Ever at loggerheads, India and Pakistan staged yet another mutual discussion last week. Feel free to rejoice: at the end of it all, they agreed to launch the fourth round of the composite dialogue on March 13-14, 2007….Wow!
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said, “We reviewed progress on all issues on the composite dialogue framework comprising peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir…promotion of friendly exchange and trade and economic cooperation." Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee acquiesced, "We agreed that the first meeting of the joint anti-terrorism mechanism will take place before end of March 2007."
Pretty exciting stuff.
Mr. Mukherjee was in Islamabad to deliver an invitation to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to attend the 14th regional SAARC Summit in New Delhi on April 2-4. It has not been accepted. The letter was instead passed down to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. But no one is moaning in agony. All attention was focused on the important talks that Mr.Mukherjee was expected to hold with Mr. Khurshid and President Musharraf. Their performances were revealing.
At the post-discussion press conference the two foreign ministers resembled actors playing minor roles in some surreal East European film. They announced to have "agreed to allow the movement of diplomats to Noida and Gurgaon in India and Taxila and Hasan Abdal in Pakistan." Gurgaon and Noida are shopping suburbs of New Delhi, while Taxila and Hasan Abdal are historical landmarks within a few miles of Islamabad. These destinations are barred for the diplomats of either country.
However, the diplomats need not plan weekend jaunts just yet. “Procedures for this will be worked out," Mr. Mukherjee added.
Should we clap and cheer that the governments of the two biggest South Asian countries have finally decided to grant their bored diplomats the modest pleasure of driving to nearby malls and historic ruins? If elaborate procedures are painstakingly devised for non-issues, we need not be think-tank experts to imagine the kind of insurmountable roadblocks that lie ahead for matters of actual concern.
Such bureaucratic lethargy exposes how far the policymakers have drifted away from the ground realities on the shore. Now it's too late to float back. The time for peace has already passed away. This blogger believes it unwise to expect peace in our life times and unrealistic to dream about it for our grandchildren either.
The dividing wall of prejudice and mistrust is here to stay.