NEW DELHI, Mar. 5: For a casual observer, it may seem that a new spring in the air for Indo-Pak relations. India climbed down on the new Saarc secretary general, India and Pakistan exchanged fishermen lodged in prisons and earlier this week, New Delhi softened its declared hostility to the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) by agreeing to send the Indus Commissioner for a meeting of the Indus Commission in Lahore later this month.
However, it appears terror might still be the deciding factor for India to reboot its ties with Pakistan.Senior government sources say India will monitor terror activity by Pakistan before deciding its next course of action. With the snow set to melt in the upper reaches, India will look for infiltration attempts by Pak-based terrorists and its actions to foment unrest in the Kashmir Valley.
Last year saw some of the worst protests in the Valley where, the sources said, they had detected substantial involvement of the Pakistani establishment. Also last year, India went through terror attacks in Pathankot, Uri and Nagrota, all with Pakistani footprint. Hence, the government is more cautious this year.
However, India doesn't want to keep the silence at the hostility level. Therefore meetings and prisoner exchanges will go on as usual, which will serve to reduce the temperature without both sides having to go in for substantive dialogue.
On the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), India had opposed the World Bank's decision to go through the dispute settlement process using two parallel tracks asked for by both countries. It led an incensed India to threaten to walk out. Subsequently, the World Bank stopped both, and has gone back to the procedures laid down in the treaty which escalates from commissioners' meeting to a neutral expert to arbitration. In response, India lifted its objection to a meeting of the Indus commissioners in Lahore.
World Bank sources, however, indicated that there is "status quo" between the two sides. In the days after the Uri attack, India decided to "review" the treaty, utilise the eastern rivers fully, with the PM laying down a red line which said "blood and water cannot flow together". On Saturday, India announced resumption of construction of a dam project on the eastern rivers, which had been stalled for over a decade.(TOI)
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