The recent attempt at back-channel diplomacy over dinner between the External Affairs Ministers of both India and Pakistan failed to actually do anything, stumbling over differing opinions about prosecution of suspects with the 26/11 Mumbai (yes, I’m giving in to the Marathi nationalists but it will always be Bombay in my heart) attacks. So I decided to put forward my own ideas for a meal that could lead to some resolution between these two countries born from the British Raj:

Amuse-bouche: Relationship with the United States

To whet the palate, it would be good to start with common ground: the United States. Both countries have vested interest, albeit one that is security based while the other is primarily economic, in keeping a strong relationship with the USA and since the States would like nothing better for India and Pakistan to play nice, it is vital that they at least pretend to make an effort.  Of course, since this could easily turn sour due to the competitiveness in being the privileged state (in terms of having the ear of the President) in South Asia, it would be best to move on to the next course.

Entrée: Cross-border Terrorism

Has always been a favourite item on the menu but now, with the interestingly named 26/11 attacks, have become front and centre again. Usually confined to the northern regions, the Indian government was visibly startled when the violence drifted southward. Furthermore, Indian concerns over the instability of its neighbour in light of Afghani terrorism seeping into Pakistan through their porous north-western border and the involvement of the ISI in promoting these extra-national groups have made the situation more tense. Nonetheless, in the case of the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan has definitely extended the olive branch in terms of prosecuting low level leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba but for India, this is merely garnish if the government does not go after the leader of the group, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.

Main course: Kashmir

Any lasting peace between the two have to deal with the sticky situation of Kashmir. This aged issue has not lost any of its spice, over sixty years without any real progress. The crux of the animosity between the subcontinent rivals, not dealing with Kashmir would be akin to trying to convince the world that there is peace in the Middle East without talking about ownership of Jerusalem. Getting India and Pakistan to commit to any kind of agreement will be difficult but will be further compounded by the involvement of that uninvited guest, China.

Dessert: Economic cooperation

With security would come more economic cooperation, to the sweet sweet taste of over $1 billion to be gained in cross-border trade and international FDI. For Pakistan, this would stabilize the shaky economy that is still stuck in the 1970s. For India, it would be one more notch on its ongoing climb to topple China as the economy du jour.

And like any memorable meal, the timing is key. Too much time between courses and it would be highly likely that both guests would leave the (diplomatic) table.

-Pri

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