PAK-INDIA TIES: SEIZE THE MOMENT
FRESH information from quarters that matter, provide more clarity about the sustainability of the thaw between the two arch-rivals of South Asia.
As per this very credible source, it is India that approached Pakistan in December 2020, with an open offer to reduce tensions and an invitation for backchannel talks on all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan chose to reciprocate.
Both India and Pakistan need to take what many are calling a strategic pause and break the cycle of violence to focus on very pressing domestic issues and new regional dynamics.
Pakistan is willing to move forward, bury the past and engage with India, if India agrees to ease lives of the Kashmiri people.
The thaw comes after a practical freeze in the relations since February 2019, post a military standoff, sparked by the attack on Indian security forces in Kashmir.
The first tangible sign came with the ceasefire agreement on LoC in February 2021, agreeing for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the LoC and all other sectors in the Himalayas.
This was followed by exchange of letters and polite tweets between the two prime ministers in March 2021 on the occasion of Pakistan Resolution Day and restoration of Indus Water Commission talks after 2.5 years, with a commitment that the next round of talks will be held in Pakistan.
Pakistan is now very open to, if not good than, perhaps functional/operational relations with its hostileneighbour.
It has asked India to create enabling environment by asking for five initiatives that are easy for India to comply with and sound politically right in Pakistan. Both parties have agreed not to involve any third party in the initiative for now.
The list includes a permanent halt to demographic change in Indian occupied Kashmir introduced in April 2020 through a new domicile law.
The law allowed migrants from other parts of India to gain permanent residence in the Kashmir.
The Indian government post-protests have already softened it.Secondly, release of political and other prisoners, illegally held since it imposed a curfew in Indian occupied Kashmir.
Third, removal of Indian blockades on communication and movement in the disputed region.
There is already some progress on it, since Biden Administration came into power. Fourth, giving back full statehood rights to Jammu and Kashmir, which was revoked as part of the August 2019 actions and recognizing that it is an internationally recognized territorial dispute with Pakistan.
Fifth, a reduction in security forces deployment in Indian occupied Kashmir. Kashmir is one of the most militarized regions in the world.
This will create what is being referred to as “the enabling environment” for talks to move forward in a substantial way with real results on the ground.
Arindam Bagchi, Indian Foreign Minister spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.
Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister spokesperson also declined to comment on the specifics of this communication but reiterated Pakistan’s stance that “onus to restart talks is on India”.
Independent analysts in India are of the opinion that demands are not non-negotiable.
They call them achievable conditionalities. In recent months, India has already eased some restrictions, although widespread human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and disappearances continue unabated.
The din on the Pakistan sidethat there is nowcomplete civil-military consensus on major foreign policy issues have started to ring true.
There is also complete unanimity of view between Pakistan’s civilian government and military leadership on the current thaw between India and Pakistan if anything the military leadership is more forthcoming than the civilian leadership.
The fact that Pakistan is now categorically saying that it is moving away from the Jihadi culture and is committed to eradicate militancy from the society and make Pakistan a normal state has a lot of promise.
Talking about promise, the economic sense of improved relations between the two countries is immense.
A 2018 World Bank study estimates that the two countries are missing out on $37 billion in trade due to tariffs and non-existent connectivity infrastructure.
The security matrix of South Asia despite rising hostility between China and US, see more and more international actors invested in, and empowered to bring Islamabad and New Delhi to the negotiating table to ensure stability in the region.
Moreover, the open admission by UAE’s ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba of mediating between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed rivals reach a “healthy and functional” relationship through bringing Kashmir escalationdownis indicative of both extra regional powers’commitment to peace in the region and a major paradigm shift in India’s attitude, which has always been averse to any kind of third-party role in the past.
Last but not the least, the US exit from Afghanistan, which is largely calendar based and not condition based, compels Pakistan to be more attentive of its western border if chaos ensues.
Improved security situation on the eastern border can be a huge plus. India, Pakistan,US and many other regional players are cognizant of it.
The moment is here. It is upon India and Pakistan toseize the moment for their people. COVID-19 situation should bring much needed sense on both sides of the border for a pro-people approach.
Pakistani leadership is now firmly committed to resolving conflicts and achieving normalization in the region.
The leadership has shown resolve not to step back at any cost. This is both very encouraging and has provided long-lost clarity on the issue of relations with India.
For seventy-four years, Pakistan and India have invested in the politics of conflict. The rationale, logic, and call of sanity all demand from Pakistan and India to move beyond the cold war mentality of confrontation and competitive security to a twenty-first century framework, that involves nations to be connected by shared economic and security interests.
The sharing of economic and security interests has unimaginable potentials for growth and progress of this region.
There is a tangible change in the mindset, regarding relations with India in Pakistan, this change needs to be cultivated and reciprocated.
Pakistan and India have tried everything, they fought wars, used each other’s land for proxy wars, have indulged in propaganda war against each other, have also tried to talk to each other and have failed several times.
Let this thaw be sustainable and culminate into something which may change the fate of this region, and more importantly, its people.
The author is an Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.