice, USIS that it en­cour­aged the Neem­rana to re­sume its work for which it came into ex­is­tence. The US must be thanked for this friendly ges­ture. Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and In­dian PM Modi met re­cently in Wuhan, China. Much ahead of this meet some in­ter­na­tional schol­ars have aired their com­ments as to the pos­si­ble fall out of this meet on Pak­istan. So let's have a look. “I am sure there is a bit of un­ease among the Pak­istan mil­i­tary brass about this Wuhan Sum­mit (Pres­i­dent Xi and Modi meet) and the ap­par­ent dé­tente. Still the mil­i­tary won't be overly con­cerned, as it will con­clude-rightly so-in my view-that China very much re­mains in Pak­istan's or­bit, re­gard­less of this new India-China warm­ing pe­riod that could well prove short lived”, so said Michael Kugel­man, deputy di­rec­tor of the Asia pro­gram at the Wil­son Cen­ter, a Wash­ing­ton think tank. Like­wise, Arif Rafiq, a non­res­i­dent fel­low at the Mid­dle East In­sti­tute, another think tank, said re­cently that “since the Pak­istan Mil­i­tary was the com­mu­nist party of China's prin­ci­pal strate­gic part­ner in the re­gion”, he didn't think Bei­jing was will­ing to dam­age re­la­tions for tac­ti­cal ben­e­fits vis-à-vis India. “But at the same time, I think there is recog­ni­tion in Pak­istan that de­pen­dence on a sin­gle strate­gic part­ner puts them in a po­si­tion of weak­ness, he told This Week in Asia. Be­fore I con­clude, have a cur­sory look at this. In yet another stun­ning po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment as it is claims that “China is con­fi­dent that the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion, SCO, with Pak­istan and India as its full mem­bers will emerge as ma­jor re­gional fo­rum for pro­mot­ing se­cu­rity and com­mon de­vel­op­ment. The SCO meet is be­ing held in Qing­dao, China wherein for the first time, India and Pak­istan are shar­ing the com­mon plat­form of the SCO to­gether. Let's wait and see how the pol­i­tics evolve here­after in the re­gion. Is it that world pol­i­tics tak­ing a par­a­digm shift with China be­ing in the cen­ter?

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