Islamabad, Jan 11: It may be best to delay India-Pakistan peace talks scheduled to take place on January 15 until the dust has settled over Pathankot attack, says an editorial, published in Pakistan's popular daily.
The editorial titled Ëngaging India" appeared on Dawn online Monday.
A group of terrorists attacked the Indian Air Force (IAF) air base in Pathankot on January 2. Seven soldiers were martyred and six militants were killed in the attack.
The attack was later claimed by the United Jehad Council (UJC), an umbrella grouping of Kashmiri militant groups based in Pakistan.
"After an initially ‘mature' response to the attack on the Pathankot air force base, the Indian government has reverted to its familiar stance and made the foreign secretary talks contingent on Pakistan's ‘action' against the Kashmiri groups who have claimed responsibility for the attack."
Pakistan will be blamed if the scheduled dialogue process is called off and this will be a no-win situation for Islamabad, added the editorial.
On condition of failure of the dialogue India will blame Pakistan for inaction and complicity.
"If the talks go as per the schedule, the Pakistan leadership will be viewed, domestically, as having given in to Indian bullying. Under the circumstances, it may be best to delay the dialogue until the dust has settled over Pathankot," it added.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's diplomats and officials should develop a set of principles and clear objectives to be followed whenever the Comprehensive Dialogue is commenced.
It said that Indian government led by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, agreed to resume dialogue only after the Pakistan prime minister refused to play by the Indian rulebook.
"Policy should first seek to advance national interest and only secondly seek to find compromises. The measure of success is not the accolades of the West but the value added to the national interest," it added.
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Political leaders change; state interests rarely do so do not personalise policies.
"Know the issues. Each item on the agenda has a long, often convoluted, history with which our negotiators must be fully familiar. Do not accept the vocabulary of the adversary. For example, Kashmiri ‘freedom fighters' cannot be equated with ‘terrorists', it added.
It also suggests to refrain from advertising internal differences, like, between the military and civilians, or between the Foreign Office and politicians. It weakens the national negotiating position.
Linguistic trap should also not hit the dialogue process. Indians (and Pakistanis) are very adept at manipulating the English language to secure gains at the negotiating table.
The Ufa communiqué is a painful example.
"Changing the ‘composite' dialogue to 'comprehensive' dialogue is not without significance. ‘Composite' was designed to connote the interlinkages between the two plus six agenda. ‘Comprehensive' loosens the linkages; it also enables the inclusion of terrorism as a new item on the agenda."
Pakistan's negotiators should also be clear about the objectives like Kashmir, terrorism, peace and security, trade and economic cooperation, Siachen and Sir Creek which can be realistically promoted at this stage in the Comprehensive Dialogue.
There are some ‘new' issues like transit, water, Afghanistan which may assume considerable importance in the coming years.
"Even if the Comprehensive Dialogue starts, progress in addressing the agenda will be difficult and uncertain. Despite the yearning of our elites, the animus between the peoples of Pakistan and India is palpable and cannot be overcome by chapati diplomacy or song and dance routines," concludes it.