Why rush to dialogue?

IT is strange to see the Pakistan government agreeing to foreign secretary level talks with India as early as 25 February when no less a person than the Prime Minister has revealed that India does not want Kashmir on the dialogue table. Now that the most pressing issues all arise out of the Kashmir dispute, it seems absurd to commence a dialogue casting aside the agreed composite dialogue formula as well as agenda and to embark on a new venture where India has already declared what it wants to discuss. Why is Pakistan in such a hurry to get to the dialogue table with India when there is little substance in terms of conflict resolution that India is in a mood to concede to? What are the pressures on Pakistan? Surely it would have been better to get a national consensus through parliament before embarking on such a dicey dialogue track? But once again, the Foreign Minister, whose unseemly haste in welcoming the Kerry Lugar Act is still vivid in most Pakistani memories, seems almost desperate to accept Indias terms for a dialogue. Equally ridiculous is the Foreign Offices declaration that Pakistan will hold talks with an open mind, given how India has already closed it mind to any suggestions for an agenda on the part of Pakistan. So, under these circumstances, and open mind would merely denote an acceptance of Indian diktat, beginning with the agenda. As for the argument that the dialogue is necessary because of the critical water issue, this is an effort to fool the people. First, the water issue cannot be resolved without resolution of Kashmir since the seeds of the dispute lie within this larger political conflict. India would like to discuss water outside of Kashmir so as to create an artificial disconnect between the two inextricably linked issues. Second, and linked to the first point, is the fact that if India wants to discuss water outside of the Kashmir dispute, there is already a mechanism inbuilt into the Indus Water Treaty so there is actually no need for the commencement of dialogue between the two sides to push for resolution of the waters dispute. After all, the Treaty has international guarantors who should now be called upon to play their role since they forced the rulers of the time to sign away Pakistans rights to three crucial rivers. Finally, the water issue has effectively moved into the area of state terrorism on the part of India so perhaps it can also be discussed under that head as part of the composite dialogue. Otherwise once again India will present Pakistan with a fait accompli in terms of illegal dams. Under these circumstances, and seeing the deteriorating situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir, where the Kashmiri people have protested Indian occupation with a complete shutter down strike and protest rallies once again, it makes no sense for Pakistan to rush into a meaningless, ill-thought out dialogue on 25 February in New Delhi.

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