Ground laid in Durrani-Doval back-channel initiative?

Ground laid in Durrani-Doval back-channel initiative?

The ground for Indo-Pak talks, according to sources, was prepared when Pakistan’s formal national advisor Maj Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani, in a back-channel initiative, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national security advisor Ajit Doval here earlier this month. 


According to reports, at several opportunities during his visit to New Delhi, Durrani praised RK Mishra, who was Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s back channel with Islamabad. Mishra played a major role behind the scenes in Vajpayee’s bus trip to Lahore as Prime Minister and in his later peace initiatives with both Nawaz Sharif and Parvez Musharraf.


It is understood that during Durrani’s talks with Doval, the two men found meeting ground on several issues. A key component of Durrani’s back channel mission to New Delhi was an effort to persuade the NDA government not to "muddy the waters" while Pakistan refashions its strategy to fight terror.


Durrani, who has always remained close to the military leadership in Pakistan, is understood to have held several “high-level” meetings in Islamabad before his visit here and said the army would support any move by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on talks.


“They feel that talks must be fair, they must be dignified,” he said, referring to India’s conditions to stop cross border terrorism and the LoC ceasefire violations. “I mean, don’t rub our noses in the ground and expect us to cooperate. But other than that, I think the Pakistani army is supportive of talks.”


Durrani, according to reports had met India’s new foreign secretary S Jaishankar as well. Durrani had said that he was returning with an impression that Prime Minister Modi would "like to move forward" on the dialogue. But added the new government would rather not pick up the old format of the composite dialogue process.


"Modi is a different man with a different mind and has different thinking, as compared to previous prime minister," said Durrani, "I think he will probably engage with Pakistan, but he would like to do that in his own way."


On a parallel track, unofficial exchanges took place in New Delhi earlier this month between businessmen from both sides of the border and others interested in improving the economic climate between India and Pakistan.


Most significantly, Yashwant Sinha, a BJP stalwart and former finance and external affairs minister, said at one such event that India and Pakistan should start trading in their own currencies.


"If Pakistan is not giving permission for Indian bank branches to open in Pakistan, then also there is no reason why we should not permit Pakistan banks to start operation in India."