Tue, 11 May 2021

'India-Pak backchannel dialogue on track '

10 Apr 2021, 00:56 GMT+10

Islamabad [Pakistan], April 9 (ANI): Despite some issues in the past few days, there is cautious optimism in Pakistan that the thaw in their relations with India is holding steady, according to insiders from Islamabad's Red Zone.

Last week, the Pakistan government abruptly backtracked from the Economic Coordination Committee's (ECC) decision to allow the import of sugar, cotton and cotton yarn from India through land and sea routes. However, Red Zone insiders say that while the normalisation of India-Pakistan relations may have hit a temporary bump due to this, it has not derailed, writes Fahid Husain for Dawn.

One of the reasons for the confidence is that both sides have invested much of their time and efforts into the quiet process of backchannel engagement. High-level sources have said that the engagement process had started as early as 2018.

In 2020, India and Pakistan restarted their quiet engagement after the conflict-ridden year of 2019. The process was encouraged by some influential countries that have continued to urge both neighbours to keep their backchannel alive even during the most hostile of times.

Red Zone insiders acknowledge that Indian officials were open to hearing Pakistan arguments and often responded constructively.

Indian officials raised the issue of "cross-border terrorism" emanating in Pakistan during the dialogue, Dawn reported.

Last month, after discussions between the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan, the two sides have to cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors with effect from midnight of February 24 to 25.

The discussion between the two armies took place at a time when a large number of ceasefire violations were taking place along the LoC and violence levels were going up especially for the villagers living along the LoC on both sides.

"Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight of February 24 to 25," a joint statement issued by the Defence Ministry said.

According to Dawn, officials in Islamabad believe that the backchannel talks between the two countries have shown that both countries are ready and willing to explore options that can help in settling disputes peacefully.

With regard to Pakistan's unexpected move of stopping trade with India, Red Zone insiders claimed that the mishandling of the trade issue by the country's commerce ministry has not helped the process of bilateral engagement. However, they also noted that there was no adverse reaction from India.

Stressing that the Pakistan government should improve its inter-ministerial coordination before creating further complications, Husain writes citing officials that the backchannel engagement can produce even better results if it moves forward gradually. (ANI)

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