India - Pakistan: Fresh Look at the State of Bilateral Relations
STORIES, ANALYSES, EXPERT VIEWS
As both India and Pakistan celebrate the 75th anniversary of their Independence this month, C Raja Mohan (senior fellow, Asia Society Policy Institute, Delhi and contributing editor on international affairs for The Indian Express) takes a fresh look at the unfortunate state of bilateral relations.
There has been positive statements from Pakistan. The young foreign minister of Pakistan, Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, was realistic in acknowledging that Pakistan has no choice but to find a way to live with India. However, he was frank enough to point to the difficulties posed by Kashmir.
Army chief Bajwa also made a bold bid in early 2021 to renew engagement with India. But that initiative sputtered, thanks to the opposition from the then PM Imran Khan. The leaders of the current coalition — Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim League and Asif Ali Zardari of the People’s Party – had both sought to improve relations with India in the past. But under pressure from Imran Khan, “neither Bajwa nor the civilian leaders have much room to make a new beginning with India.”
Kashmir is the problem
More than three decades of support for the Kashmir insurgency, writes Mohan “has certainly bled Kashmir, but has not shaken it loose from India. Pakistan, which could easily mobilise international support for its Kashmir cause against India in the 1990s, now can’t count on anyone other than China and Turkey to back it.”
In its present dire state, “Pakistan needs a fresh start, and that ending the stalemate with India is a necessary part of it. Even small steps to improve relations with India will expand the diplomatic, political and economic space for Pakistan to navigate its multiple current crises. But that would demand an end to Pakistan’s preconditions on Kashmir to engage India.
“…….Given the massive emotional, ideological, political and strategic investments that Pakistan has made in the Kashmir insurgency, Rawalpindi and Islamabad will need much political courage to modify their current hard line and create the capacity to fend off the potential domestic backlash led by Imran Khan.
India must make on overture: On its part, India, suggests Mohan can “keep the lines of communication open with Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The reported back channel between national security adviser Ajit Doval and Bajwa did produce a ceasefire in February 2021 and is hopefully active today…..
“There is no better moment than the 75th anniversary of Independence and Partition for the Indian PM to articulate a new vision for South Asia’s future……”