Back-channel Diplomacy - Breakthrough On Kashmir Expected

Back-channel Diplomacy - Breakthrough On Kashmir Expected

14 January 2014
Pakistan Observer
Liaqat Toor

Islamabad: As the Nawaz Sharif government without wasting time had launched back- channel diplomacy with India soon after assuming power last year by nominating a seasoned retired diplomat Shehryar Khan as interlocutor, a breakthrough is expected on Kashmir, sources privy to such developments confided to this scribe. Shehryar Khan has already held meetings with Indian interlocutor S K Lambah on initiating confidence building measures for addressing issues including Kashmir which have bogged down both the nuclear-armed neighbours. Nawaz Sharif in his last stint as Prime Minister had welcomed the former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lahore in 1999 when both the leaders had decided to launch back-door diplomacy away from glare of the public and media to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Retired diplomat Niaz A Naik was his interlocutor at that time. The sources said India is interested in picking up thread from where Musharraf Government had left before 2007 when both the countries were close to removing the biggest irritant blocking normalisation in South Asia. But, unfortunately, different circumstances including unrest in Pakistan stalled these developments. Sources further said both the diplomats are working on a modified and improved formula on Kashmir as had been formulated between Musharraf and Manmohan governments. India has taken a plea it should have some space and say in Afghan affairs. Pakistan has been insisting on addressing Kashmir dispute first. Interestingly, the US is encouraging such developments and peace initiatives as Washington is more concern about the overall security scenario in the region after its exit from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. As Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs is hopeful on positive developments through such diplomatic initiatives, sources said other issues such as Siachen, Sir Creek, trading irritants and softening of visa regime are expected to get a positive nod from Islamabad and New Delhi. Sharif has come to the conclusion that without normalisation in South Asia a dream of economic realisation cannot be achieved. He is very much watching such developments with keen interest. The recent restoration of calm on LoC after several-weeks flare up is evident of his interest in peaceful atmosphere to enlarge trading links in South Asia. The other strong stakeholders in Pakistan are supporting such moves, sources said. Manmohan’s strong desire to visit Pakistan before leaving his high profile office should also be taken in this perspective as positive signals are in the air on starting peace initiatives to bring lasting peace in South Asia, sources added.