Jilani may lay ground for future government particularly on how to proceed with India
Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister, who was once expelled from India, is in favour of reviving the Musharraf-Manmohan peace plan in order to end hostilities between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Jalil Abbas Jilani on Friday returned to the Foreign office but this time as caretaker Foreign Minister. Jilani served as foreign secretary of Pakistan and Pakistan’s Ambassador to important capitals including the US and the EU.
Jilani was also the deputy high commissioner in New Delhi in 2003, when the Indian government declared him persona non grata after accusing him of funneling funds for separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
Being the interim foreign policy chief, he may not have enough time and limited mandate to change the course of Pakistan’s foreign policy but he may lay ground for the future government particularly on how to proceed with India.
Sources close to Jilani told The Express Tribune that he is in favour of improving ties with India. The new Foreign Minister told The Express Tribune on Thursday that improvement in the relationship with India was contingent upon resolution of all outstanding issues including the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
But his public position aside, sources said Jilani was of the view that Pakistan should explore options paving the way for resurrecting the peace process during Musharraf-Manmohan time.
The foreign minister believes that dialogue between the two countries between 2004 and 2007 could be revived provided both sides showed the political will and resolve.
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That peace process was considered the most sustained efforts by the two countries to resolve their festering disputes including Jammu and Kashmir.
In fact extensive back channel talks at the time between the two countries led to the potential road map for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
Then Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri was on record as saying that both sides even shared non-papers on the Kashmir resolution.
The two countries were believed to be close to signing the Siachen and Sir Creek agreements. It was said the agreements were to be signed during the long pending visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan in early 2007.
However, Gen Musharraf’s sudden move to remove Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry sparked a lawyers’ movement that eventually led to the ouster of the military ruler.
Sources said Jilani was in the foreign office and knew the ground both sides covered during that period. Hence, he was convinced that the best way forward for the two sides was to revive that process.
However, the chances of revival of the process appear slim in the foreseeable future because both sides are heading towards elections.
Nevertheless, there is a possibility that the caretaker government having the strong backing of the establishment may lay some groundwork for the future engagement with India.
Observers are skeptical if India would reciprocate given its hardline stance on Kashmir and changes it brought to the disputed region in August 2019.