Pakistan-India relations are dotted with the history of mistrust, wars, conflict and acrimony, which have become an overarching feature of their bilateral relationship. Hostility between states can encourage mistrust; if the hostility gets deepened, it will create hindrances between smooth interstate relations.
Hence, both countries’ relations have never been on an even keel and mostly remained as a roller coaster, even a frosty one. The impasse between the two states continues. And, prospects for sustained and meaningful engagement look rather slim as Pakistan held general elections this year and India next year. The Modi government, when it comes to Pakistan, seems to be under the influence of extremist RSS, whose anti-Pakistan sentiments are well-known.
The Modi regime has completed its four-year term in June 2018, which throughout witnessed no sign of a headway about any possibility in normalizing the relations between Pakistan and India. The Modi’s administration could not offer an olive branch to Pakistan by giving a rise to optimism for solving the outstanding disputes between two countries. The power game and hegemonic designs of India in the region have made the bilateral relations further complicated. Consequently, uncertainties are still looming large.
Pakistan and India fought three major wars and their relations have not always been “Never War Situation.” Profoundly, both countries remain under the cloud of the persistent situation of “High Tension”. Their relations became further complicated when the Modi regime has adopted a policy of isolating Pakistan. Rather, it has been engaging in encircling and weakening Pakistan. SAARC, too, has been a victim of Indian hubris. Since the establishment of SAARC, India’s role has always remained a matter of concern. The 19th SAARC summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November 2016, had to be cancelled as India refused to attend invoking the alibi of terrorism. It is also working to complicate issues between Pakistan and Afghanistan under the American watch.
Overall, traditional peace constituency in India seems to be on the back foot and fast losing its relevance to putting the normalization process back on track. Indian hegemonic aspiration and egoistic attitude have contributed to a mistrust and classic security dilemma in the South Asian region; therefore hopes for peace between Pakistan and India remain grim.
The ceasefire violations continue on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary by India, which has reached the highest point in fifteen years. Around 1,970 violations in 2017 and 415 until the beginning of March 2018 have been recorded so far. India is also riding roughshod over Pakistan’s legitimate objections to India’s building of dams on the Western rivers in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty. The international community is rightly worried about the continuing tension between the two nuclear powers. However, the major powers have not been able to contribute in any significant way to promote peace in the region and influence India to shun its belligerent ways.
In the past, both countries have been involved one way or another in peace process either in the form of composite dialogue or bilateral political engagement. Yet, none of these could produce the desired outcome due to Indian aspiration to maintain status-quo. Another dilemma has been the adoption of bottom-up approach such as increasing trade and economic relations or people-to-people contact and to resolve relatively low political issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar barrage, and water issues while hoping that such an approach may pave the way to the resolution of Kashmir dispute. This approach has failed to produce the desired results.
Pakistan had been repeatedly saying that peace in the region cannot be realized until the resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and the will of the people of Kashmir. Pakistan believes that war is not an option and dialogue is the only way to remove mistrust and move forward. Rather, dialogue sets a stage for creating a conducive environment in addressing the outstanding disputes. This needs to be understood and accepted by the Modi regime, which seems to be in denial mood.
The confidence-building measures are a prerequisite to building a normal Pakistan-India relation, which can only be attained if the peace process commences in true spirit and reaches its logical conclusion. The challenges, which hinder the Pakistan-India peace process, have to be simultaneously addressed by India for the sustainability of the dialogue such as no violations of Line of Control and the working boundary. India should stop pursuing terrorism as an instrument of state policy by waging the proxy war in Pakistan. It should also stop using Afghan soil for fomenting trouble in Pakistan’s tribal areas adjoining Afghanistan, as well as, in Balochistan and other important urban centres. There is a need to stop issuing belligerent statements against Pakistan. If India persists in its unfriendly propaganda against Pakistan, it will cause mutual antagonism, mistrust and misunderstanding that, in turn, could become a stumbling block in normalizing the relations.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Muhammad Nawaz Khan is Research Officer at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad. His areas of research include Russian foreign and defense policy with special focus on Pakistan, Counter-Radicalization, and Afghanistan.