An editorial “India-Pakistan talks” in the Dawn on Wednesday said that the start of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD) has now been delayed by more than a month, but comments by the Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale suggest that officials from both sides are trying to create the right environment for this to begin.
“While not mentioning any preconditions for the start of the CBD, Bambawale did reveal that the foreign secretaries and national security advisers of Pakistan and India are trying to determine when the talks can begin, a timeline presumably linked to progress on the investigations into the Pathankot air base attack,” said the daily.
It wondered at what stage have the investigations reached? “After early and seemingly rapid movement, the trail appears to have gone cold – or at least news of further progress has been missing.”
The daily observed that the relative restraint that both sides showed in the face of immediate accusations and recriminations over the Pathankot attack will only matter if it can lead to meaningful cooperation.
“There are still some basic questions about the Pathankot attack that have not been definitively answered. Who were the attackers? Did they cross the international border? Who were the architects and planners of the attack?
“Each of those questions needs only a factual response, but a legal one so that justice can be pursued on both sides of the border.”
It went on to say that neither India nor Pakistan seems keen to publicly put all speculation to rest immediately.
“Perhaps behind the scenes there are disagreements over what amounts to actionable intelligence and which parts of the public allegations are speculative, but that would suggest that politics is interfering with forensic investigation.
“Given the resources of the two countries and the importance of what took place in Pathankot in early January, a month and a half ought to have been enough for at least the basic facts to be mutually established and shared with the public in both India and Pakistan.
“Worryingly, it does not appear that lessons have been learned from the investigations into the Mumbai attacks of 2008.”
It suggested that perhaps what is needed is a further dose of direct prime ministerial intervention.
“After all, had it not been for the boldness of prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and NarendraModi, the CBD was unlikely to have materialised.”
The editorial went on to say that in making the decision to resume full-fledged talks, the two prime ministers rightly realised that the India-Pakistan relationship cannot be reduced to a single issue for either side.
“Discussing terrorism to the exclusion of all other issues was unlikely to bring peace, a fact that (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi eventually realised. Similarly, notwithstanding the centrality of the Kashmir dispute, the Pakistani attempt to cast terrorism as a side issue was never going to succeed.
“The Pathankot attack has not undone the logic of the CBD; far from it, the attack has reinforced the need for India and Pakistan to engage each other.”