Millennium Post

Thinking regional peace

Thinking regional peace

The relations between India and Pakistan have their impacts that go beyond the confines of these Asian nations. Existence of cordial relations and peace between the two nations may not be so conspicuous a phenomenon but increased tensions can well be a threat to stability in the south Asian region. A series of events beginning with the terror attack in Pulwama in February instigating the counter offence with an airstrike in Balakot had put the nuclear-armed states in an uncomfortable position. Matters took a more dramatic turn when the Indian government made a huge move of scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir accorded under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5. Ever since then, Pakistan has been trying to leave no stone unturned to mobilise and consolidate international support against India. While most world leaders agree that India's move on Kashmir is India's internal matter, as also maintained by the Indian government, Pakistan has been adamant on proving that the government cannot make an internal move on a disputed territory. As a matter of fact, the official autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir was virtually just symbolic as Presidential orders had effectively eroded the autonomy. Further, the application of various Central schemes had in several ways connected Jammu and Kashmir inextricably with India. This established that although considered a disputed territory, there has been considerable influence of India in its northern most state and that with respect to administration and governance, the region is well taken care of. Pakistan's discomfort over a happily integrated Kashmir can be understood as Pakistan, since the earliest times of its inception, justified the two-nation theory which Kashmir's tallest leader at that time rejected and despite being a Muslim-majority region, it chose to be with a secular India. The Pakistani governments of present times have been exploiting the idea of disputed Kashmir and on the pretext of that, have successfully ignored the matters of actual concern within its own land. Poverty, food scarcity, lack of adequate education, and most of all, terrorism are the evils tearing Pakistan from within. But paying no heed to their internal situation, Pakistan engages with India with increased animosity and aversion.

Taking the discord beyond the territories of home, some rather dramatic events turned out at a meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) when both India and Pakistan boycotted each other's statements. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was first to refuse attending the speech by his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, announcing at the last minute that he would not attend the SAARC Minister's lunch while Mr. Jaishankar was speaking. The Indian foreign minister then made his statement and left the meeting minutes before the Mr. Qureshi's arrival, making sure that the two ministers were not present in the same place at the same time. Dramatic indeed, the Indian minister later expressed through a tweet that, "Ours is not just a story of missed opportunities but also of deliberate obstacles... Elimination of terrorism is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of the region itself." The standpoint on the other side of the border is that the Pakistani representative said that he could not "sit and talk" with "killers of Kashmiris"—this being the reason for the walk-out from India's presence. The lunch meet proceeded as scheduled in keeping with protocol and order, statements from delegations and Ministers from other SAARC countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and the current SAARC chair Nepal. Ironically, Pakistan Foreign Ministry's spokes person expressed that SAARC charter did not allow for bilateral issues to take centre-stage. This was a forum that presented an opportunity to get past the differences and bring to the table matters of concern that are not only shared between two nations but those which influence the south Asian region altogether. This incidence comes before the Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan stand before each other at the United Nations. The clear and admitted agenda of Pakistan is to take the opportunity at the United Nations to appeal to the world body to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir with respect to the restrictions imposed after August 5. Maintaining that Kashmir is India's internal matter, India is justifiably refraining from making any discourse on Kashmir at the international platform. Addressing the SAARC meeting, India's External Affairs Minister expressed that terrorism is among the deliberate obstacles being faced in the region and that "elimination of terrorism in all its forms is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of our region itself." The minister is correct in his exposition as the very roadblock that has brought talks between India and Pakistan to a standstill is terrorism—particularly the one that Pakistan breeds against India. Indeed it is a very difficult situation and resolution of it is the need of the hour. But given how Pakistan bases most of its state policies on its military ambitions and that its policy for India is pegged on terrorism, resolution of the matter and finding a way out of the roadblock is only further compounded. In this backdrop, Kashmir is once again the scapegoat, bearing the brunt of inter-governmental discord.

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