Should India talk to Pak? Why not, say experts

New Delhi, February 17: It is necessary for India to talk to Pakistan and raise its concerns with the civilian government there because that very move can help isolate the forces that spread hatred and terror, former diplomats and experts here opine.

Dismissing the notion that diplomatic engagement with the neighbour can take place only after Islamabad takes concrete action against anti-India terrorism, the experts who spoke to IANS appeared united in the belief that dialogue was the only way to solve all problems, including terror.

“Yes, we should and we must” was former external affairs minister Natwar Singh’s response when asked if India should go ahead with the proposed foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan even after the Pune terror attack that killed 10 people over the weekend.

A former diplomat who has served as high commissioner in Islamabad, Natwar Singh said the engagement between the US and Vietnam was the “finest example” for India and Pakistan to learn from.

“They kept talking even when they were engaged in a war till they solved the problem. How can you stop diplomatic activities when you want to resolve certain issues?”, said Natwar Singh .

The Pune attack, with the inevitable links pointing to terror groups harboured in Pakistan, has clouded the talks scheduled to take place in New Delhi Feb 25.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has asked the government to call off talks till Pakistan takes credible action against anti-India terrorism emanating from its soil. “It is ridiculous to lock ourselves in like a housewife afraid of dacoits coming from outside,” said Mani Shankar Aiyar, a former minister who has also done diplomatic duty in Pakistan as India’s consul-general in Karachi.

Aiyar was of the view that it was “absurd of the BJP” to oppose the talks. “By talking, do we concede to Pakistan? Do we at all expect that by not talking to Pakistan anything would be solved?” he asked.

Agreed veteran journalist and known peacenik Kuldip Nayar. “These things (terror attacks) should not be allowed to come in the way of dialogue. After all, we are going to talk to Pakistan about terrorism, raise our concerns. How do we solve the problem other than by engaging with each other?”

Uma Singh, a professor of Pakistan studies in the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, supported the talks because “India has a central role in South Asia and cannot afford not to take smaller neighbours along.”

Former foreign secretary Salman Haider said the talks with Pakistan were long overdue as he believed the forces “who don’t want India and Pakistan to talk” were behind the Pune attack. “We must defeat these forces and talking is the only option,” he said.

Will talking to the present Pakistan government solve anything when it is known that terror sanctuaries in that country receive backing from the army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)?

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