Islamabad, March 19 (IANS) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi should “invest their time and capital in dialogue”, said an influential daily which described as history-making the imminent trip by a Pakistani investigation team to India.
An editorial “Pakistan-India peace process” in the Dawn on Saturday said that the imminent trip by a Pakistani investigation team to India is “both necessary and history-making”.
The Pathankot air force base attack in India in early January was a grim episode that could have yet again derailed dialogue between Pakistan and India, it added.
The daily gave credit to the governments of Modi and Sharif that the “Pathankot attack did not cause the rupture that it could have and both governments have kept the channels of communication open”.
Yet, nearly three months will have passed since the attack by the time the Pakistani investigation team arrives in India later this month.
It noted that the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue both countries so boldly agreed to late last year has all but stalled.
“It is time for that process to begin and, therefore, it is disappointing that a meeting on the sidelines of a Saarc summit in Nepal between Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj did not go far beyond talk of the Pathankot probe.”
The daily said that resumption of dialogue – or, technically, the start of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue – hinges on two things. In administrative terms, the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan must meet to determine a schedule for meetings of the various dialogue sub-groups and determine how a first round of talks will move ahead.
“So far, the two governments appear reluctant to announce a date for the foreign secretaries’ meeting, suggesting a link to progress on the Pakistani side of the Pathankot investigation.
“In political terms, Modi and Sharif will need to invest their time and capital in dialogue – both to ensure that it restarts and, subsequently, to nudge bureaucratic negotiations towards results. Thus far, both leaders have only demonstrated a willingness to take risks in meeting each other – but not the willingness or confidence to actually move dialogue forward. That must change.”
The editorial went on to say that necessary and welcome as prime ministerial interactions are, they must go beyond tentative ideas.
“When Modi and Sharif next meet, the emphasis must be on substance. Regional hopes for peace could soon turn to a familiar disillusionment if the two prime ministers reduce their meetings to desultory photo ops.
“Perhaps what India needs to recognise is that dialogue should not hinge on any single issue, especially if that issue is a militant attack meant to derail dialogue.”
The daily stressed that the terrorism threat in the region can only be combated by joint action by Pakistan and India – and dialogue alone offers the opportunity to create a robust framework for joint action against militancy and terrorism.
“Yet, Pakistan needs to acknowledge the centrality of terrorism to India’s concerns about its relationship with Pakistan. The recent sharing of intelligence with the Indian national security adviser by Pakistan was a positive step. Faster action on the Pathankot and Mumbai attacks would send a stronger signal yet.”