A glimmer of hope for Pak-India peace
AFTER years of tension, it appears that there may be a glimmer of hope for peace between India and Pakistan.
This hope has been precipitated by reports that theUAE helped to broker the recent India-Pakistan Kashmir border ceasefire and a road map to peace between these two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours.
The ceasefire was announced in the last week of February in a joint statement of the Director Generals of Military Operations of Pakistan and India.
Immediately after that announcement, an official UAE readout was released stating that Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed visited New Delhi and talked with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, noting they “discussed all regional and international issues of common interest and exchanged views on them.”
Shortly thereafter, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa issued a statement asking India “to bury the past and move forward” and indicated that that the Pakistan military was ready to enter talks to resolve “all our outstanding issues.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan had asked for a resolution on Kashmir describing it as “the one issue that holds us back.” These positive signs were reinforced by messages from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On 20 March, Modi tweeted wishing Khan well after he was diagnosed with Covid-19. On March 22, he sent an official felicitation note to Imran Khan on the National Day of Pakistan, observed on March 23. Pakistani ministers welcomed Modi’s words on behalf of Prime Minister Khan.
These intensifying confrontations culminated with India ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by revoking Article 370 from the Indian Constitution.
The Pakistan government responded by calling back its envoy and severing all forms of trade declaring India’s action was a violation of the United Nations resolution on Kashmir issues.
These actions brought the relations between India and Pakistan to a virtual standstill.
That is why it is heartening to see movement toward potential peace discussions and the establishment of some form of peace between India and Pakistan going forward. What are the prospects for this and what could it mean for the future?
In this regard, it is instructive to look backward to learn from the past. A persistent peace endeavour was initiated by former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif. It ran from 1998-2007 with bumpy ups and downs initially.
The process kept going even after General Pervez Musharraf dismissed a democratic government and a limited scale war in Kargil.
The effort paid off in form of the ceasefire in 2003 and the subsequent Islamabad Joint Statement in 2004.
Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, the peace process accelerated and resulted in a number confidence building measures, with “a draft framework agreement” on Kashmir conflict resolution as the capstone of the decade long endeavour. This evolutionary peace process basically halted after 2007.
Bloomberg reports that “After a year of some of the worst fighting on India’s frontiers with Pakistan and China, all three countries are suddenly talking peace as they wait to see how President Joe Biden will shift policy in the region.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has stated that Biden welcomes the India Pakistan ceasefire and that representatives of the President’s administration remains closely engaged with officials in the region.
What the role of the U.S. in this region will be under Biden’s tenure as president is to be determined.
What is already obvious is that the relationship in the region along the borders with China and Afghan has been stressful for all nations concerned.
In conclusion, an old saying goes the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
It appears with the Kashmir ceasefire and the roadmap that the step has been taken and the peace journey India and Pakistan has begun.
It should be also remembered though that the journey is one of a thousand miles and that it will take time just as it did to make some progress in the period from 1998 -2007.
There is a glimmer of hope today. Completing the peace journey successfully would convert that glimmer to glittering sunshine that would engulf and benefit all the people of Pakistan and India.
—The writer is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC.