These decisions seemed to augur well for relations between the two countries. It was widely believed that Indo-Pakistan relations were definitely on the mend, especially when foreign secretary level talks were held in Islamabad in June 1997, where it was decided that working groups would be set up to address outstanding issues of concern to both sides. However, this high in relations was not an indication of future trends and it soon became apparent that the two countries could not agree on the mechanics of forming the working groups at appropriate levels in order to take the negotiation process forward. Over the next few months, Islamabad and New Delhi did display their commitment to the dialogue process through various acts of goodwill, like releasing fishermen in each other’s custody, easing of travel restrictions etc. However, actions such as these slowly became overshadowed by tensions due to exchange of firing along the LOC in August-September 1997. Foreign secretary level talks were held in New Delhi in September 1997, Nawaz Sharif and I.K. Gujral met in New York in October 1997, Shamshad Ahmad and K.Raghunath met in October 1997 on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Conference in Edinburgh, and I.K. Gujral and Nawaz Sharif met on the sidelines of the trilateral summit at Bangladesh in January 1998. However, no breakthrough was made at any of these meetings due to divergent perspectives on how to approach the working groups issue. Also the political uncertainty in New Delhi due to the toppling of the United Front government placed further discussions on hold. Efforts to return to the negotiating table between the new Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif did not bear fruit as Pakistan refused to resume talks unless there was substantive negotiation on the Kashmir issue.
The Gujral Doctrine is a set of five principles to guide the conduct of foreign relations with India’s immediate neighbours as spelt out by Gujral, first as India’s External Affairs Minister and later as the Prime Minister. Among other factors, these five principles arise from the belief that India’s stature and strength cannot be divorced from the quality of its relations with its neighbours. It, thus, recognises the supreme importance of friendly, cordial relations with neighbours. These principles are:
2. No South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region.
3. No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another.
4. All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
5. They should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.
According to Gujral, these five principles, scrupulously adhered to, would achieve a fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationships, including the difficult relationship between India and Pakistan. Further, the implementation of these principles would generate a climate of close and mutually benign cooperation in the region, where the weight and size of India is regarded positively and as an asset by these countries