Pakistan has conveyed to India its preferred dates for the resumption of the composite dialogue with secretary-level talks on the Wullar Barrage issue and on the Sir Creek maritime boundary issue. The dates are for next month and September, respectively.

According to an exclusive report by The Nation's diplomatic correspondent, they represent a resumption of the composite dialogue round launched last September, but suspended due to LoC violations by India.

If the composite dialogue is being reinitiated at Pakistan's request, it must defeat the perception among its own populace, that it will be beholden to an Indian agenda. The emotionally laden issue of Kashmir, which will be conspicuous by absence in the composite dialogue, is the only argument against reopening of dialogue by Pakistani conservatives. And it is a fair one, at that.

Given the emotional investment by the Pakistani people in the core issue of contention between the two countries: ie Kashmir issue, and the fact that in public no Pakistani politician will admit to abandoning it, and in private none will commit to defending it, negative commentary on the composite dialogue is to be expected.

The development must not be entirely rubbished, as it is through the hard work of Pakistani diplomats that India has finally been brought to the table for talks. A further success is that it has been brought to the table on the subject of the Wullar Barrage, which is geographically located deep inside Indian Held Kashmir.

Water-related issues between Pakistan and India will inevitably lead to a discussion about Kashmir. Indian control of Kashmir is also inspired by the motivation to keep a check on Pakistan’s water supplies. But at the same time, India, hoping desperately to flex its muscles as a regional power, is clearly in need of solving the Kashmir issue, a recurring embarrassment of its less than glowing human rights record.

Pakistan must keep its own need in mind, that the solution of the Kashmir issue is the one way that it can justifiably begin to put a halt to yearly defence budget increases. The fact that India and Pakistan even with the best of relations, will continue to be wary neighbours, is a reality. But the stance on Kashmir is a matter of principle, and one Pakistan will not be abandoning in a hurry. A resolution of it is necessary for the future of both countries. Perhaps, small steps on the Wullar Barrage and Sir Creek issue may pave the way for the big push on Kashmir.