‘The way forward is to get the LoC incident off the cover pages and let the governments deal with it’
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In this Idea Exchange, Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir speaks about the recent flare-up at the LoC, need for strengthening mechanisms of dialogue and the internal situation in Pakistan. The session was moderated by Deputy Editor Pranab Dhal Samanta
Pranab Dhal Samanta: Please describe the diplomatic developments since your foreign minister offered talks to the Indian government in light of the recent LoC incidents?
Salman Bashir: We in Pakistan—the government, the people—sincerely desire good, friendly, neighbourly relations with our close neighbour, India. I believe that sentiment is reciprocated by India and both countries have, at the highest levels, agreed to work to make this happen, and we have succeeded to a very large extent. Of course, recent weeks have seen a certain anxiety. What are the lessons we learnt from this? The first lesson I learnt was that we may need to have a better framework or a better standard operating procedure to deal with issues which could inflame passions and become unmanageable. In times of difficulty, it's important that we gather the right lessons on how to handle certain contingencies or exigencies. We ought to do this using the mechanisms that exist between Pakistan and India. We are fortunate to have placed in the past so many decades the framework that ought to be used. Things communicated through mutual channels could lead to quicker and better resolution or to a better understanding of each other instead of communicating through the media waves. Both the governments are well in control of the situation. There have been good contacts at the military level, especially the recent conversations between the two director generals of military operations which has resulted in a reaffirmation of restraint and respect for the ceasefire on the line of control. Two, at the diplomatic level, we have been in contact and I must acknowledge with a great degree of appreciation, the exceptionally important role played by the external affairs minister, Mr Salman Khurshid. I think his remarks have been particularly helpful in diffusing the situation in the public domain. A lot needs to be transacted at the diplomatic level. We have always felt that the foreign ministries clearly have the mandate and they should steer the course of relations. It is very important, irrespective of any event or series of events, that the direction is maintained and the direction is positive. I think there is enough wisdom, enough capability on both sides, therefore, to handle this particular situation on the LoC with the care and attention it deserves. Now what are the essentials? From the Pakistani perspective, the requirement is to de-escalate. Anything that contributes to a de-escalation is welcome and this has to be done at all levels. Two, dialogue and there we have the offer from Pakistan to reach out and to get into conversations even if required at the level of the foreign ministers to deal with all the concerns. That process has to go forward. We need to create the right atmosphere to move forward and that means creating an atmosphere of positivity. The third element is my appeal to everybody to allow such a conducive atmosphere to take shape. It is very important that both Pakistan and India pursue the future course of our relations in every aspect. Matters of concern need to be addressed. Where our interests converge, and there are many areas where our interests converge, we ought to proceed with confidence. Where there are issues, we need to demonstrate restraint. We must believe in the inherent civilisational values, the wisdom that we can take care of a lot of issues by demonstrating a lot of maturity and responsibility. So de-escalation, dialogue, maturity, responsibility, creating a positive atmosphere is what is required.