Malik M Ashraf
Though the process of building bonhomie between India and Pakistan— that started after a meeting between Prime Ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of Climate Change Conference in Paris—— is not moving at the desired pace but what is encouraging to note is that it still remains on track as the two sides seemingly continue with their cooperative spirit to deal with challenges confronting the South Asian region and terrorism. They are working together to unravel the perpetrators of Pathankot attack. Pakistan has taken a number of steps on the basis of the information provided by India, including registration of an FIR, detention of a number of leaders of Jaish-e-Muhammad and the formation of JIT to conduct a thorough probe into the incident.
Now, as a result of a meeting between, Advisor on Foreign Policy Sartaj Aziz and the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Sawaraj on the sidelines of the 37th SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in Pokhara, Nepal, it has been announced that the Pakistani JIT would visit Pathankot on March 28 to initiate investigations into the incident. Reportedly Pakistan earlier had tipped Indian authorities about the infiltration of alleged terrorists into India, which resulted in killing of three of them by the Indian security forces. These are indeed very encouraging portents. In fact Pakistan has gone an extra mile to ensure the continuation of the collaborative efforts and paving the way for the much awaited resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between the two countries. What is also heartening to note is that the leadership on both sides seems convinced of the desirability of joint efforts to deal with the burgeoning phenomenon of terrorism that poses security threat to all the regional countries including Pakistan and India.
There are also indications that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi might have another chance to meet each other in Washington later this month. An invitation has also been extended to the Indian Prime Minister to attend SAARC summit in Pakistan later this year. Whether he would accept the invitation and attend the Summit, would actually depend on the progress made in regards to Pathankot incident which will also test the sincerity of purpose on both sides to take a detour from their bitter past and make a new beginning in their mutual interest as well as the interest of the entire region.
Pakistan undoubtedly is desirous of peace in the region and having conflict-free relations with its neighbours. Its efforts to support the process of reconciliation and an Afghan-led and Afghan owned solution to the war in that country and overtures to the Indian government in line with the new narrative that makes no distinction between good and bad terrorists and spurns the machinations of the non-state actors, is a ranting testimony of its sincerity to pursue these objectives.
It is said that it takes two to tango. Peace and security in the South Asian region hinges on amity between India and Pakistan and their working together in promoting these issues. The leaders on both sides face a big challenge. Nevertheless they also have avenues available to them to shed the past baggage and make sure that the process is not derailed again by incidents like Pathankot, perpetrated by the non-state actors and the shenanigans of the hawkish elements on both sides who are always on the look-out to thwart peace initiatives. India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers as well as neighbours. They live in a very volatile region facing multiple security related challenges which can only be tackled through collaborative efforts on perennial bases.
SAARC has also remained hostage to strained relations between India and Pakistan as no substantial progress has so far been made to realise its objectives. That also underlines the importance of settlement of disputes between the two countries and the creation of a congenial atmosphere to pursue those objectives.
The PML (N) government is rightly pursuing a policy of regional linkages for shared economic prosperity, being mindful of the fact that the security and economic interests of Pakistan and the countries of the region were inextricably linked with each other. The CPEC initiative, reaching out to Central Asian States, commitment to construct trans-regional projects like TAPI and CASA-1000 and IP Gas Pipeline, are all manifestations of this new narrative evolved by the government.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.