In his recent essay India and Pakistan’s Surprisingly Successful Negotiations published on the Foreign Policy blog, Luv Puri, author of the forthcoming Across the Line of Control: Inside Azad Kashmir, argues that real, if slow, progress is being made between India and Pakistan on several key issues.
Puri discusses the recent meeting between Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and India’s SM Krishna. The two took an important step forward on setting up meetings the Expert Groups on Nuclear and Conventional Weapons, which Puri sees as an important move in initiating a process to slow the nuclear arms race in South Asia.
The two also revived discussions that took place in 2004 and 2007 regarding the situation in Kashmir. Puri writes:
The main idea was to infuse realism as well as humaneness into negotiations, and the agreement was premised on the idea that the people of the region, on either side of the Line of Control (LoC), should be the driving force behind the peace process. One concrete idea was to put “soft borders” into place, and another proposal would have created institutional mechanisms for political leaders from both countries to discuss common areas of interest. But due to the political instability in Pakistan, the agreement was not fully put into operation.
The fact that these surprisingly productive discussions between Khar and Krishna took place at a time when worries exist about how the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will affect the region, gives Puri a sense of cautious optimism but one which he balances with continuing concern about the unpredictability regarding relations between Pakistan and India. Puri writes:
The relationship between India and Pakistan currently rests at a delicate equilibrium. Outside the mainstream political space, the forces bent on acting as spoilers remain active. In the past, prominent terrorist attacks have often coincided with moves to improve India-Pakistan relations. On November 24, 2008, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari declared that his country would not be the first to use nuclear weapons against India and would work towards opening trade with their eastern neighbor. Two days later, India witnessed the most gruesome attack in its history, as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) fighters held Mumbai hostage on live television for days, slaughtering and burning their way through India’s financial capital and killing 164 people. Some of the recent reports in the Pakistani press indicate a resurgence in the activities of banned militant outfits in Punjab province, for instance.
But despite the many roadblocks and difficulties ahead, this most recent foreign ministers’ meeting was certainly a small step forward in resolving one of the most complex and complicated relationships in international affairs today.