India, Pak poised to make extra peace gestures

Sandeep Dikshit

Today News Online Service

New Delhi, February 25

After the understanding between the two armies to hold peace along the line of control (LoC), reopening of trade at Wagah could be the next step to restore civility in Indo-Pak diplomatic ties, said sources here.

India and Pakistan had started holding back-channel talks ever since it became clear that Joe Biden would be the next US President. While trade and ceasefire along the LoC are low hanging fruits, the sources said Islamabad is looking at a gesture from India on Kashmir.

Read also: India, Pakistan agree to follow all ceasefire pacts

Responding to questions, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday that India is always ready for talks to address issues, if any. On key issues, the Indian position remains unchanged, he said on being asked if New Delhi was still maintaining its position that terror and talks cannot go together.

In back-channel talks, Pakistan is understood to have conveyed that it expects some kind of a statement from India about not changing the demographics in Kashmir to make substantial progress on their mutual differences.

Sources said Islamabad has claimed that there is no state-sponsored indulgence of cross-border militancy though a sure giveaway of its involvement has been the tell-tale cover firing on Indian posts to facilitate infiltration.

They expect Pakistan to take some more hard action on cross-border terrorism since Biden’s consistent stand ever since he was a Senator two decades back was that this kind of activity was inconsistent with the desire to settle the Kashmir dispute by bilateral talks.

A Pakistani gesture, they said, could be along the line of ensuring permanent incarceration of some terrorist masterminds who have consistently wreaked havoc in Kashmir by sending lethal weapons and men across the border.

At the same time, sources pointed to the fragility of the ceasefire arrangement, arguing that a similar concurrence in 2018 did not last long because of the absence of gestures that would act as the scaffolding for peace on the border.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan had earlier this month broadcast a brief portion of Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s speech in which he had spoken of extending “a hand of peace in all directions”. This was followed by a fall in the volume of fire from across the LoC.

Further, Pakistan did not raise Kashmir during the SAARC virtual meeting on the pandemic unlike on previous occasions when it had inserted the bilateral dispute at multilateral fora such as the SCO meet of National Security Advisers which compelled Indian NSA Ajit Doval to stage a symbolic walkout.

India has also reciprocated by allowing overflight to Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s special aircraft to use the Indian airspace. This is despite the fact that the last overflight permission by Pakistan to Indian VIPs was given in mid-2019 for then Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s special flight. The changes in Kashmir in August 2019 had hardened Pakistani positions and there were no subsequent permissions for special flights by PM Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind.

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