Back channel diplomacy: With the objective of normalising relations between India and Pakistan, back channel diplomacy has once again been underway for the last few months. Islamabad is being represented by former foreign secretary, Riaz Ahmad Khan while New Delhi side is headed by special emissary to the Indian Prime Minister, Satandra Lamba. This exercise has tacit approval of Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart, Dr Manmohan Singh. An Indian newspaper report expressed New Delhi's scepticism over the support of the Pakistan Army of the backdoor diplomatic effort, while Mr Gilani has taken the leadership of second largest political party, Pakistan Muslim Leagues (Nawaz) on board in this connection. This understanding was fully reflected during a reception hosted by Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore given in honour of visiting Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar. The sentiments expressed by Mr Shahbaz regarding Indo-Pak bilateral relations were a clear indicator that PML-N was on the side of the government in this endeavour. The focal point between the two sides, however, remains the issue of Kashmir.
It was due to back channel diplomacy that Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpai agreed on the Lahore Declaration that was expected to lead to some amicable solution of long-standing Kashmir conflict. But this effort was jeopardised by the Kargil adventure by then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf. Back channel diplomacy resumed during later part of Musharraf regime and according to then Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, a 15-point formula was almost agreed between the two sides. But before it could be signed, the lawyers' movement started against military dictator Musharraf that led to his ouster from power. Diplomatic sources in Islamabad are of the view that if India sticks to its old rhetoric, no progress will be made in the unconventional parleys. The negotiators must also keep in mind that without taking the Kashmiri leadership on board, no solution would be acceptable to the Kashmiri people on both sides of the LoC. Pakistan must raise the Kashmir issue at all international forums including the UN without any further delay. At the same time it must explore all options to persuade New Delhi to sit across the table and settle all outstanding issues so that people of the two countries could live in peace and harmony.
February 28, 2012
Pakistan, India Had Agreed On Demilitarization Of Kashmir: