India weighing options to restart talks with Pak

India weighing options to restart talks with Pak

India weighing options to restart talks with Pak

India is weighing its options for restarting engagements with Pakistan, but is keen to keep low-key subtle moves it has been making to de-escalate tension in bilateral relations.

Though its representative to the India-Pakistan Permanent Indus Commission is set to attend the annual meeting of the panel in Lahore later this month, New Delhi insists that it should not be construed as a move towards resumption of its stalled dialogue with Islamabad.

The Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) comprises two commissioners, one each from India and Pakistan. The Indus Water Treaty of 1960 mandated the commission to discuss issues related to the sharing of waters of the cross-border rivers and manage implementation of the pact.

New Delhi’s commissioner at the PIC, P K Saxena, an officer of the Ministry of Water Resources, accepted an invitation from his counterpart in Pakistan to hold the meeting of the commission at Lahore later this month.

The PIC is set to meet just six months after India decided not to hold any meeting of the commission with Pakistan to protest cross-border terror from the neighbouring country.

Soon after the terror attack on an army camp at Uri in north Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 26 reviewed the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty and decided that India would not hold a meeting of the PIC with Pakistan, as long as the neighbouring country continued to export terror.

Not climbdown

India, however, insists that its commissioner’s recent decision to accept the invitation by his counterpart in Pakistan should not be seen as a climbdown or shift of stand.

New Delhi insists that the PIC met 112 times in the past and its meetings cannot be seen as parleys between the governments of India and Pakistan, because the commissioners are independently setting the agenda of the meeting and finalising the dates.

India is treading cautiously on restarting its stalled dialogues with Pakistan, because a similar move by New Delhi initiated in December 2015 had to be aborted due to a series of cross-border terror attacks in 2016, ceasefire violations and escalation of tension over Kashmir.

India’s Indus commissioner agreed to meet his counterpart in Pakistan, at a time when both New Delhi and Islamabad sent out several signs of a thaw in bilateral relations.