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Same old story or a new chapter?

Talks between India and Pakistan have always been crucial, encapsulating various contentious issues in its ambit. But the leaders of both the countries should use the present opportunity to write a completely new chapter, writes Amrita Sharma.

india Updated: May 21, 2008 22:44 IST
Amrita Sharma

Talks between India and Pakistan have always been crucial, encapsulating various contentious issues in its ambit. But the resumption of composite dialogues between the two countries at present is significant because it's the first high-level contact with the new democratic dispensation in Islamabad.

What makes the talks more noteworthy is that it comes in the backdrop of renewed infiltration bids and terror attacks.

The Indian side has consistently maintained a positive approach towards taking the peace process forward but it is reiterating that an atmosphere of peace was a prerequisite to making the dialogues more than just a routine exercise.

What can be a dampner is the knowledge that there has been no movement forward in the dialogue process since March last year due to a spurt of major changes and events in Pakistan.

In a significant progress, the infiltration level had gone down for a while, but of late, it has reared its ugly head again - an issue that India plans to raise with Pakistan during the composite dialogues.

On January 6, 2004 President Musharraf had made a commitment in a joint statement that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for terrorism against India.

In fact, New Delhi has noted that the relations between the two countries witnessed a lot of improvement in the last four years when India was dealing with the Musharraf regime.

Now, many skeptics feel that with the author of that commitment now voted out of power, the new government will wish to chalk out its own agenda with the Indian government.

What is also a cause for concern for India is that while it is seeking concrete action by Islamabad to end cross-border terrorism, Pakistan seems too embroiled in its own internal strife. There are reports of a discord between Pakistan's coalition partners over the issue of reinstating the judges sacked by President Musharraf.

However, keeping up the momentum of the past efforts between the two countries to constantly strengthen ties, the leaders of India and Pakistan should use this opportunity to write a completely new chapter - one that is in the interest of both the countries.

The new Pakistani coalition government, led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, will need a stable environment internally in order to last in power, and it will also require a peaceful relationship with its neighbour. And with India keeping a 'positive and open' mind in its dealing with the nascent government in Pakistan, there's a lot of scope for the two countries to ensure that there is a tangible movement in the bilateral ties.

Leading Pakistani dailies and analysts have been expressing skepticism of any breakthrough on tricky issues. But the wiser approach would be to have a tabula rasa (clean slate) to work on, as far as forging new bonds with the fresh Pakistan government is concerned. In the current fluid scenario between the two countries, it's too good an opportunity to be lost.