Thursday, February 11, 2010

Will the India-Pakistan Peace Talks Succeed?

After more than a year without any visible progress [following the Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11 (November 26 2008)], India and Pakistan appear at last to be heading toward talks - beginning first with Foreign Secretary level 'talks about talks'. The Asia Society of New York organized a discussion with Prof. Adil Najam (Boston University) and Prof. C. Raja Mohan (Library of Congress) on the issue on Thursday, February 4th, 2010.

In their opening statements both Najam and Raja Mohan agreed that the Kashmir issue was now really 'ripe' for solution, but that this could change if the opportunity was missed. Both also agreed that the 'smaller' issues - Siachen, Sir Creek, etc could be done first, since fairly detailed agreements have already been negotiated on them, and are ready for signature. Both also felt that, once the 'talks about talks' get going, at least an agreement to 'keep talking no matter what happens' should come out of it. Raja Mohan sketched out 5 elements of what an agreement on Kashmir should contain (hinting that these had already been agreed on): (i) No change in territorial disposition of Kashmir - i.e., no outright transfers of territory from one jurisdiction to another (ii) Soft borders i.e., change not in the 'borders' themselves but in their character (iii) Significant autonomy to the parts of Kashmir respectively occupied by Pakistan and India (iv) Joint institutions delivering solutions to people's problems on both sides of the soft border (v) Progressive demilitarization with simultaneous reduction in (militant) violence on both sides of the soft border. Najam made a very interesting presentation, ending with a 3 part message to India and Pakistan: (i) Get Real (ii) Get Together (iii) Get Going!