Kashmir: Fragile Indo-Pak bonhomie

Views from Srinagar

Z. G. Muhammad

THE relations between India and Pakistan bar ring some hunky dory moments have always been on a short fuse. Towards the end of December 2015 to the surprise of the world, the NDA government’s one and half year hard posturing and ‘war talk’ against Islamabad suddenly melted down like wax when PM Modi announced on Twitter that he will halt at Lahore on his way back from Kabul.
The impromptu 150 Minutes visit of Narendra Modi to Pakistan of course with a shove from Washington sent new tidings of peace across the sub-continent. Ostensibly, the leaders of the two countries struck deep bonds of bonhomie.
Just a week after this bonhomie was put to a rigorous test when on 2 January, a heavily armed group attacked the Indian Air Force Station at Pathankot. New Delhi blamed some non-state actors from across the border for the attack. The attack unlike in the past did not trigger the total collapse of the process set in at the Lahore meeting. The visible cooperation as seen at the top level on both the sides suggests that there is a strong realization on both the side that peace and dialogue are the way forward.
This cooperation was also evident a fortnight back during meetings between Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counter counterpart Sartaj Aziz at SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting in Pokhara, Nepal. The meeting was seen important in as much as setting the stage for a meeting between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Meet in Washington on March 31, and April 1 is concerned.
President, Barrack Obama has invited the two leaders to the fourth nuclear security summit. Until March 26, morning, there was no formal announcement about the two Prime Ministers meeting on the sidelines of the summit. Nonetheless, the invitation by Obama to the leaders was in fact prompted immediately after the December 25 Lahore meeting.
The belief has been that the summit would provide one more ‘planned opportunity’ for Modi and Nawaz to further iron out their differences on contentious issues and carry forward bilateral ties which had seen ‘some icy lows and relative heights’ during 2015. But, the sad thing about this expected meeting is that it is taking place at a time when there is a big row in Islamabad over the alleged involvement of New Delhi in Baluchistan and Karachi.
On Friday Pakistan Foreign Office summoned Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale to lodge protest against the alleged “activities of Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav, a naval officer in Baluchistan and Karachi”. Pakistan has stated that Yadav was working for the Indian intelligence agency. Spokesperson of the external affairs ministry acknowledging the man was a former Indian Navy personnel but ‘dismissed allegations of espionage,’ saying “India believes a stable Pakistan is in the interest of the region.”
In Washington India and Pakistan Prime Ministers may not have a ‘structured dialogue’. But the meeting on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit seems on the cards after two leaders have separate meetings with President Obama. If one goes by the debates on the electronic media in the two countries the Pathankot attack and the arrest of the naval officer from Chaman, a village on the Pakistan-Afghan border and the alleged interference in Baluchistan are going to dominate the meeting between Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif.
It would be tomfoolery to say that there should be no discussion on these subjects that can spark once again a war of attrition between New Delhi and Islamabad. Nevertheless, for giving peace a chance in the region, it is important for the two Prime Ministers not to allow these bitter issues to spoil the bonhomie which otherwise is as brittle as glass. Instead, adopt as flexible an attitude as a polymer for addressing the core issue. The hurdle in the relation between the two countries has been the trust deficit.
Stephen Cohen in his book, ‘Emerging Power India’ referring to various conflicts in the world what he calls as ‘paired conflicts’ writes, “Extremely persistent conflicts seem to draw their energy from an inexhaustible supply of distrust.” It is for this ‘distrust’ that the story of India-Pakistan relations during past sixty-seven years has been that of one step forward and two steps backward.
The two countries instead of resolving the disputes that they have inherited from the British colonial masters at the time of their birth as independent dominions have added to the list and with each passing year, they continue to add to disputes between the two countries. This increasing number of issues and disputes has adversely affected the multitudes of marginalized and underprivileged people in the two countries.
Had a resolution of the Kashmir Dispute not been procrastinated many other disputes that were part of the British legacy would have long before been solved and many others like Sachin perhaps would not have been born. Given to ‘the amount of international and regional attention that Kashmir got especially after 1948, 1962 and 1965 wars the perpetuation of the Kashmir problem has ‘surprised’ many international experts. ‘In 1962, when America during the India-China war had sided with India, it had also proposed the partition of Jammu and Kashmir. It had also proposed with the Valley going to Pakistan a corridor should be ensured to India to Ladakh.
‘For Kashmir being inscribed in the body of the UN resolution and certainly one of the most serious and old conflicts’, Cohen rightly says that ‘for the most part, the great powers have been ineffective in trying to help address the Kashmir problem.’ True, Kashmir problem so far has been the ‘biggest failure of international diplomacy’ but that is not to say it is intractable. The resolution of the Kashmir which is mother of all the disputes between two key players in South Asia India and Pakistan just calls for the statesmanship at the sub-continental and international levels. —Courtesy: Greater Kashmir
[Author is Srinagar-based witer,commentator,journalist]

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