Sunday January 29, 2023

Looking East

By Editorial Board
April 02, 2021

There are indications that the breakdown in ties between Pakistan and India that began in August 2019, when India ended the special status for Kashmir, and Pakistan in response broke off links with its neighbouring country, may be coming to an end. The two countries appear to be engaging in at least minimal cooperation and talking to each other once more, if only in a few words. The process has also led to the ceasefire on the LoC after the DGMOs of both countries met and agreed to restore the 2007 accord, which prevented firing across the LoC. During the last two years, there had been a significant increase in transgressions of the ceasefire from the Indian side.

The new rapprochement seems to have begun with a letter written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Imran Khan to mark Pakistan Day on March 23. In response, Imran Khan wrote back, also seeking viable, good ties with India. The government had also announced it would be bringing in cotton and sugar from India, but this for now has been vetoed by the cabinet – with the government reiterating that while it wants to have good relations with India and move forward with its economy, India ‘needs to first revoke its August 5, 2019, move’. There was speculation that the foreign ministers of the two countries might meet since both were in Dushanbe at the same time for the Heart of Asia conference, but this meeting did not take place. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi while at the conference did say that positive and productive developments had been seen regarding ties between the two countries, with India not criticising Pakistan during the conference, in contrast to what has been its line in the past. It appears that this time around, rather than the US, the UAE and Saudi Arabia may have been players in this new restoration of better bilateral ties between the two countries in the Subcontinent.

Having said that, it must be reiterated that there are outstanding issues that have been pending for long and without their proper resolution the disputes cannot be settled. Indian illegal annexation and continued occupation of Jammu and Kashmir is the primary bone of contention that has lingered on and on. The government of Prime Minister Modi has further aggravated the situation during the past two years with its insistence on subjugating the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is true that a conducive atmosphere is required for rekindling the torch of peace, but such enabling conditions will not emerge just by writing letters to each other. The Heart of Asia conference was one such opportunity that both countries should have capitalized on and established some contacts at ministerial level. Unless there are some talks, neither a conducive environment nor an enabling situation will materialize. The ceasefire at the LoC was surely a good indicator; still we need some more such indicators – especially from the Indian side – before we can draw any concrete conclusions. We must keep the greater good of this region in mind, but without sacrificing the interests of the people in Jammu and Kashmir. However, things do seem to be moving towards some semblance of normalcy, with sporting ties also being planned between the two nations. It would be good news for everyone in the region if Pakistan and India could work together once more and try and establish a lasting accord which would allow dialogue on the various issues between them to continue in a less acrimonious setting while also ensuring that the Kashmiris are not short-changed in the least.