Fresh Beginning Needed

the two countries can make the most of the conference on its sidelines.

Pakistan government has decided to send Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs advisor to its Prime Minister, for the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar on December 3-4. This will be the first high-level visit  from Pakistan after the Pathankot attack in January plunged  the relations between the two countries to a new low and suspended proposed bilateral dialogue process just when it was about to take off. The ties further   plummeted following Uri attack and India's surgical strikes along the Line of Control and the ongoing cross-LoC  exchanges. So, Heart of Asia conference offers an important opportunity to start afresh.  More than 40 foreign ministers and dignitaries from various international organisations would participate in the conference which aims to get the countries to cooperate to stabilise Afghanistan. Earlier, in December, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had travelled to Islamabad for the Afghanistan donors' meet. It was the time when the ties between the neighbours were looking up. Swaraj and Aziz had agreed on a  roadmap to resume talks. But soon everything fell through. The relationship between them is now precariously poised, teetering almost on the brink of a war. The cross-LoC exchanges have intensified, leading to killings of soldiers and the civilians and bringing untold misery to the people living alongside the borders. The situation looks set to get even worse if no urgent ameliorative measures are taken.  And this is here that the Heart of Asia conference comes in handy. Though a multilateral event with a little bilateral significance, the two countries can make the most of the conference on its sidelines.  There's certainly a chance of a new beginning.  True, there is a fraught road ahead and any resumption of dialogue will face the familiar challenges. This is because the two countries have pursued the dialogue more as a symbolism than as a means to resolve issues.  Besides, the dialogue whenever it has been resumed has hardly accounted for the contingencies of the militant attacks and the response to it. That is why every talks process has invariably collapsed followed by now a predictable attack. Any fresh beginning between the countries has to thus ensure that it is seized of the challenges ahead and how to get around to make the engagement uninterrupted and uninterruptible in real sense.

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