ISLAMABAD – Former Vice Chief of the Indian army, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Moti Dhar has said that the Kashmir issue is very complicated, while there are bright chances of resolution of Siachen, Sir Creek, and water issues between India and Pakistan.

He made these observations while speaking at a roundtable organized by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) with India Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace (IPSIP) here on Thursday.

Gen. Dhar, who was heading the IPSIP delegation, said that there is a need of greater understanding between India and Pakistan over water issues. He said that Indians and Pakistanis need to keep it in mind that water resources are dwindling with the period of time and that both countries will not only have to resolve their water issues but will also have to evolve ways and means to effectively utilize the existing resource of water available to both the countries. “Water problems should not be turned into an emotional issue,” said Gen. Dhar.

Col. (Retd.) Gautam Das of the IPSIP delegation argued that Pakistan could unilaterally withdraw from Siachen if it was finding it difficult to sustain the war. He was of the view that the presence of the Indian troops on the Saltoro ridgeline would not pose a threat to Pakistan because of the difficulty of the terrain.

Countering Col. Das’s arguments, Prof. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of the School of Politics and International Relations at the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) said that there are better ways of military disengagement in Siachen than a unilateral withdrawal of Pakistani troops, which he called impractical. He suggested learning from the Sino-Indian border disengagement. Another member of the IPSIP delegation from India, Col. (Retd.) A.R. Khan, was of the view that Siachen is a futile war and that courageous thinking is needed on both sides for resolving the conflict.

Dr. Tahir Amin, Director of the National Institute of Pakistan Studies at the QAU, argued that Pakistan always wanted to take a top-down approach in the dialogue with India for the resolution of the core issues, while India always wanted a bottom-up approach. The problem, he argued, arose when Pakistan would agree to Indian step-by-step bottom-up approach and would still not see any progress on the core issues, which he said, bred frustration in Pakistan.Agreeing with Dr. Amin, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Talat Masood also called for progress on core issues such as Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, and water. He said that India should not hide behind excuses such as its domestic politics or overall political and security situation in Pakistan. “Both the countries will have to think how the fundamental change in thinking can be incentivized,” he asked.

He was of the view that a fundamental shift in strategic thinking had already taken place in Pakistan and that the ball was in the Indian court now to reciprocate with progress.

Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Saleem Haider argued that people-to-people contacts would have to be coupled with government-to-government efforts at resolving core issues and normalization of relations.

President of IRS, Ashraf Azim, said that peace is the only option for India and Pakistan. He urged Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan despite all the domestic and bilateral issues.

Gen. Dhar reiterated that the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had decided not to come to Pakistan because his domestic position had grown weaker, which had diminished his capacity to sell any compromise with Pakistan back home.

Gen. Dhar argued that a stable and friendly Pakistan is in the interest of India. He was of the opinion that the revenge mindset against Pakistan in India has faded since the 1971 war.

Gen. Dhar termed the Pakistani perception of Indian involvement in Balochistan for destabilization as completely baseless.