The participation of India in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Project could usher in a new era for prosperity and change in the face of South Asia. Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman, Observer Research Foundation, India, shared these views at the panel discussion on Pakistan-India Peace Process and the Sharing of Experiences on Governance and Democracy hosted by PILDAT in Islamabad on Thursday. Mr. Kulkarni was joined by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence; Mr. Riaz Hussain Khokhar, Former Foreign Secretary and in discussing the current state of Pakistan-India ties and options for future cooperation.
In his address, Mr. Kulkarni spoke of the CPEC as an economic miracle, one whose dividends would multiply if India were also to participate in the venture. Infrastructure connecting the CPEC to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Project across Northern India could transform the face of the region and usher in a new era of economic cooperation. However, he said that China and Pakistan needed to address Indian concerns on the CPEC project before this could happen.
He impressed upon the audience the importance of thinking anew on the problems that had strained Pakistan-India ties in the past, saying that good statesmanship in both countries would depend upon the ability to set aside older grudges.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, while discussing the theme, spoke about how the idea of a multilateral cooperative framework or a confederation was a pipe dream: Pakistan and India needed to engage on a bi-lateral level before any regional endeavor could be attempted. He also proposed that both nations needed to open the doors for back-channel diplomacy. Speaking on the issue of Kashmir, he said that the people of Kashmir had spoken: the uprising after July 2016 was in fact a de facto plebiscite.
Mr. Riaz Hussain Khokhar in his remarks pointed out that the distrust between Pakistan and India currently was at an all time high. Any sort of regional cooperation attempted with India could not meet the same fate as the SAARC Conferences, in which the largest member country had neutralized the multi-lateral forum by boycotting its proceedings. Mr. Khokhar agreed with Mr. Kulkarni on the fact that there was a need for forward thinking, however it could not be at the cost of ignoring ground realities in Kashmir or on the diplomatic front.