It seems that efforts by Pakistan to restart the dialogue process with India have borne fruit. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh are set to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, most likely on 29th Sep. Both PMs have expressed their delight on the prospect of resumption of talks, and it is hoped that the meeting is the first of many to follow.

To say that the Indo-Pak relationship is highly complicated would be an understatement. The two countries have a history; a past tainted with memories of unrestrained aggression and broken promises. The mistrust which has developed over decades runs deep. Actual events and relentless propaganda from both states has left the societies, on both sides of the border, hate-filled and skeptical to any notion of an improved relationship. But, history has taught the traditional rivals a valuable lesson.

With both countries now armed with nuclear weapons, talks seem to be only option available to move forward. The two countries face similar challenges; poverty, illiteracy, unemployment etc. Due to a hostile relationship, considerable efforts and resources have been focused on building deterrence, instead of alleviating the condition of the people.  There is a growing realisation, amongst masses and leadership alike, that dialogue may succeed where guns and tanks have failed.

In the last few months, skirmishes on the Line of Control (LOC), allegations of beheadings and state-sponsored terrorism, have added fuel to the fire. Just when many saw the two countries heading the old destructive path, the news of the meeting is nothing short of a breakthrough. For PM Manmohan Singh to accept the offer, during a time when general elections in his country are fast approaching, is reflective of a welcome shift in policy. Pakistan-bashing is a commodity which sells best during elections, and any move which can be labeled as ‘Pakistan-friendly’ is a political risk many have refrained from taking. Credit goes to PM Nawaz Sharif as well, for resisting the pressure from hardliners at home, who only become relevant in times of possibilities.

However, if a permanent settlement is desired, Kashmir cannot be ignored, which is the lasting issue between the two sides. The PM must realise that economic ties will play a vital role, but their significance cannot be overplayed. As long as human rights violations keep plaguing the disputed region, the two nations will struggle to come to terms with each other. A resumption of dialogue is encouraging if it will point in the direction of an eventual solution on Kashmir, hopefully in line with UN resolutions; to hold a plebiscite.