Both Pakistan and India will have to show political maturity and
foresight to scuttle attempts to defeat normalisation of relations
While the capital has been observing a deadlock on the political
front, our foreign policy is also victim of another deadlock —
cancellation of foreign secretary level talks between India and
Pakistan. After the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s participation in Prime
Minister Modi’s oath-taking ceremony and reflection of mutual goodwill
gestures at personal level, it was hoped that the relations between two
neighbours would not further deteriorate — if don’t improve.
The progress on Indo-Pak relations during Nawaz-Vajpayee governments
in late nineties led to the assumption that “right to the centre”
parties at the helm of affairs in India and Pakistan can actually help
in improving the relations as their presumably to the centre” opposition
parties would not be a major stumbling block in normalisation of
Moreover, after the presence of two “pro-business” premiers on both
sides of the border, there was optimism in the air and different circles
were talking about grant of “non-discriminatory market access” (NDMA)
to India; feasibility for energy trade between both countries; and the
enthusiasm to revive SAARC. It was also hoped that composite dialogue
would be resumed and a foreign secretary level meeting was scheduled in
Islamabad on 25th August.
However, the optimism faded away and the talks got suspended, not due
to the ongoing dharnas in Islamabad, but due to a meeting between
Pakistani High Commissioner and Kashmiri Hurriyat leader.
Pakistan justifies this meeting as a routine discussion with Kashmiri
leadership before any Indo-Pak talks where Kashmir is an agenda point,
whereas India perceives that meeting as Pakistan’s interference in its
domestic affairs. Even if this meeting had not taken place, the
cross-border firing and accusation of boundary line violation on both
sides had been staining the proposed dialogues.
In other words, we are again inching back to square one. It would
also have negative effect on the forthcoming SAARC heads of
state/government summit in November. One should not have high hopes from
that summit which may be still another photo op opportunity, i.e.,
business as usual.
It is a pity that the region is held hostage by the two largest
economies which comprises 90 per cent of South Asia’s GDP, more than 80
per cent of the region’s US$ 28 billion intra-regional trade (not the
bilateral trade) and 86 per cent of population.
However, we must also keep in mind that Indo-Pak relations are always
unpredictable and volatile. They cannot live without each other and
they cannot live together.
There are two Indias: shinning India and the suffering India. Despite
the fact that a large number of Indian population suffers from poverty
and low social development, it is working for a new economic world order
along with China, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa. The “parallel”
World Bank, “New Development Bank” also known as BRICS Bank is one such
concrete step. It has also got the clearance from United States to be a
permanent member of UN Security Council.
Pakistan, on the other hand, though sandwiched between two giants —
India and China — is still a very important consumer market. It is
world’s 6th most populous country with a growing urban middle class and
is very soon to overtake Brazil to be the 5th populous country.
Besides being an important consumer market, it is an important
regional actor, too. It is commonly perceived that a prerequisite to a
stable South Asia is a stable Pakistan. Pakistan would not be able to
pay proper attention to the western borders until it has complete peace
on its eastern borders, something which requires bridging of trust
deficit from both sides.
On top of it, there is a strong case of welfare gain for the
consumers, a strong case of collaborative efforts for common challenges
facing the region, such as climate change, poverty alleviation, and food
So what is the way forward?
Here is a strong case of mutual co-existence both within and across
the border. Both the countries would have to learn to agree to disagree
in an amicable way and continuity of dialogue is a must for that.
Whereas the dialogues would be useless until their output is owned by
all stakeholders, including powerful establishments on both sides. Thus,
the challenge is multifaceted and extremely complicated.
The will from both sides to bring in permanent peace between the two
countries cannot materialise unless there is stability of institutions
at home; Pakistan is a case in point at the moment. Only continuity of
democracy in both the countries — especially Pakistan in the present
scenario — can promise the fruits of regional peace and economic
prosperity for not just Pakistan but the entire region, including
Afghanistan, in the foreseeable future.
This article was originally published at:
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.