In principle, there can be no objection to Pakistan’s instituting measures to resume dialogue with India for the simple reason that there can hardly be a better way of sorting contentious issues out between any two states, more particularly between neighbouring countries, which have failed to resolve them with the force of arms. Besides, inter-regional harmony to which talks with India should contribute and economic and commercial ties have proven to be of great benefit to the parties involved in recording quicker progress and alleviating poverty of their masses, an important factor for a developing country like Pakistan.

Nevertheless, with the painful backlog of Pak-India history, to which New Delhi has continued, deliberately and provocatively, to add vitiating substances, any move to develop normal relations with it has to be taken with due caution. Incomprehensibly, however, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is showing no signs of restraint in putting relations with India on an even keel, giving the impression of an unbecoming desperation. In a meeting with the visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday, he apprised him that backdoor diplomacy with India had been revived. One would have preferred, though, that the Prime Minister adopted the normal channel of diplomatic contacts, instead. Simply because it is inadvisable to hold secret talks with a country, which has gone back on its solemn commitments made at no less a forum than the UN Security Council. Backdoor diplomacy is conducted beyond the glare of media and hence public knowledge and will make it easier for India to renege on any promises it makes.

However, while holding talks through backdoor diplomacy or open diplomatic channels, Pakistan must not lose sight of certain realities on the ground. India’s unabated persecution of the hapless people of Kashmir whose only fault is that they demand the right of self-determination to decide whether they wish to join Pakistan or India, in line with the UN resolutions India itself sponsored.. Last Wednesday, its security forces shot dead six unarmed Kashmiris for protesting against raiding a mosque and killing its imam. India’s refusal to resolve the dispute cannot be taken lightly. It has been made more complicated by water diversion to irrigate Indian lands, posing existential threat to Pakistan. Kashmir must constitute an integral part of negotiations and concrete progress towards its resolution assured before normalising relations with India.