The heads of India's and Pakistan's security forces are due to hold talks aimed at reducing tensions along their disputed Kashmir border. The discussions come about two weeks after high level peace talks between the nuclear-armed rivals collapsed.
A 16-member delegation of the Pakistan Rangers led by Director General Umar Farooq Burki was welcomed at the Wagah border by India's Border Security Force (BSF) before heading to New Delhi, where the two sides will sit down for discussions starting Thursday.
A statement by the BSF said that the talks will focus on “positive measures” such as more simultaneous coordinated patrolling along the Kashmir border and other confidence building measures.
The main issue on the table is a flare-up in incidents of cross border firing that have killed and wounded scores of civilians and soldiers on both sides of Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries.
The firing by border troops on the two sides has escalated amid rising tensions and both countries blame each other for the cease-fire violations.
Political analyst Manoj Joshi at New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation said the talks are a positive signal, but it is more important for the two countries to pick up the threads of their derailed political dialogue.
“I am happy it is going ahead but the strategic direction for what happens on the border comes from the top, and so to restore calm, certainly these guys can talk, but these people only follow orders,” said Joshi.
Border security officials will also discuss the issue of cross border infiltration that has long rankled India – New Delhi alleges militants cross into its territory from the Pakistan side. Islamabad has countered by saying there is infiltration from India’s Punjab and Rajasthan province into its territory.
Efforts by the neighbors to resume a stalled dialogue collapsed last month when talks between their national security advisers were called off amid acrimonious exchanges over plans by Pakistani official to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders and India’s refusal to include Kashmir on the agenda of the talks.
The issue continues to be a sticking point. Pakistan’s national security and foreign policy adviser, Sartaz Aziz, said Tuesday that Pakistan would only start a dialogue process with India if Kashmir is on the agenda.
Responding to that statement, India’s Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijju, advocated a softer line.
He said threats will not help mend relations, but talking with affection could help repair ties.
Manoj Joshi said the thread of their peace dialogue can only be picked if given a push by their prime ministers. “It can only happen if the two leaders apply their mind. I don’t think at this stage it can happen at any other level. The problem with India Pakistan is that it’s managed at the highest level, and when there is a problem it has to be resolved at the highest level,” added Joshi.
There is speculation that the two leaders could meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month.