India and Pakistan revive Track II talks

Former foreign secretary Salman Bashir. (AFP)
Updated 02 May 2018

India and Pakistan revive Track II talks

  • Political will to resolve differences between the two nations exists in Pakistan, says former foreign secretary.
  • “Pakistan is absolutely in favor of improving relations with India on the basis of equality, mutual interests and respect,” Salman Bashir.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India are reported to have resumed the Neemrana Dialogue through non-governmental discussions known as Track II negotiations, to address a wide range of issues that are causing concern despite the strained relations that exist between the two countries.
The initiative was resuscitated after an Indian delegation of former diplomats, army veterans and academics, headed by former External Affairs Secretary Vivek Katju, traveled across the border and met a group of Pakistanis led by Inam-ul-Haq, who occupied some of the highest posts while working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, until his retirement.
Neemrana Dialogue was the first and one of the most notable Track II initiatives. It was launched at the Neemrana Fort in Rajasthan, India, in October 1991. It also resulted in the emergence of similar programs designed to normalize relations between the two bitter South Asian neighbors.
“There have been other Track II initiatives, but these were mostly funded by third parties. Neemrana had more India-Pakistan character,” said former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, T.C.A. Raghavan.
According to a report published by Times of India, the Neemrana meeting was held from April 28 to April 30 in Pakistan. The newspaper also claimed that New Delhi was going to observe and assess the result of Pakistan’s 2018 general elections before deciding to open official channels and resume the dialogue between the two countries.
“Pakistan is absolutely in favor of improving relations with India on the basis of equality, mutual interests and respect,” said former Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, while talking to Arab News. “Starting a process of dispute resolution requires political will, which exists in Pakistan.”
Relations between the South Asian nuclear neighbors have been low for a significantly long period: Some of the issues that have come to plague them, such as harassment of diplomats, have been addressed and resolved, though others, such as border skirmishes, have escalated.
An informal dialogue was held recently between the national security advisers of India and Pakistan to reduce tensions in the region.
Talking to Arab News, prominent political and foreign relations expert, Dr. Nazir Hussain, maintained that backchannel diplomacy should remain veiled from the media and public due to the sensitive nature of the troubled relations between Islamabad and New Delhi.
“Backdoor diplomacy has failed in the past since the media got a whiff of it,” Dr. Hussain said when he was asked why Pakistan had chose to remain silent on positive steps toward improving relations in the region.
“Due to constant Indian refusal to negotiate, Pakistan has remained cautious. It’s better to keep these contacts out of the public domain till something concrete is achieved,” he added.


Four killed in India clash ahead of Trump arrival

A man supporting a new citizenship law throws a stone at those who are opposing the law, during a clash in New Delhi, India, February 24, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 min 26 sec ago

Four killed in India clash ahead of Trump arrival

  • The new law has raised worries abroad — including in Washington — that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to remold secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalizing the country’s 200 million Muslims, a claim he denies

NEW DELHI: A policeman was among at least four people killed in New Delhi on Monday during violent clashes over a contentious citizenship law, local media said, hours before US President Donald Trump arrived in the Indian capital for an official visit.
Protesters torched at least two houses and shops before later setting a tire market on fire, the Press Trust of India said. Local TV channels showed plumes of black smoke billowing from buildings.
One video posted on social media showed crowds of men shouting “Jai Shree Ram” or “Hail Lord Ram,” a revered Hindu deity, as they went on a rampage.
Protests have broken out across India since the citizenship law came into force in December, leaving at least 30 people killed in clashes with police. Critics say the law discriminates against Muslims.
The new law has raised worries abroad — including in Washington — that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to remold secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalizing the country’s 200 million Muslims, a claim he denies.
The latest unrest erupted between several hundred supporters and opponents of the law in a Muslim-dominated area of northeast Delhi on Sunday, and continued Monday.
A constable died after receiving a critical head injury, while another senior officer was among the injured.
Local media said three civilians also died and many people were hurt.
“Please renounce violence. Nobody benefits from this. All problems will be solved by peace,” Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted that schools in the capital’s northeast would be shut on Tuesday and exams postponed.
Trump arrived in the western state of Gujarat on Monday and addressed about 100,000 people at a rally with Modi before he visited the Taj Mahal monument in Agra.
Later Monday the US president landed in Delhi before official talks in the city on Tuesday.
A senior US official told reporters that Trump would raise concerns about religious freedom in the Hindu-majority nation during the trip, calling them “extremely important to this administration.”