In a significant development, special envoys to India and Pakistan Prime Ministers had a discreet back channel meeting in Dubai a few days back, in the first engagement between the two countries after the killing of five Indian soldiers on the line of control (LoC) on August 6.
Interlocutors SK Lamba and Shahriyar Khan discussed the proposed meeting between Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meet later this month. Khan confirmed the Dubai meeting to Hindustan Times over the phone from Lahore, saying, “As of now the meeting in New York is on. The Indians have not said no.’’
Khan and his Indian counterpart Lamba are laying the ground work for the New York meeting, which would be the first official interaction at the Prime Ministerial level since Sharif took office in June. The meeting, however, has come under intense public and political glare because of the beheading of an Indian army soldier in January and the subsequent killing of five jawans at the LoC.
The Opposition — the BJP in particular — has demanded that no dialogue takes place at such a high level.
Khan, when asked about the meeting in Dubai said, “The Indians expect some tranquility on the ceasefire line and we are hoping that tensions will calm down.” While Indian officials are wary of speaking on record, a government spokesperson said, “The back channel has to be quiet, discreet and outside public glare.’’ When asked specifically about the New York meeting, the official said, “A call will be taken in due course.’’
In the back channel talks, while Pakistan tried to take the view that the ceasefire was violated by both sides, India made the point that it was not just a question of ceasefire violations but of the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, Hafiz Saeed trying to infiltrate terrorists into the Kashmir valley.
Both Singh and Sharif have been keen on taking the India-Pakistan dialogue forward. Government sources in Delhi indicated that Singh thinks it important to stand by Sharif, who has been a victim of the Pakistani Army that sent him into exile for eight years. The meeting in New York is subject to peace and tranquility on the LoC as tensions led to both countries passing resolutions against each other in the recent past.