Pak-India peace at regional chessboard | By Sikandar Noorani 


Pak-India peace at regional chessboard

PEACE in South Asian region will always remain endangered until Pak-India seriously move ahead to transform the traditional rivalry in to a normalized neighbourly affair.

Joint statement to revive LoC ceasefire agreement from Pak-India DGsMO was a solid step beyond verbal claims on the path of peace.

Prior to this, while addressing at PAF academy, Pak COAS proposed peaceful solution of Kashmir issue as per aspirations of Kashmiri masses.

Though, restoration of peace between arch rivals has always remained a complex affair but post LoC ceasefire agreement developments seem to be on right track despite few irritants.

Speeches of Pak PM and COAS at Islamabad Security Dialogue expressed clear urge to settle all the contentious regional disputes including Kashmir through peaceful means.

Felicitation messages from Indian side on Pak day, exchange of letters between Indo-Pak PMs, permission to use Indian airspace for Pak PM’s tour to Sri Lanka, Indian government’s consent to grant visas to Pak team for upcoming T-20 world cup and recent Pak offers to support India in worsening Covid crisis are the obvious indicators of ice melting.

Immediately after DGsMO joint statement in February, coordinated leaks started pouring in Indian media that LoC ceasefire was outcome of UK and UAE brokered secret deal.

Pak foreign office and PM’s Advisor on National Security have denied media stories about backchannel contacts.

Few known quarters of Indian media affiliated with deep state persistently targeted Pak PM, Pak army, COAS General Qamar Bajwa and negatively portrayed peace gestures of Islamabad.

Speculations stirred by Indian media touched a new vertex after rejection of sugar import proposal by Pak cabinet.

Though, ill-timed announcement by minister Hammad Azhar and a quick rejection of proposal by cabinet in less than 24 hours was no less than a loose delivery for Indian media but it also gave a clear message regarding Pakistan’s unflinching commitment with Kashmir issue.

Leaving aside all the media speculations about backchannel or secret talks, Islamabad made it absolutely clear that Kashmir would remain the core issue between both countries with no possibility of restoration of dialogue vis-à-vis trade until reversal of Indian 5th August 2019 action on status of IIOJK.

Pak firm stance on Kashmir issue has surfaced repeatedly at various occasions from top state officials including PM, President and Foreign Minister.

In recent episode of peace overtures, Indian state response has remained very calculative and restrained.

Probably Indian MEA has only once issued a clear statement about bi-lateral peace talks wrapped in traditional urge for terror free environment.

Similar tone on terrorism and violence was maintained in PM Modi’s letter addressed to Pak PM.

Indian Army Chief though praised sustenance of LoC ceasefire but in same breath blamed Pakistan for hosting terrorist launching pads in AJK.

While the peace overtures are being discussed in media as a significant development at South Asian canvas, nothing seems changed in IIOJK as far as state sponsored atrocities are concerned.

New Delhi continues with policy of violence as an alarming surge in encounters was noticed by credible impartial international media outlets during first two weeks of April.

International media houses Al-Jazeera, TRT, Anadolu and Sputnik raised concerns on extra-judicial killings of 12 Kashmiri youths with in span of 12 hours.

Indian policy of aggressions can be rightly assessed from the fact that even former puppet CM of IIOJK Mehbooba Mufti was denied passport over security concerns.

Question rightly arises that how peace can sustain at LoC without peace in IIOJK? As a whole, India so far has responded to peace overtures with meaningful cautious approach without committing any concrete practical step which as a genuine starter should obviously be nothing less than restoration of IIOJK Pre-5th August 2019 status.

Pakistan has maintained traditional stance on Kashmir and New Delhi seems to be glued with its baseless stand on cross-border terrorism.

Peace overtures needs to be supplemented with concrete practical steps. On Pak side, political consensus and internal stability is needed more than ever.

Above all, Islamabad needs precise clarity in assessing the real intent of New Delhi. Is it either a compulsion for India or a usual time gaining diversionary move to bluff the international community over devastating state of human rights in IIOJK? Pak –India peace cannot be delinked with multiple regional developments like Indo-China LAC stand-off, Indian strategic partnership with US mostly aimed at China containment, activation of Quad in Asia-Pacific, Russian concerns on Indian growing involvement with west and upcoming troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Indian internal fissures and home grown troubles have posed considerable challenges as evident from farmers’ protests, re-ignition of Khalistan fire, uncontrollable Covid crisis, troublesome elections in west Bengal and bloody skirmishes with Maoists.

This must be kept in focus that India is long term strategic partner of US and a key player in Quad’s anti- China plans. On the other hand, Pakistan is a key partner of China at regional chessboard.

If Beijing is in crosshairs of US and Quad then Islamabad has all the reasons to be extra-cautious in dealing with India.

—The writer, a retired army officer, is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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