Since the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, the estrangement in India-Pakistan relations has deepened. Although Pakistan strongly condemned the attacks, the investigations from both the countries have proved that the terrorists and the mastermind of the attack were intruding from the Pakistani soil. Though the evidence was very clear against the perpetrators, Pakistan’s inability to bring the perpetrators to justice further extends the vacuum of India and the Pak relationship.
Meanwhile, in December 2014 the Peshawar school massacre and August 2015 the killing of the Home Minister Shuja Khanzada in Pakistan’s Punjab province, indicating that terrorism is a common enemy for both countries. These terror incidents demonstrate that the terror network is disturbing the peace and development of the normal life of India and Pakistan. It would be a shame if the two countries did not collaborate in eliminating this common threat. Last year the prolong ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) have increased India’s outrage but caution with defensive retaliation on the status-quo border.
The Ufa understanding was established in July 2015 between India’s Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif during the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Russia. This leads to open a National Security Advisor (NSA) level talks had collapsed in the first week of September before it starts. Despite the parleys of NSA level talks between India and Pakistan, the DG-level dialogue held in 10-12 September 2015 left a positive message. Pakistan’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Kasauri’s book launch in India and the aurally-challenged Geetha’s return to India after ten years has generated a feel-good diplomacy.
However, the meeting between Modi and Nawaz Sharif on the sideline of climate summit in Paris during early December 2015 has made a substantial renewal which has led for the NSA level meetings in Bangkok on 15 of December. The meeting held away from India which had found a new way to deal with the Hurriyat separatists helps the Pakistan leaders to escalate from meeting the separatists which has also avoided uncomfortable situation for the Indian elite. The post meeting the two countries has declared the joint statement. However, the Indian National Congress Party (INC) the major opposition party in India has put pressure on the Modi government to explain the contents of the secret talk. Now this secret talk has expanded by Modi to date with Pakistan on the day of Christmas is the quite, unexpected diplomacy initiated from the Indian side. Modi’s visit has been welcomed by the major opposition parties in Pakistan including Imran Khan.
However, Manish Tewari the Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Department of INC said, “This adventure of the prime minister will have serious impact”. The INC’s stance indicates potential reason to oppose the prime minister’s sudden visit to Pakistan. Their perception would be if any ‘reverse thing takes place instead of forward moment’ then the ice cannot be melted away immediately. Further, their trust deficit naturally gets wider. Moreover, the six decades estrangement cannot be sort out with the two hours stoppage in Lahore by the Indian prime minister. However, Modi may think of acknowledging his counterpart Nawaz Sherif’s initiative for peace process with India by advising his ministerial colleagues “not to make anti-India statements”. This means that small stars are visible at the end of the very long tunnel, where there is a possibility to melt the trust deficit between India and Pakistan to restart the entire peace process.
At least now India and Pakistan were acknowledged now that they are neighbours and this cannot be changed. What they have to do is accept the fact of their co-existence and move forward in resolving any outstanding divergence, for the mutual interest of both nations. Without concession from both sides, no substantial progress can be achieved in their relationship. Therefore, both should strive to nurture close ties rather than exhausting their treasuries by investing more in nuclear weaponry. A meaningful dialogue will have more lasting effects. It will catalyse improvement in their shared mutual issues of poverty and unemployment, which have gone unnoticed on both sides of the leadership for too long.
This sudden tilt from India indicates a new trajectory for engagement. The elected representative’s heads meeting in Lahore would not be materialised without the back up of the Pakistan military. Both sides seem to decide to back to the negotiating table without any preconditions. This would enhance them to move forward for the next stage with the possibility of making some breakthrough in their most sensitivity matters.
At this juncture what India should do? Firstly, Modi government should on board the opposition, particularly the INC. This would strengthen Modi’s initiative with Pakistan domestically and in the parliament. Secondly, India should give green signal to resume the India-Pakistan cricket series. In this issue the ball is on the Indian side. The Pakistan Cricket Board is eagerly waiting to receive the good news from the Indian foreign ministry. Once both countries come to exercise a normal mood then they can move further to the next level with the big agenda of the real sensitive issues. Thirdly, India should gently insist the Mumbai terror case with the Pakistan without any hesitation. Though this would raise serious reservations from both sides but both sides should face the reality. In this for both countries there is any easy go. Fourthly, the long awaited most-favoured-nation (MFN) status from Pakistan to India is remains to be a hectic negotiation since it has clearly wrapped up with politics and economics. India should assist Pakistan in this matter to take the issue in a smooth way. If Pakistan considers India in this regard, without any doubt it would be a leap forward moment in the relationship of India and Pakistan. By achieving this, both sides can further enhance to make a separate institutional mechanism for Kashmir talks bilaterally. Moreover, both sides requires immense patience on this issue particularly on Kashmir, since India and Pakistan’s domestic politics have strong hold on the issue as a matter of sensitivity.
If the pleasant moment to stay longer Pakistan should effectively discharge its duty to take stringent action on the Pathankot masterminds. The continuous flow of terror activity in Kashmir always have undoubted link with Pakistan terror groups. However, the present stance of both courtiers indicates that they demonstrated the will power to stand against the terror together. The Pathnakot attack demonstrates this. Firstly, the post-attack the Indian elite did not cancel the peace talks but with consensus they went for moratorium. Secondly, the Pakistan side accepted that the terrorist during the attack on the Pathankot naval base made several contact with the terror network in Pakistan. Now both the countries through back channel in search of finding the place for the talks. If both the sides put their effort to take this new trajectory of convergence further the possibility of more chance for engagement. If both sides articulate this relationship according to their conveniences this new trajectory of pleasing moment would have long stay. The question, therefore, is which way does India and Pakistan want to move now in the new-year?