Although not much has been revealed either by Pakistan or the Indian government about what prompted Narendra Modi to approach Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and have a dialogue with him on the sidelines of the Climate Conference in Paris, yet it is believed by the political analysts that the move by the Indian Prime Minister was a sequel to international pressure to lower tensions between the two countries as well as the internal compulsions created by the political reversal faced by the BJP government. Whatever the motivating force behind the renewed contact between the two leaders followed by interaction between the national security advisors of the two countries and arrival of the Indian foreign minister to attend ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Pakistan, the fact remains that these developments are a good augury for creating congenial atmosphere for re-engagement of the two countries in a dialogue process and removal of the existing tension between them. The Indian foreign minister on her arrival stated that she hoped for improved relations between the two countries and that was the message she had brought with her.

Indian foreign minister during her stay in Pakistan would have dialogue with the advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz and also have a meeting with the Prime Minister. What would transpire as a consequence of these parleys is rather premature to speculate until an official word is given on those deliberations. However the direction of the likely engagement between the two countries seems to have already been set in the meeting between the security advisors of the two countries who met in Bangkok recently. According to the joint statement issued by the Pakistan foreign ministry, the discussions which were held in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere, covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and other issues. In a nutshell, it was a composite dialogue between the two.

It may be recalled that the meeting between the security advisors of the two countries which was scheduled to take place in Delhi in the wake of the understanding reached at Ufa between the two Prime Ministers did not materialize due to Indian insistence that the agreement was only regarding discussions on terrorism related issues and it did not cover other irritants and disputes. Pakistan on the other hand maintained, and rightly so, that the agreement also mentioned all other outstanding issues. The recent discussions between the two security advisors and the topics covered by them vindicate the position taken by Pakistan in the backdrop of the Ufa Communiqué. They also represent strong rebuke to those who accused the Prime Minister of having bartered away the interests of Pakistan by not having the Kashmir dispute included in the declaration and adopting a groveling posture towards India. They conveniently overlooked the text of the agreement which reiterated the willingness of the two countries to discuss all outstanding issues, which also implied the issue of Kashmir because it is the real bone of contention between the two countries. The Indian move to discuss all those subjects in the meeting of the two security advisors seen in the context of earlier rigidity shown by her might be construed as a climb down by some analysts and commentators but I would prefer to term it as a realistic and sagacious positioning by India which actually might act as a catalyst to the revival of a comprehensive dialogue between the two countries.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been an ardent supporter of creating bonhomie between the two countries and settling all disputes through dialogue, including the contentious issue of Kashmir. In his recent address to the UN General Assembly he even presented a four point formula as a way forward and in his interactions with the international media also repeatedly emphasized that dialogue was the only option for the two countries to remove the irritants that have bedeviled relations between the two neighbours for the last well over six decades. He was the architect of the Lahore Declaration which unfortunately was effectively sabotaged by the post-declaration developments within Pakistan and the Kargil war. Ever since becoming the Prime Minister for the third time he has been endeavouring to re-create an ambience of friendship and good neighbourly relations between the two countries. A well calculated and imaginative move was made by his government to orchestrate the much needed bonhomie between the two countries through trade. He even went to Delhi to participate in the inaugural ceremony of Narendra Modi which did raise the hopes for continuation of interaction between the two countries to resolve disputes between them. But regrettably all those efforts like in the past were overtaken by incidents of terrorism and exchange of firing along the LOC and the working boundary with both sides blaming each other for having initiated the aggressive moves. These incidents unfortunately increased substantially after Modi became the Prime Minister of India. The Indian leadership also indulged in bellicose blustering and hurling threats at Pakistan.

So keeping in view the current situation and burgeoning tensions between the two countries in the recent past, the resumption of contacts, dialogue and expression of the resolve to improves ties between the two countries, is surely an auspicious happening. It is not for the first time that opportunities for dialogue have come the way of the two countries. Relations between Pakistan and India have a history of one step forward and two step backwards syndrome and if history is any guide one cannot be over optimistic about the outcome of this renewed interaction between them. However one must never lose hope.

A real break-through is possible provided the dialogue and interaction between the two countries is characterized by sincerity of purpose.

There are no two opinions about the fact that both Pakistan and India need peace and security in the region and settlement of disputes between them in their own interest as well as the interest of the whole region. World history is replete with examples where nations who even fought hundred years war are partners in promoting economic and political interests of their regions. All international disputes and wars have ultimately been ended through dialogue. The issues between Pakistan and India are undoubtedly very convoluted and would require lot of sagacity and courage from the leaders of the two countries to untangle them. They will have to thwart attempts by the hawkish elements on both sides to sabotage the dialogue and not allow the hang-over of the past to overshadow or undermine the peace process. Lifting the economic profile of the teeming millions on both sides of the border and the dream of shared regional prosperity is dependent on amity between Pakistan and India.