Thaw in India, Pakistan tensions, says daily

Islamabad, Dec 10 (IANS) There is a thaw in tensions between Pakistan and India ever since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “went against the grain and seemingly extended an olive branch” to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

An editorial “Changing winds?” in the Daily Times on Thursday said that it seems that the brief Parisian encounter between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan is proving to be more than a mere outcome of courtesy, “as a demonstrable thawing of tensions between the two countries is evident ever since Modi went against the grain and seemingly extended an olive branch to Nawaz Sharif”.

First there was the unannounced and unexpected meeting between the two countries’ National Security Advisors (NSA) in Bangkok where all the core issues, like peace and security, terrorism as well as the perpetually thorny matter of Jammu and Kashmir and tranquillity along the Line of Control (LoC), were discussed in detail.

The daily said that the NSA level meetings were significant precisely because the last major diplomatic tussle between the two countries was over disagreements about the agenda of a scheduled NSA level conference, and this showed to all concerned a growing flexibility and eagerness to talk in the foreign policies of both countries.

“Now in a first since 2012, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Pakistan and has enhanced the credibility of the Heart of Asia conference…”

“That India, a key player in the affairs of Afghanistan, is participating ensures that the proceedings will not lose meaning and a favourable outcome can be reasonably expected.”

Upon arrival here on Tuesday, Sushma Swaraj echoed these sentiments about Afghanistan’s importance to India and the necessity of Indian engagement in this multilateral process.

“It is important to note this is the same Sushma Swaraj who had taken a particularly confrontational tone at the time of the NSA meetings breakdown a few months ago. Now, in her address to the conference, she took on a decidedly more diplomatic and conciliatory tone, while urging both nations to be “mature” and increase economic cooperation as a gateway to bridge trust.”

She also stressed a more trilateral coordination between India-Pakistan-Afghanistan and urged Pakistan to allow India and Afghanistan to use its territory as a transit route for trade.

The editorial said: “…at this point it is difficult to foresee an immediate future where Pakistan will give in to this demand, since despite evident forward momentum in terms of diplomatic relations, there remains a high degree of mistrust and suspicion between the two countries.”

But it is nonetheless welcome to see actual, palpable engagement between the two countries and “Swaraj’s changed tune indicates that sense has prevailed and the importance of dialogue over displays of strength has been recognised”.

“This thawing of ties has been noted internationally and has been welcomed by partner countries, including the US.”

The daily went on to say that “war, or even the threat of war, is simply not an option given the extremely real possibility of a nuclear apocalypse. Neither of the two countries can progress if this cloud of fear hangs over their respective populaces. The only way for stability is for the mature discussions the Indian minister is calling for”.

The editorial appeared on Thursday, a day after India and Pakistan agreed to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue. Sushma Swaraj also confirmed that Narendra Modi will visit Islamabad next year to attend the Saarc summit.

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