India-Pakistan dialogue, once again, seems to be under immense strain. The National Security Advisor (NSA)-level talks between the two countries due for Sunday to talk the two countries' terrorism concerns and defuse the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir seem to have run into rough weather.
Islamabad's contention is that its engagement with Hurriyat leaders during Pakistan's National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz's visit to New Delhi is part of a routine, and its way to being seen as consultative, and, hence, must not be seen as an attempt to undermine the talks.
New Delhi, on the contrary, believes that such side talks are not in keeping with the spirit of bilateralism and the Ufa declaration that the two countries committed to recently.
These standpoints do not look irreconcilable. What, however, these positions do clearly signal is a continued lack of trust and unwillingness for a meaningful engagement to resolve issues between the two countries. At the moment, deescalating the low-intensity hostilities between the two countries along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, with a clear long-term commitment to addressing the basic issues that undermine the relations between the two countries, needs to be a priority.
It is unfortunate that while civilians on both the sides of the line suffer loss of lives and property, there is a deficit of diplomatic urgency and political commitment needed to address these grave humanitarian concerns. To make the dialogue process result-oriented, all the parties have to exhibit pragmatism.
There are certain historical and political realities underpinning the two countries' uneasy relations that cannot be wished away.
Any breakdown of the NSA-level talks would be a tragedy, especially for the vulnerable people living on both the sides of the LoC in Kashmir. While issue-specific dialogue sometimes tends to be useful, however, such approach has not to be an end in itself. India and Pakistan are inter-related by a complex web of inter-linked issues, most of those have something to do with the political circumstances of Kashmir.
A pragmatic approach must guide the dialogue process to make it sustainable and meaningful.