The absence of a sustained engagement between India and Pakistan on a whole range of issues affecting the sub-continent was unhealthy, counterproductive and even dangerous.
In fact, what a group of senior opinion makers from the two countries who met in Bangkok at end of last month recommended, through a resolution, was an “uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue on issues of strategic stability”, active steps to increase people-to-people contacts, continuous exchange of information between the two countries on terrorism, a dialogue between the intelligence agencies of the two countries, and steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack of 2008 and the blasts in the Samjhauta Express that led to loss of many innocent lives.
At the sixth round of the Chaopraya Dialogue in Bangkok retired ambassadors and foreign secretaries, former intelligence chiefs, academicians, and strategic policy journalists from the two countries met for two days to discuss critical issues that affect bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. The dialogue, which culminated in a joint resolution by the participants, focused on terrorism, Jammu & Kashmir, nuclear stability and crisis management among several other issues.
The joint resolution noted the absence of a ‘formal and sustained’ engagement on the full range of issues between both nations was counterproductive and dangerous. It hoped the upcoming meeting of foreign secretaries in Thimpu would prepare the ground for resumption of a comprehensive and sustained dialogue (that was disrupted after the Mumbai terror attack).
Back-channel negotiations must be used to complement such formal dialogue, the resolution urged. The participants also noted with regret, the difficulties faced in fostering people-to-people contact across the border. The resolution asked both Governments to adopt a visa regime that facilitates contacts, particularly between media practitioners, academics, students and business people. It said the media should be encouraged to strengthen the peace constituency in both the countries.
The dialogue also acknowledged the deep concern that terrorism presented to both India and Pakistan. The perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks should be brought to justice, while India has to expeditiously prosecute those involved in the Samjhauta Express attack and keep Pakistan informed of the same. The group recommended an “uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue on issues of strategic stability”.
On the nuclear front, the resolution called for a review of “the efficacy of existing CBMs between the two countries and explore additional declaratory, unilateral, and mutually agreed Nuclear Confidence Building Measures and Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures”. In addition, the need for discussion between China, India and Pakistan to promote strategic stability with a focus on the logic of sufficiency of arsenals was emphasized.
The Chaophraya Dialogue, organized jointly by the Jinnah Institute in Islamabad and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, included among others, Sherry Rehman (Member of Parliament), Aziz Khan (Ambassador Retd.), Jehangir Karamat (General Retd.) from Pakistan and Raja Menon (Rear Admiral Retd.), G. Parthasarathy (former ambassador) and Prof. Amitabh Mattoo (International Politics, JNU).