More Talks – More Peace

There is so much room for re­la­tions between In­dia and Pak­istan to ex­pand in var­i­ous di­rec­tions. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Southasia - - CONTENTS -

In­for­mal talks can play an im­por­tant role in build­ing con­fi­dence between hos­tile neigh­bours. Coun­tries like Pak­istan and In­dia, which suf­fer from a trust deficit, need to talk all the more. Af­ter Naren­dra Modi’s as­cent to power in In­dia and with a view to bridg­ing the trust gap, the first Pak­istan-In­dia bi­lat­eral di­a­logue was held in Is­lam­abad re­cently. It was spon­sored by the Re­gional Peace In­sti­tute which works to ra­tio­nal­ize peace in South Asia.

For­mer min­is­ters, noted jour­nal­ists, ed­u­ca­tion­ists and pol­i­cy­mak­ers were a part of the high-pow­ered, twelve­mem­ber del­e­ga­tion from In­dia that in­cluded for­mer Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Sal­man Khur­shid, for­mer Pe­tro­leum Min­is­ter, Mani Shankar Ai­yar and mem­bers of the rul­ing BJP.

The del­e­ga­tion en­tered Pak­istan through the Wa­gah bor­der check­point and, af­ter en­joy­ing the lun­cheon hosted by RPI Chair­man Mah­mud Kasuri, it trav­elled to Is­lam­abad on the La­hore-Is­lam­abad Mo­tor­way. This in­fras­truc­tural marvel left the mem­bers of the In­dian del­e­ga­tion quite im­pressed.

The group from Pak­istan com­prised 12 del­e­gates in­clud­ing Mah­mud Kasuri, Dr. Hafiz Pasha, jour­nal­ists Zi­aud­din Ahmed, Arif Nizami and Dr. Moeed Pirzada, as well as a num­ber of for­mer am­bas­sadors, gen­er­als and tech­nocrats.

The talks fo­cused on the Pak­istanIn­dia di­a­logue process, trade and busi­ness stakes between the two coun­tries and so­cial and me­dia co­op­er­a­tion. The In­di­ans ap­peared bullish and were op­ti­mistic that the Modi-led gov­ern­ment would fo­cus on ex­pand­ing the Gujarat busi­ness suc­cess story to the whole of In­dia and even be­yond into the SAARC coun­tries un­der its Look-East Pol­icy. They em­pha­sized that In­dia could not pros­per with­out equally pros­per­ing neigh­bors.

Dur­ing the di­a­logue, it was men­tioned that the bi­lat­eral trade between In­dia and China has now swelled to over US$75 bil­lion and is grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially, de­spite the fact that both coun­tries have a long his­tory of bor­der is­sues. They have set aside their po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences to carry out busi­ness and trade ac­tiv­i­ties while de­vel­op­ing a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of each other in the process of the 17 rounds of bor­der-re­lated dis­cus­sions held so far. The of­fi­cial fig­ure for Pak­istan-In­dia bi­lat­eral trade is $3 bil­lion while un­of­fi­cially it is $4

bil­lion with stag­na­tion in this trade at present.

Al­though In­dia’s doc­trine of nor­mal­iz­ing re­la­tions with Pak­istan is stated to be based on the prin­ci­ple of busi­ness first, the Mum­bai at­tacks still haunt In­dia and the threat of ter­ror­ism has been cited as a ma­jor de­ter­rent that stops the big­ger sub-con­ti­nen­tal power from mov­ing on. The In­di­ans also ac­knowl­edge that their coun­try faces se­ri­ous in­ter­nal chal­lenges in the form of economic and cul­tural dif­fer­ences that vary from re­gion to re­gion, the Kash­mir and Ladakh is­sues, poor gover­nance, cor­rup­tion, lack of de­vo­lu­tion of power to the pan­chayat level, has­sle-free move­ment on the LOC, etc.

It emerged that both the In­di­ans and Pak­ista­nis ad­vo­cate tak­ing baby steps to­wards build-up of Pak-In­dia re­la­tions. While Track-II is mov­ing on, what the two coun­tries need is Track-III diplo­macy, with some­thing worth­while hap­pen­ing on the ground. The ar­eas which can yield re­sults faster are co­op­er­a­tion in medicine, ed­u­ca­tion, sports, the soft­ware in­dus­try, cul­ture, etc.

A new so­cial move­ment with face- to-face con­tacts between In­di­ans and Pak­istan cit­i­zens can also di­lute the ef­fects of po­lit­i­cal bit­ter­ness between the two na­tions. The cit­i­zens of In­dia and Pak­istan have a com­mon her­itage but both have evolved dif­fer­ently in the last 60 years.

In the var­i­ous in­ter­ac­tions, it was noted that there is no course on Pak­istan stud­ies in the uni­ver­si­ties of In­dia. The same is the case in Pak­istan. On the is­sue of ter­ror­ism, Pak­istani par­tic­i­pants main­tained that the coun­try it­self is the worst vic­tim of ter­ror­ism, terming Kash­mir a long­stand­ing is­sue which needs to be ad­dressed for sus­tain­able peace in the re­gion. Some par­tic­i­pants claimed that the deaths in the Jammu and Kash­mir Val­ley have de­creased con­sid­er­ably be­cause of Pak­istan’s ef­forts and this needs to be ap­pre­ci­ated. They main­tained that find­ing solutions to po­lit­i­cal is­sues can be dif­fi­cult but the process must move on.

It was ar­gued that a lib­eral visa pol­icy and open­ing of an In­dian con­sulate in Karachi, was es­sen­tial but in spite of re­peated as­sur­ances by In­dia, the visa is­sue re­mains a ma­jor de­ter­rent for peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­tact, tourism and busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties.

Some par­tic­i­pants were of the view that the is­sue of grant of MFN sta­tus by Pak­istan to In­dia and the de­lay in an­nounc­ing the NDMA agreed in late 2013 is on ac­count of ap­pre­hen­sions on part of Pak­istan’s smaller econ­omy. Busi­ness­men in Pak­istan are afraid of los­ing out to In­dia’s mas­sive econ­omy and the stale­mate may con­tinue un­less the fear is ad­dressed.

Dis­cus­sions also dwelt on the me­dia on both sides of the bor­der not bridg­ing the gap between the two na­tions. The only bind­ing fac­tor is the im­mense pop­u­lar­ity of In­dian films in Pak­istan and of some Pak­istani TV se­ri­als in In­dia. How­ever, the trend started by some TV chan­nels and news­pa­pers to take on board an­chors, an­a­lysts and ed­i­to­rial writ­ers from each other’s coun­try was ap­pre­ci­ated and termed healthy in pro­ject­ing a more bal­anced view which would also en­sure that cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion and anal­y­sis was con­veyed to view­ers and read­ers. It was sug­gested that co­op­er­a­tion must move for­ward in this re­spect while me­dia in both coun­tries should avoid coun­try-bash­ing as ob­jec­tive views are the right of ev­ery ci­ti­zen.

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