Neemrana dialogue: India-Pakistan Track II initiative dialogue, just another case of optics?

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New Delhi | Published: May 7, 2018 2:34:31 PM

India has continued to maintain that it will not change its position on terrorism. It has always said that terror and talks cannot go together. However, both India and Pakistan decided to participate in the Neemrana Dialogue. The dialogue is one of the oldest Track-II initiatives between India and Pakistan. It was held in Neemrana fort in Rajasthan from April 28th to April 30th.

neerana dialogue, india, pakistan, track ii diplomacyA group of Indian experts has visited Pakistan to discuss all aspects of bilateral ties and revive the Track II diplomacy process with Islamabad amidst the chill in the relationship after a number of terror attacks in India by Pakistan-based outfits. (Reuters)

The Neemrana dialogue, one of the oldest Track-II initiatives between India and Pakistan was renewed and was held in Neemrana fort in Rajasthan from April 28th to April 30th. Delegates from the Indian side included senior former diplomats Vivek Katju and Rakesh Sood and it was reported that Pakistan’s delegation was represented by former Foreign Minister of Pakistan Inam-Ul-Haq and former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Husain. The Government of India described the revival of Neemrana dialogue, track II diplomacy as just a normal process which entails people-to-people exchanges between India and Pakistan.

India has continued to maintain that it will not change its position on terrorism. It has always said that terror and talks cannot go together. However, both India and Pakistan decided to participate in the Neemrana Dialogue. The track-II initiative which was first held in 1991-92, was revived after a long gap. It was reported that the two sides discussed issues related to Kashmir, Siachen, terrorism, cross-border firing and also Sir Creek. However, both sides made no official statements on the event. It was just reported that the Indian delegation would be sending its report to the Ministry of External Affairs soon.

Prof Sreeram Chaulia, Dean of Jindal School of International Affairs and a foreign affairs expert told the Financial Express Online, “This is not something which is big and one must understand that these kinds of channel talks are always happening”. Since past few years, the relationship between India and Pakistan has also been on a downhill trajectory. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a website that maintains data on terrorism reported that a total of 358 people were killed in Kashmir in 2017. This has been highest since 2011.

Prof Chaulia also said that it is also necessary to have these track-II diplomatic talks. “Though track-II diplomatic talks are not codified as official statements, it helps in understanding what the other side thinks. The candid nature of these dialogues will also help in perceiving the diplomatic redlines necessary to develop newer policies”, he added.

MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had told the media that there was no dilution of India’s policy towards Pakistan. He also said that India’s position on terror was clear and consistent and maintained that terror and talks cannot go together. However, the track-II diplomatic dialogue would be helpful in testing Pakistan’s outlook. Given the fact that Pakistan is going for elections a year earlier than India, these track-II diplomatic channels would be helpful to better understand the political air of Islamabad, Chaulia told FE Online.

The Neemrana Dialogue was launched first in 1991 as a track-II diplomatic initiative. This track-II diplomatic meet included former senior diplomats, former foreign ministers, veterans from all the three Services and also had the unofficial backing of the incumbent foreign ministers of both the countries. However, there has been no official bilateral talks between the two countries due to the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai. The relationship was also strained due to the surgical strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, that was carried to eliminate terrorists after the Uri attack. And lastly, the scope for dialogue was further diminished after the death sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav by a Pakistan military court last year.

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