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New Indo-Pak dynamics

New Indo-Pak dynamics

With the formation of a new government in Pakistan, there are new hopes on the horizon. New Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has mentioned India-Pakistan relationship in major press conferences since his party won the general election last month. He urged India to revive the stalled peace process and reaffirmed his faith in the dialogue between the two countries. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, had called up Khan after his victory. Modi has further cleared the air by saying that India is ready to constructively engage with Pakistan. The positive environment that seems to be building up can lead to the opening of official dialogue between the two countries in the near future. But India, which had cancelled regular talks with Pakistan in the wake of Pakistan's continued support to militants and unprovoked firing across the Line of Control, may take time before it finally resumes official talks with the country. India's chief grievance against Pakistan is that the country supports international terrorist organisations, which carry a nefarious design against India. India says talks and terror cannot go together and Pakistan must stop supporting militants and ensure peace along the international borders with India before talks can be held. So, before formal talks begin between India and Pakistan's new government, Pakistan will have to initiate measures that demonstrate that it has started acting against militant training camps and other terror infrastructure. It will have to create an environment of peace and trust.

The biggest roadblock in the relations between the two neighbours is the political instability in Pakistan where the military has been in power on multiple occasions. In order to keep their control over the government and the country, the military uses the tension between India and Pakistan and the perceived threat from India to its advantage. The Pakistani military is an important institution which determines the policies of the government. A large number of militant training camps present in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are not only supported by the military but also used by them for strategic goals in India and Afghanistan. Terrorism is as much a problem in Pakistan. The Imran Khan-led government itself is said to be propped up by the military by helping it win the election. If the military is part of the ruling establishment, there are no ways to ignore it in the formal talks. If Pakistani military decides everything for the government, there is nothing India can do to avoid a formal engagement with them. By the indications available, the Imran Khan government has a strong backing of the military and when India initiates a formal engagement with the country, the Pakistani military is part of the engagement.

It is in this light that the controversy over Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan is completely uncalled for. At a time when relations are so bad that a formal government delegation was not sent for such an important occasion as the oath-taking ceremony of a new Prime Minister in the neighbouring country, Imran Khan inviting former cricket colleagues to the event and Navjot Singh Sidhu finally making it are no small feat. A controversy was sure to follow given the cynicism in relations between the two countries. It is true that the Pakistan Army has been pursuing a hostile policy towards India ever since its inception and it has been responsible for tension and loss of life of Indian soldiers along the border. Giving a hug to the chief of such an army is not the best thing to do but as described by Sidhu, when the Pakistan Army chief told Sidhu that Islamabad would open the corridor to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur on the 550th birth anniversary in 2019 of Guru Nanak, Sidhu could not restrain himself from hugging the general. The shrine is built at a place believed to be the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. "It was a dream come true," Sidhu said. But before such hugs become normal between the leaders of the two countries, there is a need for enhanced people-to-people contact, the revival of cricketing rivalry, and a commitment to support peace and prosperity in the region.

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