A Pakistani's Perspective on India-Pakistan relations

Since both Pakistan and India gained their independence, the two nations have had an antagonistic relationship. After August 1947, unresolved geographical and resource issues sowed the seed of grievances on both sides of the border. As a result, Pakistan and India have engaged in wars and unconventional hostilities till present. To have normal and reciprocally constructive relations, Pakistan and India have to increase interdependence. One element of the wide area of confidence building measures is economic integration between both countries. The potential for trade is considerable between New Delhi and Islamabad. The trade volume is less than $3 billion currently but normalized trade relations (both formal and informal) could eventually send the figure to $40 billion, representing an increased interdependence that is vital for a peaceful South Asia.

A quick review of the world gives us few examples where major rivals for centuries have become prosperous partners today. The European Economic and Steel Community (ECSC) followed by the European Economic Community (ECC) the European Union (EU), had its origins in the destruction and despair of the Second World War. Europe lay in ruin, its principal powers were devastated and its eastern periphery was occupied by the Soviet Union. The ECSC was proposed by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman aiming to "Make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible" by the virtue of interdependence among the member states.

After a long history of bloodshed including two world wars (WWI-WWII) Germany and France decided to put aside their animosity. Both counties moved towards strengthening regional stability in EU to avoid further economic, social and psychological tensions. In 1963, signed a “Special Relationships” agreement embodied in the Franco-German Friendship. Coal and steel community was established in 1951 by the treaty of Paris to start economic cooperation with each other. Pakistan and India may seek lessons from the above mentioned examples.

For instance, SAARC is a good platform to discuss regional issues, particularly the grave state of Pakistan-India relations. The full potential of trade relations can be capitalized through improvement of infrastructure and removal of tariff barriers. However, this can be only be achieved after reduced tensions between the two countries.

The Kashmir Conflict

The Kashmir issue has always been the major bone of contention between Pakistan and India. From United Nations Resolutions (38, 39, 47, 51, 80, 91, 96, 98, 122, 123, 128) to Dixon's Plan (1950), none of the solutions have worked for either Pakistan or India. Options for talks have been offered by the governments of both countries but marred by the mutual mistrust that exists between them. The Four Point Formula (2004-2007) discussed between the former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can provide an effective roadmap to the resolution of Kashmir issue. In his book ‘Neither a Hawk nor Dove’, the Pakistani former foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri mentions that “in 2007 the solution to Kashmir was in a grasp of both governments”. The two sides had agreed on a four-point formula that envisaged demilitarization and joint control of the disputed territory. It also suggested making Line of Control irrelevant by allowing Kashmiris on both sides to move freely. Many politicians from the ruling party in India had also agreed upon the four point formula. Senior Indian Politician and current Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti had also lent support to Musharraf’s Kashmir Policy. Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistani controlled part of disputed region) in 2005, Sardar Sikander Hayat, also supported Musharraf’s Kashmir policy and was hopeful for the resolution. However due to domestic pressures and unrest, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf resigned in 2008. And with Musharraf, any potential opportunity for resolution that the four point formula offered also ended. Since there were many loopholes and details to be ironed out, the successive governments moved away from the four point formula.  

Stemming from the Kashmir issue are the constant military standoffs that the two countries need to avoid. Several reports suggest that 70,000 people have died and more than 8000 disappeared in Kashmir in recent years. The human cost of Kashmir conflict and skirmishes along the border must be realized by both governments. Given that, expanding the areas of existing military, political and economic Confidence Building Measure (CBMs) will help to enhance the mutual understanding and resolution of issues. The two governments also need to initiate talks on nuclear and conventional security, as per the 1999 Lahore Declaration. The existing mechanism of a direct hotline between the Director General Military Operations of both countries is currently not actually being used. Restarting the direct hotline would also be a strong preemptive measure.

Diplomatic, Cultural and Economic Opportunities

Pakistan and India can also focus on diplomatic and cultural options which may pave the way for better relations and increase in trust. Apart from the four point formula, the last substantial dialogue that took place between India and Pakistan was the composite dialogue in 2004. However, the peace process soon came to standstill after the Samjhota Express bombings in 2007 and the Bombay terror attacks 2008. Both nations can take steps towards eliminating the strain in relations through Track 1 and Track Two Diplomacy. This includes diplomatic options such as the Neemrana Dialogue and Pugwash Conference that may help to keep the channels of communication open, even during the times of crises at the official level.

The collaborative educational, medical, technological and cultural exchange programs can also serve as tools to foster positivity and deepen linkages between the people of both the countries. Establishing more institutions like the South Asian University can also help towards this goal. The practicality of such programs can be witnessed through the success of similar programs. For instance the cultural and educational exchange programs between China and United States of America. Much in the same manner new cross-border arts and cultural conferences can also be promoted. The shared history, cultural traditions, languages, art, music, literature and theatre of both countries can provide a golden opportunity for friendly ties between them. Encouragement of existing Pakistani theatre companies like Ajoka’s Play presentations in India, can also help foster positivity between the citizens of both countries. Pakistan and India must realize that they are more alike than different in cultural norms and mores. One detrimental factor for more than a decade has been the media of both the countries. It has contributed to the escalation of tensions for most of the times. For instance the media coverage of unrest in Kashmir and respective terrorist attacks in both countries has always been controversial. Media at both sides have been playing a never ending blame game with each other. To restore cordial bi-lateral dialogues, media of both countries have to differentiate between civic and yellow journalism. They have stop hate speech, combative talk shows and the promotion of controversial statements by and large.

Final Thoughts

It is crucial that the governments reduce interference in each other’s affairs as well as marginalizing non-state actors and faith-based radical beliefs that hamper the Pakistan-India relations. It is important that Pakistan and India continue to talk and isolate these militant or radical elements in society. As neighboring states, they must fight against common issues such as corruption, poverty and climate change. They must collectively initiate large-scale counter terrorist operations irrespective of the country being targeted. Despite the intractable issues faced by two nuclear armed states, there is scope to increase talks in many areas. And especially given the security situation, it is imperative that the two countries continue to talk and dialogue be preserved in all scenarios.