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Pakistan and India prepare to Talk

India and Pakistan are preparing for another round of talks. Indian Foreign Secretary is visiting Islamabad soon to resume the talks from the point his predecessor had disrupted arbitrarily.  Since then, Pakistan took a principled stand that as India has disrupted the process, the onus to restart is also on India. American pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi has worked. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif  is, by default, obsessed with the desire of  having good relations with India.

Talks are always good, even if they do not lead towards enduring peace, tensions are reduced. However, Pakistan-India dialogue has a poor track record, most of the times India walks away from the process whenever  any substantial ground is about to be covered. Though many useful agreements have been reached between the two countries bilaterally, frequency of failure has alarmingly increased since 9/11. To succeed, the upcoming round should be focused and structured engagement, covering all core issues, including Kashmir.  No dramatic breakthrough is envisaged, yet cautious optimism is in order.

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Afghan peace process in disarray

President Trump is tasting the real power these days. Taliban have the military prowess to attack the places of their liking at the timing of their choosing. In the diplomacy domain, Taliban dictate the venue and agenda. And when they meet Americans, they field Guantanamo hardened Taliban negotiators to stare in the eyes of top American diplomats. Of late, peace talks between Taliban and US officials were cancelled over agenda disagreement. Senior Taliban members based in Afghanistan said “both sides have agreed to not meet.” Three meetings have already taken place between Taliban leaders and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE took part in the last round of talks in December. Reports last month about US President Trump’s plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan has triggered uncertainty. However, Afghan peace process is in disarray.Interestingly, as an afterthought, the US has taken a step back from the earlier hype of pulling out 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. An Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) representative has declared that if Taliban insist on not meeting Afghan government delegation, then, HPC won’t participate in Saudi Arabia session of talks. With these firmly grounded irritants and posturing, Afghan peace my not just be around the corner.

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