Newspaper Article 18/01/2016
Cooperation between India and Pakistan as major countries of South Asia entails lot of opportunities for regional prosperity and stability. One of the important imperatives of regional security lies in their better relations that in return will uplift socio-economic development of the people of the region. Dr. Stephen P Cohen, a Senior Fellow at the Washington DC-based think tank the Brookings Institution and a renowned expert on South Asia has very rightly observed that “Pakistan and India’s dilemma is that they cannot live with each other and they cannot live without each other. They need to cooperate along several dimensions, there is no military solution for the problems each has with the other.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rightly pointed out that dialogue is the only way forward for resolving differences and improving bilateral ties between Pakistan and India. “I’m convinced that dialogue is the only way forward for improving relations between Pakistan and India,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency on Sunday in the United Nations. “I have urged leaders of both the countries to resolve all differences through talks and have offered my good offices towards that end.”
Since November 30, 2015, almost within one month, Pakistan-India relations have seen some positive developments. The recent surprise visit of Prime Minister Modi to Pakistan on December 25, 2015 is generally termed as a symbolic visit. But the deep analysis of the visit reflects that it was a critical and important visit that would have a substantive impact not only on Pakistan-India relations but also for overall South Asian regional security and cooperation. After a gap of 11 years, the visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan is not without any meaning. Although, it was just a goodwill visit but there was a substance attached with it as well. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s foreign secretary observed that it was decided that both countries will have to examine each other’s concerns, to understand each other’s issues, and open up ways to peace.
Many experts believe that the main breakthrough in Pakistan-India relations was Modi-Nawaz Paris meeting held on November 30, 2015 on the sidelines of 21st UN Climate Conference in Paris. There is no doubt that Prime Minister of India took the initiative and met with Pakistan’s Prime Minster Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, which reflects that India is about to give-up rigid attitude towards resumption of dialogue with Pakistan. The meeting was the result of international pressure on both countries to resume dialogue process. There were also some internal compulsions in both countries demanding for peace through dialogue.
The Paris meeting proved very useful in terms of its fallout. It helped in easing tensions between Pakistan and India. The first outcome of Paris meeting was that the national security adviser of Pakistan Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua and National Security Advisor of India Mr. Ajit Doval met on December 6, 2015, in Bangkok. According to the joint statement, discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC. Both sides agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement in accordance with the vision of leadership of both countries.
The second outcome of the Paris meeting was the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visit Pakistan to attend the ‘Heart of Asia’ process meeting held in Islamabad on December 8-9, 2015. She did not only participated in the Heart of Asia Process meeting but also held meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Advisor on Foreign Affairs Mr. Sartaj Aziz. Both countries announced the commencement of a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. The joint statement released after the meeting underscored that both sides are in consent on initiation of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and directed the foreign secretaries to work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the dialogue including peace and security, CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial Cooperation, counterterrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian issues, people to people exchanges and religious tourism.
One should be optimistic about the establishment of cordial relations between Pakistan and India in the backdrop of Nawaz-Modi two brief meetings held in Paris and Lahore respectively. There is no doubt the famous Ufa rendezvous between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Mr. Narendra Modi that took place in the Russian city during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting was equally important. But the significance of that meeting was lost due to India’s disposition to exclude Kashmir from the agenda of the meeting. It is noteworthy that Pakistan and India’s membership of SCO also requires them to have friendly relations. Peace and harmony is the prerequisite for ensuring development, technological advancement and bringing improvements in all sectors of economy. Since, both Pakistan and India want to strengthen their economies, therefore there is no room for tension and standoff in their bilateral relations. The present volume of India-Pakistan trade stands at $2.6 billion and, according to various studies, it is estimated that Pakistan’s export to India could rise by a striking figure of up-to 200%. Furthermore, the total quantum of trade within a decade can jump to over $20 billion.
There are several factors that compelled Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to start talks with Pakistan. Besides external factors, one of the important factor is to improve his image at home and secure more votes in remaining state elections to attract Muslim electoral. Secondly, there is a possibility that after failure of his one year policies he now wants to revert towards his economic agenda that would not be possible in absence of peace with Pakistan, keeping in view the growing importance of Pakistan for regional connectivity. Mr Modi is also trying to enhance his stature more as a statesman within a region, hence abdicating from inflexible policies. As for as Pakistan is concerned it has already taken steps to give priority to its economic development. Good relations with India would also be in the interests of Pakistan in the context of its efforts to counter terrorism. Besides, Pakistan’s normal relations with India would be useful for the timely implementation of $46billion China-Pakistani Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is well acknowledged across the board whilst understanding the need of time, both India and Pakistan may focus their energies on socio-economic development and prosperity of the people.
The article was carried by Pakistan Observer, January 03, 2016.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.