Improving Indo-Pak political climate

Global leaders have gathered at Paris to discuss climate change. There is hope among global leaders that the Paris conference would lead to an equitable agreement for a carbon-free growth. Although climate change remains on top of the agenda, the Modi government may have found another way to open the lines of communication with Pakistan. The biggest news story emanating out of the Paris conference has been Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brief discussion with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines. 

The efforts made by both the nations to resume peace talks have failed thus far. After the brief meeting, however, expectations have been raised once again on the likelihood of a dialogue process between the two nuclear-armed nations. Similar expectations were raised at the United Nations General Assembly session earlier this year. But the presence of Modi and Sharif at the UN session did not yield any results. Suffice to say, talks remain the only way for both sides to erase their differences. 

However, can both sides resume their long pending dialogue process on bringing peace? Can the brief unscheduled chat between the two leaders break the ice? Suffice to say, no official minutes were recorded on what was actually discussed between the two leaders on the sidelines of COP 21. Despite the lack of clarity, the gesture of both leaders indicated a possible green signal for resumed talks. Such a direct initiative by the heads of two nations could break the ice. Without an effective dialogue process, neither side can arrive on the same page. 

But the reality is something different. The two countries are caught in a test of wills. Each side has been found promoting diametrically opposite visions. Pakistan’s main agenda is the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Meanwhile, India has given top most priority to issues surrounding terrorism. Without addressing that concern, New Delhi seems unwilling to touch any other issue. It seems both countries are stuck in a clash of emotions and ego. 

As the world continues to suffer from terrorism, a stable relationship between India and Pakistan has become essential for peace in South Asia. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office, everyone was apprehensive about the future of India-Pakistan ties. Since then, the failure to resume talks has become yet another challenge. Hence, it is critical at this point of time for all stakeholders to come forward and work for sustainable peace between the two nations. 

Although a possible bonhomie exists between Modi and Sharif, the presentation of rigid terms and conditions by both sides may create obstacles for peace talks once again. By and large, the intelligentsia and civil society in both nations have supported the objective of peace talks and reconciliation. It is, therefore, necessary for the foreign policy mandarins in New Delhi and Islamabad to provide greater space and support for successful peace talks. It is pertinent to mention that the process would be fruitful under certain conditions. A trust deficit and past detrimental outcomes of history must not be allowed to impact the existing probability of moving the relationship forward.
India’s demand to discuss terrorism first certainly makes sense. Terrorism is now a global threat and the whole world is trying to present a united front against it. After several terror attacks across both India and Pakistan, it is clear that both nations need to fight terrorism and extremism together. Looking back at previous efforts, it is clear that Pakistan’s rigidity on certain issues has put the discussion on hold. Both nations have sought help from the United Nation to intervene. Suffice to say, the relationship between the two nations is stuck under mutual acrimony. However, according to the UN and a host of other global bodies, the only way out for both nations is an effective dialogue process. 

It will be a win-win situation for both nations if they put forth their views in a firm and positive manner. Both nations must come forward to discuss terrorism. There is a dire need for a positive political climate between the two nations to restrain the threat of terror. The Kashmir dispute should be also discussed, keeping in mind key stakeholders i.e the people of Jammy and Kashmir. Instead of looking at the Kashmir Valley as a piece of real estate, it is wiser to consider the welfare of its people. There should be a consensus on burning issues and both sides must keep an open mind. At the same time, the NDA government must address the existing political situation in India. The anti-Pakistan sentiment in India has reared its ugly head in recent times. The cancellation of Pakistani Ghazal maestro’s concert in Mumbai and the vociferous protests against the book release of a former Pakistan foreign minister are recent examples. The Modi government has also faced criticism from its own alliance partners while trying to normalise relations with Pakistan. Also, many organisations related to specific communities have threatened the government with dire consequences if any steps are taken towards achieving peace with Pakistan. Despite the prevalence of such views, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook hands with his Pakistani counterpart with the hope of starting everything afresh. In all probability, both countries must come forward with a positive mindset and hold talks to change the political climate, which has been hazy thus far.

(The writer is a freelance journalist. Views expressed are strictly personal.) 
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