Hope for Progress in India-Pakistan Talks

India and Pakistan had a historic opportunity in front of them: an opportunity to move beyond the old cycle of rhetoric where each side simply indulges in grandstanding and only puts forth its complaints against the other, not ways to move ahead. But on February 25, when the talks were finally held between the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries, they only reaffirmed the need to talk; they did not even put forth a date for future meetings.

In 2004 the governments of India and Pakistan started the composite peace dialogue to tackle some of the key issues troubling the two nations. The November 2008 attacks in Mumbai by the Pakistan-based Kashmiri jihadi group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, however, led India to put a hold on these talks.

With the reelection of the Congress-led government to power in June 2009 there was hope that the peace process would resume. The meeting between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani at Sharm el Sheikh in July 2009 reflected these sentiments. However, for the last few months India has refused to hold talks. It insists that in order for the composite dialogue to resume Pakistan must do more on tackling the terror infrastructure within its borders.

Terrorism is a major Indian concern, and Pakistan needs to tackle the multi-headed hydra monster that previous regimes allowed to grow in their country. However, just as terrorism is important to India, security is paramount for Pakistan.

There are many principles which underlie any nation's foreign policy and the same is true of Pakistan. However, the one key underlying factor is its sense of existential threat from a larger neighbor India. Its security, defense, and foreign policies have been framed to a large extent by this fear, resulting in unwillingness on the part of Pakistani leaders to seek cordiality with India.

If someone indulges in paranoia, the best way to help the person overcome the fear is to reassure that person that we have no ill will towards them. Over the years successive Indian leaders have done that starting with Jawaharlal Nehru and continuing through Atal Behari Vajpayee and incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Here is a sampling of their statements:

I can assure the people of Pakistan that India has no aggressive designs against any country, least of all against Pakistan. We want Pakistan to live in peace and to progress and to have the closest ties with us. There never will be aggression from our side.

A stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is in Indias interest. Let no one in Pakistan be in doubt. India sincerely wishes Pakistan well.

India would like to live at peace with Pakistan and we are ready to extend our hand of friendship and partnership with Pakistan.