Plainly speaking Indo-Pak relations have never been on the right track. Past continues to sneak in to present, unabatedly. The Kashmir imbroglio, water dispute, and terrorism linked issues being at the bed rock of the bilateral relations; all this has brought about several diplomatic debacles. Recently the alleged harassment of the Pakistan high commissioner and his family in New Delhi, even though exacerbated the existent strained diplomatic ties between the two countries, the event of Pakistan day on 23rd of March this year in Islamabad noticed the presence of some special Indian officials who watched the celebrations amongst others. The Indian officials were reported to have attended the function for the first time since independence. The political observers expressed optimism that this could be a signal of rekindling of hope. This may lead Pakistan to follow the suit, by attending Independence-day celebrations of India in New Delhi this year. The entangled visa issue between the two nations may get eased in due course of time. Ours is an economic world and the national policies are tailored in consonance with the economic out growth and development of a country. The economic prioritization of international relations between the developing countries has almost eliminated the possibility of armed conflicts on account of outstanding issues and the scowling relations; replaced by the modern political doctrine of perpetual and sustained diplomatic engagement. The best example in this context is Sino-Indian talks on Doklam issue, resolved with successful diplomacy. The frozen Kashmir issue in this perspective gives some hope. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chahbahar port located at a distance of 65 kilometres from each other in Pakistan and Iran have catalyzed the need for close co-operation between India and Pakistan vis-a-vis India-Iran-Pakistan trade link. This is exactly what made the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari to visit Pakistan last month. He emphasized the need for linking Chahbahar to CPEC for significant trade benefits. It would mean India joining CPEC indirectly, having been averse to join it directly, even after repeatedly invited by China and Pakistan. The Indian high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria while addressing Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, last month put to note that illiteracy and poverty were common to both the nations and stressed on a direct trade link between the two which according to him had great scope. He considered the Visa issue and strained relations as the main reasons responsible for the failure of actualizing a potential of 30 billion Dollar trade mark between the two neighboring countries as estimated by the World Bank, which was at present only 2.2 billion Dollars. To achieve this, he maintained that India and Pakistan could not escape for long from working together for peaceful future. Bisaria reiterated that policy of confrontation over the past seventy years benefitted none, which he wanted to be dropped in favour of one which is led by large young population on the both sides that was furthest away from the bitter past. Interestingly just a week before this, Pakistan high commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood had expressed the similar sentiments and hoped that both countries would give their next generation a future of hope and opportunities. The fact that the Civil society in India over the past some years has failed to garner support to the resolution of Kashmir issue, the root cause of acrimonious relations between the two countries, is perhaps attributed to the prevalent wave of intolerance in India. If the political situation improves the Civil society efforts can buttress the endeavor of people like Bisaria. Time and again the Chief ministers of the State , Omar Abdullah previously, and now Mehbooba Mufti have been calling for a sustained dialogue with Pakistan but time again it falls on deaf ears in New Delhi. But what is significant is that the mainstream parties in J&K unlike past have affirmed that it was an outstanding issue that inevitably called for a purposeful engagement between India and Pakistan and also to the leadership in Kashmir. The post 2016 uprising witnessed sharp surge in armed violence in Kashmir. What should be a matter of serious concern in New Delhi and Kashmir is the number of new generation youth joining militant ranks, leading to military build up. The think tanks in India expresse hope that the de-escalation in militancy build up could be successfully achieved if the Government of India showed an acceptance to a sustained political engagement with the Kashmiri leadership which remains to be obscure till now. This is more important in view of failure of the elected successive Governments in the State to douse the flames. The elections for constituent Assembly in the State have failed to be an alternative that calls for a Vajpayee doctrine on Kashmir. The long twenty seven years of violent unrest is self explanatory that all other approaches barring a political one have proved to be counterproductive. Obviation of a political initiation would mean a denial of political solution of the problem. There is a possibility that the Modi Government does not yield to the need of initiation of dialogue on Kashmir and continues to walk the path of neglect, however the optimism would remain alive particularly in the coming years when a new Government is framed in New Delhi. Even if the present Government is re-elected to power, priorities may change and the economically fast changing World might re-shape New Delhi's approach to Kashmir issue, which is plaguing its own reputation, being largest democracy in the world. Without improvement in Indo-Pak relations, progress towards resolution of Kashmir problem is somewhat difficult to expect.
Dr. Muzaffar Shaheen is senior Associate Professor, SKUAST-K