Improved Indo-Pak relations and Kashmir

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By: Shahjhan Mustafa

Improved India-Pakistan relations will fundamentally stabilize South Asia’s political setup, depreciate militant activities, augment economic prosperity and, more importantly, facilitate resolution of Kashmir issue. Pakistan’s democracy is growing stronger as the country recently witnessed second transfer of power from one democratically elected civilian government to another.  India, on the other hand, is ruled by a strong government under the leadership of Narender Modi who has led a party to the power corridors after it had struggled to reach such a scenario from past three decades.

It was in 1984 when congress crossed 400 seats and since then no government has actually achieved such a popular acceptance among the masses until BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi did the magic in the last elections. By virtue of its strength and massive mandate, the present government is capable of taking extremely bold steps and make decisions without actually having to face the problem of dealing with coalition partners or the opposition.

Historically, India and Pakistan have shared a very volatile past and both the nuclear neighbors have had severe differences and unhealthy developments marred their timeline ever since partition. During the seventy years after both the countries gained independence from the British colonialism, the states have witnessed three full fledged wars (1948,1965 & 1971), two small scale wars (1965 Rann of Kutch & 1999 Kargil ) and two war like situations (January & June 2002). India reposes security as the centre of priority and from time to time has refused to resume composite dialogue demanding that action to be taken against Pakistan based militant agencies first. Pakistan on the other hand impeaches India of backing separatist elements in Balochistan province and providing assistance to Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan besides criticizing India over Kashmir- the long drawn conflict that seems to have no end. These important issues between the two states include Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Cold Start Doctrine, Afghanistan and Water have spoiled many a great efforts by some political stalwarts and statesmen to bring about peace in the region.

Kashmir conflict is as old as the two states themselves and lies at the centre of mutual animosity. After fighting three wars on Kashmir, rivalry experienced a fundamental change in approach when Pakistan chooses to support the insurgence of militancy in 1989. Prof. Happymon Jacob, an expert on Kashmir conflict and India-Pakistan-relations, is of the opinion that Kashmir insurgency culminated out of three factors: first, Indian state’s political misdeeds in Kashmir; second, Pakistan’s continuous interference in J&K; and third, consummation of Anti-Soviet Mujahedeen war in Afghanistan. Rivalry further escalated when nuclear factor was injected and infused into the relations and President Clinton called South Asia the most dangerous place on earth.

Conflict resolution and management involve different methods and techniques. Negotiation, mediation and arbitration are three fundamental approaches to resolve conflicts between any given states or groups. India and Pakistan, from time to time, have adopted these approaches to end differences but nothing satisfactory has been achieved till date. William Zartman’s ‘Ripeness Theory’ advocates for appropriate time to start negotiation in order to reap the best results. Both India and Pakistan political stalwarts came close to realizing the ‘ripe moment’ but failed to resolve their differences due to various reasons and also escalated vested interests. Rizwan Zeb and D.Suba Chandra in their book “Indo-Pak Conflicts, Ripe to Resolve?” argue that there have been four occasions in which India and Pakistan realized that the ripe moment had arrived- the Tashkent Agreement 1965, Shimla Agreement 1972, Lahore Declaration 1999 and Agra Summit 2001. Costs and benefits were calculated and measures were taken but unfortunately all these efforts couldn’t be realized and all ventures ultimately died an untimely death leaving all the issues simmering as ever.

But the change of government in Pakistan, the hopes of peace are again high. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr.Imran khan Niazi sent out a positive message by saying that if India takes one step towards resolution of all outstanding issues, Pakistan shall take two. This statement has evoked enthusiasm among those ‘peace quarters’ in both the countries.  Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narender Modi congratulated Imran Khan for his election victory and showed his willingness to adopt a joint strategy for improving bilateral ties. Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa also advocated normalisation of relations with India and the most promising statement from Pakistan government has been the announced that (Pakistan political establishment) is working on a proposal to solve the Kashmir dispute. New Kashmir model will be discussed in the cabinet and later negotiations will take place with India to resolve Kashmir problem according to the said model.

It is imperative for India-Pakistan to build trust and acknowledge the severity of the issues, particularly the Kashmir issue which has been consuming human lives from several decades now. They must break the current stalemate and should resume composite dialogue to resolve all issues that are actually harming the economic prospects of both the countries and destabilizing the whole of South Asia.   Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are required in order to undo the level of trust deficit between both the states and encourage mutual cooperation and reintegration that shall augment economic activities and bring peace and prosperity.

The bilateral trade between the two states has great scope. Former Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh once said, “If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan and not conflict, vast opportunities will open for trade and travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries.”The present age is the age of globalisation and world order is moving steadily from a unipolar status to a multipolar one. In this scenario regional cooperation is compulsory for India and Pakistan to compete with other powers at the global level. Antagonistic relations have largely affected the relevance of SAARC. Improved India-Pakistan relations will help SAARC to regain its relevance and expected potential of SAARC will change the socio-economic and political scenario of South Asia.

Author is an Independent Researcher and writes on International Affairs & South Asian History.  He can be mailed at [email protected]

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