India and Pakistan have taken the path of secret diplomacy to reach out an elusive deal on the longstanding Kashmir dispute, reported a Pakistani newspaper.
Both the countries want to move forward from the path adopted by the General Musharraf-Manmohan governments to find an ‘out of box’ solution to the conflict that has lead to three wars between the two neighbouring countries.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his counterpart Narendra Modi have decided to use ‘back channels’ for in-depth discussions on Kashmir through their respective confidantes,” Express Tribune reported quoting sources.
According to the report, the foreign secretaries of the two countries will discuss Kashmir but their mandate will be restricted to necessary confidence-building measures (CBMs) for improving the atmosphere as well as the situation along both sides of the Line of Control (LoC).
The newspaper claimed through its sources that both India and Pakistan will use ‘back channels’ talks for in-depth discussions on Kashmir through their respective confidantes.
The two countries have had in the past used back channels to break a stalemate on Kashmir.
S K Lambah, a close confidante of former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Musharraf’s close aide Tariq Aziz reportedly held over 200 hours of discussions on the draft agreement during their over two dozen secret meetings in Dubai and Kathmandu.
The proposed agreement suggested joint management of both sides of Kashmir and demilitarisation of the disputed territory.
“However, political upheaval as a result of lawyers’ long march in Pakistan against Musharraf in 2007 disrupted the process,” the newspaper said.
Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri in his book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’ revealed that Islamabad and New Delhi were close to striking a deal on Kashmir through secret talks during Musharraf’s tenure.
It is not clear, though, whether the current national security advisers, who recently met in Bangkok, will spearhead the secret diplomacy or the two sides will appoint some other interlocutors for the delicate job.
Source said once negotiations begin, the two sides will discuss ways and means for Kashmir settlement and also examine a draft agreement, exchanged between Musharraf and Manmohan administrations.
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday made a statement in the parliament on India-Pakistan relations in the Rajya Sabha amid continuous protests by Opposition, including the Congress, JD-U and Trinamool.
Swaraj said the decision to revive talks in Bangkok was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Paris.
She said India and Pakistan would engage in a “comprehensive” dialogue on all issues, including peace, security, and Kashmir.
Swaraj said the government accords highest priority to country’s security and building an environment of peaceful, co-operative relations with neighbours, including Pakistan.
The latest initiative by the NDA government will help establish peace and harmony in the entire region, she said, even as the Opposition parties continued to create ruckus in the House.