The British newspaper reported on Tuesday that the Pakistan Army chief “has launched talks with nemesis India to secure an eventual meeting between the neighbouring countries’ prime ministers”.
The newspaper reported that it gained information from “three people with direct knowledge of the matter”.
According to the report, Pakistan’s General Bajwa has told India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval that he was “prepared to declare a moratorium on fighting in Kashmir”.
FT further reported that Pakistan military’s public relations arm denied that Bajwa had pledged a moratorium on hostilities. “It’s a pack of lies,” said a spokesman. “It is all speculation.” However, the Indian Army chief recently said the line of control, which separates Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of Kashmir, had been “silent” for the first time in five years. “This really bodes well for the future,” he said
Several reports in recent weeks had hinted that Bajwa and Doval are spearheading the negotiations, which comes nearly two years after New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s limited autonomy which had frozen its relations with Islamabad.
Financial Times reported the latest initiative was “reportedly” launched by Bajwa in January and was backed by Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE’s ruler, and his national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan made “a positive start with a ceasefire on February 25”.
“The next steps include reopening border trade, pandemic response co-operation and India’s participation in an anti-terror drill to be held in Pakistan. If successful, a meeting between the prime ministers could happen in the next 12 months,” the newspaper reported.
“There is a senior-level dialogue going on in preparation for a potential meeting between Modi and Imran Khan,” Financial Times quoted a person with knowledge of the back-channel efforts.
Pakistan had flip-flopped last week on the trade commitment with India when it first announced it would allow sugar and cotton imports from India and then backtracked from it, saying trade would only resume once Kashmir’s special status was restored.
An Indian government official, however, said the talks were still going ahead and that the rhetoric from Khan’s government was intended to satisfy the conservative element in his support base, the newspaper reported. Politicians “have to make these symbolic gestures”, the official said.
In the weeks since the ceasefire was announced, Bajwa has struck a conciliatory tone, saying it was time to “bury the past and move forward”. He lamented that the potential of Kashmir has “remained hostage” to the dispute, conspicuously omitting any reference to restoring its special status. India has reciprocated in kind and Modi made headlines for wishing Khan a speedy recovery from coronavirus on Twitter.