Track-II means back-channel engagement, says Aziz

ISLAMABAD: Surprisingly the governments of Pakistan and India are confusing the planned Track-II dialogue with backchannel contacts.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, while talking to Dawn on Tuesday, confirmed that Track-II dialogue he mentioned in his media briefing a day earlier was actually a plan for back-channel engagement.

Mr Aziz had at a press conference said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had agreed to revive the Track-II dialogue on longstanding issues bedevilling the ties between the two countries, including the Kashmir dispute.

The adviser clarified that he used the phrase `Track-IP instead of `back-channel` because the two sides had in their meeting in Ufa (Russia) agreed on reviving Track-II.

But, in essence it would be back-channel.

Back-channel diplomacy is about contending parties secretly negotiating their conflicts mostly in tandem with the front channel. In the back-channel negotiators have official approval. Whereas Track-II is a non-official and people-to-people ef fort for peacemaking.

Defending the recourse to back-channel, Mr Aziz said it was difficult to achieve progress on sensitive issues in the front channel that takes place in the public glare.

The adviser said that the back-channel will be used simultaneously with the front channel official engagement.

Published in Dawn