Back channels on to defuse India-Pakistan tensions

December 7th, 2008 - 5:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Dec 7 (IANS) Back channel efforts are on to normalise relations between India and Pakistan that have hit a rocky patch after the Mumbai terror attacks, Online news agency reported.A senior government official said initial contacts between the two neighbours have been made and “soon” a Pakistani official - a former foreign secretary - would travel to New Delhi to take the Indian leadership into confidence on Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism in the region.

Refusing to divulge the name of the former foreign secretary, the official said that the names on both sides would be kept under wraps until the two governments declare the contacts official.

India has charged that the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks - in which 172 people, including foreigners, were killed - came from Pakistan and has demanded the extradition of three people - Indian mobster Dawood Ibrahim, Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.

Pakistan has denied that Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan and asked India for proof that the other two are involved in the attacks.

“If India provides us evidence, we are ready to take action against the people concerned,” President Asif Ali Zardari has repeatedly said.

According to the official, the back channel route was opened after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convinced the Indian leadership to keep open the communication channels between the countries.

At her press conference in Islamabad Thursday, Rice had said she saw no reason for closing the communication channels between India and Pakistan and hoped that both will continue talking as there was a lot of information to be shared.

The official said the back channels contacts are at a very initial stage and the parleys may take place anywhere, “beyond media access”, to exchange “non-papers” for cooperation against terrorism.

This is not the first time that both countries are using backdoor diplomacy to salvage souring ties and move towards normalization of relations.

According to the official, such a channel was first used in 1965 when both the countries went to war and this method worked successfully.

Backdoor channels have been used by successive Indian and Pakistani governments to move towards normalising relations between them, the official said. The last time the channel was activated was in 2006 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had refused to meet then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf in Havana on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit.

Secret talks between Musharraf’s close aide and a top Congress leader had paved the way for the meeting between the two leaders.

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