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Backdoor peace talks

For the past few years, it seemed inconceivable that there would be peace between India and Pakistan. The two countries scaled back bilateral ties, suspended trade, recalled envoys and were involved in a dogfight that brought them on the brink of war. However, there has been a gradual thawing of frosty relations between the two sides.

In February, the militaries of both sides made the surprising announcement to observe a ceasefire along the LoC and end all border hostilities. Last week, Army Chief Gen Bajwa also showed a gradual policy shift stating it was “time to bury the past” and move forward. The prime minister has also stated that unsettled disputes between the two sides were hampering regional peace and development as he called for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

It was also observed that peace overtures intensified after Biden became US President although Washington has rebuffed questions that it played a role. It has now been revealed that the UAE, which enjoys close ties with both India and Pakistan, has been brokering secret talks. The increased interaction of the top UAE diplomat with the foreign ministers of both countries has hinted at backdoor talks. Now the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are expected to meet in Dushanbe in a sign that relations may further improve.

The first step to secure a ceasefire has been reached. It was a win-win situation for both sides as India was involved in another border confrontation with China. The next round could see the restoration of diplomatic relations followed by revival of trade talks. In a historic first, Indian troops are expected to participate in military exercises in Pakistan later this. The toughest part of the problem would be the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

It was a matter of time before both sides eventually realised they cannot continue the rhetoric as peace was inevitable. The Modi government should cool down the vitriol if it wants to move forward. The steps by regional powers to foster peace should be appreciated. Pakistan’s gradual shift from geo-politics and allowing debate on national security is also a welcome sign. Both sides should choose cooperation over confrontation for a peaceful, stable and prosperous region where no one is left behind. It is imperative that they should seize the moment focusing on peace and development rather than rivalries and conflicts.