"Never look behind boys when you are on the way ,” American poet Walt Whitman’s poem should serve a lesson to India and Pakistan.
The way forward is to remove all suspicions and walk lockstep in improving their ties and lift the peoples from a permanent state of hostility that has thrown them to the uncertain terrain full of cliffs.
It should be understood that there is an intense yearning for peace among the peoples and that should be heeded, and responded to.
On February 25, 2021, the subcontinent woke to a pleasant surprise that renewed their hope that peace might not be an unachievable proposition after all.
India and Pakistan had renewed their commitment to end the hostilities on the Line of Control that divides Jammu and Kashmir between them. It was a pragmatic step toward bringing peace in the subcontinent.
The LoC is not just a borderline, it is starting point of the reconciliation as the confrontation , exchange of gun fire and mortar shells have killed soldiers and civilians on both sides and heightened tensions.
Pragmatism should guide the vision of peace. The delusional rhetoric is not the way out. Now, it is the time when the confidence building measures should take real-time shape.
That is one of the lessons that the two countries should have learned after their populations were struck with the Covid-19, and suffered all kinds of losses. Who suffered more or less should not form the core of the debate, but there should be a reflection on the grim reality that the whole world suffered, and so did India and Pakistan.
There are some simple ways of looking at the situation as it exists. Geopolitics in this region has experienced upheavals in the past one year.
America is out of Afghanistan, China is locked in a stiff war of nerves with the US, and PLA troops are amassed along the LAC in Ladakh. This is a complex situation. Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has already spoken of that, when he said:
“The situation at ( the LAC in eastern Ladakh) has arisen due to the disregard by China in 2020 of written agreements with us not to amass forces at the border. So, when a large country disregards written commitments, I think it’s an issue of legitimate concern for the international community.”
Pakistan, as we all know, is all-weather friend of China. Their strategic and economic interests have converged, and now more ever since Taliban took over the control of Afghanistan, and, of course, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is symbol of their long-term relationship. India is opposed to CPEC. And it is also a fact of global importance that the US and India have drawn closer to each other.
These are bare facts, and cannot be denied, but that doesn’t mean that India and Pakistan cannot foster their own relationship on a positive course. Once Pakistan starts living up to its vow of not allowing its soil to be used for terrorism and export of terrorism, 90 per cent of its own problems would end.
And of course, Kashmir will benefit. If it really considers itself as friend of Kashmiris, it must stop cross-border terrorism. As it hates cross-border terrorism visiting it from Afghanistan, India hates that coming from Pakistan.
This offers a way forward. Pakistan wants Kashmir to be discussed first. Of this first is the reversal of the August 5, 2019 decisions of scrapping special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, its bifurcation.
The irony of the history is that the erstwhile state of J&K as on August 5 , 2019 was part of the original erstwhile state that suffered split and split since 1947.
So that should give Pakistan an idea that if it insists on talking of the Kashmir on this side of the LoC, it would have to put its part of Kashmir, the territory of the state it gifted to China, and the territory that China occupied in 1962, apart from Gilgit-Baltistan on the table.
Since it has no means nor power to get back original J&K’s territories from China, its talk of discussing this J&K, and the UN resolutions is rendered irrelevant.
The Chinese position, which was reiterated at the recent conclusion of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit is that “the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.”
This statement has already been rejected by MEA, but a question should be posed; will it vacate all the territories under its occupation to have a peaceful resolution of what it calls “ Kashmir dispute”. This is a matter between India and Pakistan, let China move out of the state’s territories without any conditions.
Since China is not going to do any of these things, therefore, the ground situation should be accepted as it is and India and Pakistan devise their own trajectory of dialogue that works to the mutual benefit of both Delhi and Islamabad.
It might not have been a coincidence that, on Sunday ( February 13) two former chief ministers of J&K- Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – spoke of dialogue with Pakistan. Farooq Abdullah exuded confidence saying , “one good thing is happening between India and Pakistan, the relations between the two countries are going to improve and that would be beneficial for us all.” While Mehbooba Mufti, keeping in with her style, said that “there is no option but for the two ( countries ) to talk.”
They carry weight as for years they have been elected by the people, the same very people who would vote and elect the next Assembly. Prime Minister Modi had laid the outline for the dialogue (with Pakistan) in March last year, when he, in a letter to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, said: “As a neighbouring country, India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan. For this, an environment of trust, devoid of terror and hostility, is imperative.”
March 2022 is approaching, it is time Pakistan realises importance of this and fills in gaps that Modi wanted Islamabad to do. Once that happens, the pathways will lit up, for sure.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.