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editorial 1

With hostile relations between the two sides, made worse by war-like situation on the line of control (LOC), there had been fewer moments when India and Pakistan agreed on anything in the past three years. But, on Wednesday, there seemed the first sign of thaw as Islamabad and New Delhi have agreed to release and return elderly prisoners, women and those with special needs. In a statement on Wednesday, the Pakistan foreign office said they had accepted Indian proposals also on the revival of a judicial committee mechanism which would oversee the speedy release of prisoners. Both countries also agreed to facilitate “visits of medical experts (from both sides) to meet and examine the mentally challenged prisoners for their repatriation”. A spokesperson Indian foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had suggested to the high commissioner of Pakistan “that the two sides could progress on humanitarian issues related to elderly, women, children and mentally unsound prisoners. We note that today Pakistan has responded positively to EAM’s suggestion…” What however makes it more important is that along with the statement, Pakistan has also tagged its wish for a resumption of official dialogue which has been shut since the Pathankot terror attack. The development followed some eight weeks after the National Security Advisors of the two countries met in Bangkok in December last. The meeting between the two NSA’s–Gen (retired) Nasser Janjua of Pakistan and Indian NSA Ajit Doval was held, though in a third country, to arrest the downslide in the relations between the two countries. Though the meeting was kept a secret but the top hierarchy of the foreign ministries of the two countries was in the loop about the meeting. However, officials that time were not hopeful of any major breakthrough given the level of hostilities between the two countries. The latest development has opened a window of opportunity for the two countries to think seriously of restarting the dialogue process. Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif recently wrote a letter to his Indian counterpart Suhsma Swaraj seeking political intervention from the top by the two sides to reduce border tensions. That gives one the sense that the two sides are very keen to see peace on the borders. While it needed to be appreciated as positive development, a section of media, more particularly TV news channels, are trying to play spoilsport by opposing any initiative for dialogue. It is quite sad to note that a small but vocal constituency led by mad-media has high-jacked the agenda of the government and they formulate the foreign policy in TV studios. This is a reflection on the thinking and wisdom of the people in office that they get affected by this jingo-brigade. Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s latest statement that no dialogue with be held with Pakistan till the borders fall silent can conveniently called as ‘media-influence’. It does need a Socrates’ mind to imagine about that central government is holding back from dialogue with Pakistan for the fear of this warmongering group. It is time that saner voices be heard and understood sans preconceived notions. The domestic squabbles and internal political exigencies have relegated the once vaunted India-Pakistan peace process to the proverbial square one. It is rather the domestic compulsions that make India and Pakistan to tread on hostile path. If the drift in Indo-Pak relations is not arrested it would appear that in the not too distant future the process may well be denuded of the proverbial fig leaf that has afforded it a semblance of respectability of sorts. Government of India might have a genuine case when they say that talks could be held only after Pakistan stopped ‘exporting terrorism’. But India is not the only country which faces terrorism. Pakistan has faced the wrath of terrorism more than India. Pakistan has publicly accused India of supporting and sponsoring terrorists in Pakistan. A former officer of Indian navy is in custody of Pakistan, who, the Pakistani authorities say, was on a terror mission in Pakistan. The allegations and counter-allegations would go on indefinitely unless some reasonable steps are taken to get people out of the caged mentality. The first step, in this regard, is to restart the dialogue process. That is the only way forward.