India-Pakistan ties and the mirror of 2019

News: Recently, the official delegation from Pakistan visited New Delhi to hold talks with its Indian counterparts. This was done under the aegis of the Indus Water Treaty.

Recent Developments

India has been sending consignments of wheat to the Taliban-run Afghanistan via Pakistan, under the World Food Programme.

Since the Ladakh border crisis on the Line of Actual Control with China in the summer of 2020, the Indian leadership has not been targeting Pakistan as an enemy country.

The Indian and Pakistan armies agreed to a reiteration of the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir in February 2021.

What are the reasons for re-engagement between India and Pakistan?

The Ladakh border crisis raised the threat of a collusive military threat between China and Pakistan. Therefore, India has resorted to diplomatic, economic, informational, and military engagement.

For example, India’s National Security Adviser opened backchannel talks with Pakistan, using the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an interlocutor.

The Kashmir’s Assembly constituencies delimitation has been completed. The Jammu and Kashmir statehood could also be restored in the coming future.

Despite, security-centric approach, J&K violence has gone up in the past year or so. Pakistan has been involved in this violence. It has been alleged of sending weapons and militants, thus thwarting a lasting solution in Kashmir.

For example, all the resources of the Indian state have now been devoted towards a successful conduct of the Amarnath Yatra.

Recently, the Pakistan government has changed. It is seen as a positive in New Delhi. Both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People’s Party are now part of the government with which Indian official establishment has had good relationship.

What are the possible challenges?

Pakistan has set two preconditions for initiating reengagement: (1) restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir; and (2) an announcement of no demographic change in the Kashmir Valley.

Recently, Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik was sentenced. His sentencing also earned a strong statement of condemnation from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

The environment in Pakistan is not conducive for any positive move. Their domestic politics [Imran Khan garnering support against the establishment], economy in doldrums etc. are posing challenges.

Both Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed countries which have threatened to shoot missiles at each other on a number of mishaps.

Way Forward

In response, the Foreign Minister of India has rejected the condemnation from the OIC.

There are some low-hanging fruits which can be plucked the moment a political go-ahead is given.

For example, the Sir Creek dispute resolution, revival of bilateral trade, return of High Commissioners to the missions in Delhi and Islamabad, and build-up of diplomatic missions to their full strength.

Further, there can be demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier later on.

India and Pakistan would have a new window of opportunity in the coming years. For example, Pakistan would have elections, there will be a fresh Pakistan Army chief, Jammu and Kashmir may have a new State government after elections, India to have re-election in 2024 etc.

Indian leadership must shift course from belligerence to a proper diplomatic and political engagement with Pakistan.

Source: The post is based on an article “India-Pakistan ties and the mirror of 2019” published in the “The Hindu “on 3rd June 2022.

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