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To put the India-Pakistan peace process back on track, seize the political initiative
Reports that India is actively considering Pakistan's proposals for a resumption of the formal dialogue between the two countries next month are welcome. Since the return of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, hopes for imparting a new momentum to the stalled peace process have risen. After the tensions on the border between the two armed forces in January, the formal dialogue between the two countries had come to a halt. The attempts to reconvene the talks follow the recent contacts between the special envoys of the two prime ministers — Satinder Lambah for Manmohan Singh, and Shaharyar Khan representing Sharif. The external affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, had the opportunity to speak to Sharif's top advisor on foreign policy, Sartaj Aziz, on the margins of an Asian multilateral gathering earlier this month.
It now looks likely that Singh and Sharif will meet in New York in late September, when they both attend the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly. Delhi and Islamabad, then, have a few weeks to ensure that the New York talks will produce meaningful results and set the stage for the Indian PM's long overdue visit to Pakistan. But the formal conversation that goes by the ungainly name, the "composite and integrated dialogue", is not the answer for those seeking peace in the subcontinent. To be fair, bureaucrats on both sides have done what they could at the technical level. They have negotiated a road map for deepening trade relations and covered much ground on resolving the long-standing disputes relating to Siachen glacier and Sir Creek.