Hope for Progress in India-Pakistan Talks

However, when will it be seen that it is not words but intentions that matter? Is India willing to demonstrate that it believes in a stable Pakistan? The secretary-level talks would have been an excellent opportunity for Indians to have demonstrated that we mean what we say. For India, a democratic, and economically and politically stable Pakistan which is secure in its own identity and confident about its security is the best neighbor.

Even after two years in the saddle, the civilian government in Pakistan is weak and often takes two steps backward before it takes one step forward. However, the civilian government has done more towards tackling the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan than any previous regime. The seven accused in the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008 have not yet been indicted, but that has more to do with domestic politics than any reluctance on the part of the administration.

If we pause to consider how deep is the mistrust between Indian and Pakistani security and intelligence establishments, maybe we will realize that the best way to tackle the issue is to talk more with Pakistan, not break off ties. Perhaps the joint intelligence mechanism which was set up in 2006-2007 needs to be given an opportunity to work. Taking upĀ  Lt. General Pasha's -- the current Pakistani intelligence chief -- offer to talk might be a good idea, as would accepting Premier Gilani's recent comments that Pakistan would be willing to share intelligence with India.

The hawks in India will definitely disagree, but as the older democracy in the region, India should be more accepting. Analysts have often compared India-Pakistan relations to U.S.-Canada relations and hoped for as good a relationship between the former as there is between the latter. Some Indian analysts assert that just as Canada has accepted that the U.S. is the dominant power in the continent, similarly, Pakistan must do the same. What they fail to point out is that for this to happen, the U.S. has by and large acted magnanimously with its neighbor and they share open borders.

Indians need to be realists, not hawks or idealists. Lighting candles at Wagah border is not going to solve our problems, but neither is blaming Pakistan for everything. Pakistani leaders also need to realize that blaming India for all domestic and security related issues will not solve Pakistan's problems. Instead, by developing better ties with India, a lot of Pakistan's economic and security-related issues will be resolved.

For the last few months, the Indian government has been claiming that a resumption of the composite dialogue would be a concession to Pakistan, and therefore unacceptable to the Indian public. Similarly, the Pakistani government hides behind the cloak of anti-India public opinion.

What we have to ask ourselves is if this really true. Do the Indian and Pakistani publics really prefer belligerence and jingoism over a chance for peace and prosperity on both sides of the India-Pakistan border? The growing cultural, economic, and technological ties between the two countries show that Indians and Pakistanis want to move beyond the legacy of mistrust. But will their governments help them in this process or hinder them? Leaders are meant to frame and lead public opinion, not hide behind it.