The time might have come for India and Pakistan to talk

The great rings of Operation Uranus closed around Germany’sSixth Army on November 19, 1942, the armies of General Georgi Zhukov encircling the flower of the Wehrmacht in the epic battle that doomed Third Reich. Four weeks later, the German diplomat Peter Keist welcomed a visitor into his room at the Strand Hotel in downtown Stockholm. Ernst Clauss — a German-Baltic businessman of uncertain nationality and even less-clear business — had arrived with a message from the Soviet Union’s secret police: the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin wanted to discuss peace.

Even in the midst of a war for existential survival, which claimed the lives of millions of people, the adversaries had sought to keep their options open — just as generations of diplomats had done from the times of Genghis Khan’s conquest of Khwarazmia to the Cold War.

New Delhi could do worse than draw some lessons from this history for its Pakistan policy, and keep implements other than the hammer in its strategic toolbox.

For weeks now, rumours have proliferated in New Delhi’s diplomatic and policy communities on the existence of a secret India-Pakistan diplomatic channel on Kashmir. The more colourful variants of the story place National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on secret flights to Islamabad; the more mundane ones involve negotiations involving high officials in London and Washington. From the fate of Kashmir, the future of Afghanistan, and to the trial of Kulbhushan Jadhav, incarcerated in Pakistan on espionage charges—everything is claimed to have been discussed.

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