Indo-Pak peace process assessment
Wednesday, January 09, 2013 – Indeed, peace between India and Pakistan is the prerequisite for achieving stability and economic development in South Asia. In the past, efforts were made at both bilateral and multilateral levels to normalize the relationship between these key South Asian neighbours; however, these attempts only resulted in limited economic interactions. There was little genuine determination or effort to address core political and bilateral issues that were a cause for belligerency between the two. The strategic culture of unpleasantness, the sense of insecurity and mistrust, and the divergent geopolitical interests of the great powers have also contributed to this environment of distrust and antagonism. Consequently, peace remained a distant dream for the people of Subcontinent.
Despite nuisances, there have been negotiations and peace talks between officials, at ministerial level and even at the level of top leadership to shed away the environment of distrust between key neighbours of South Asia. These talks even continued during the period of extreme tension between both countries as track-2 diplomacy. During last two years and particularly in 2012, there have been some very positive developments between two countries in almost all spheres; political, economic and at the level of people to people. Indeed, under the changed environment of interdependence and with pre-eminence of soft power; social constructivism and liberalism in the international politics, there is realization among the South Asian neighbours to shed away the differences and move forward.
Scholars on either side feel that, after having followed mutually destructive policies for several decades, the people of both countries had over the last few years began to count their losses-the misery caused in the name of national security, the missed opportunities of mutual benefits through cooperation in the fields of economy, culture and scientific development, and extinction of the role South Asia could have played at international level by virtue of its size and resources. There have been positive steps from the leadership and people of both sides during 2012 to enhance bilateral cooperation. Liberalization of visa and later its operationalized in December 2012, is one such step in the right direction. This would facilitate many on both sides through people-to-people contact, particularly the members of divided families, business community, old citizens and those among the academic circle.
Indeed, in the renewed peace process, both countries have resorted to a gradual approach, thus remained guarded to talk loudly on the core issue(s). Political analysts feel that peripheral issues of less significance remained the focus of discussions, while making promises only on the core issues. Definitely, resolution of core issues needs a change in mindsets, thus would take time. But certainly, there is a need to understand that the peace process has been derailed many a time owing to the unresolved nature of the core issues between India and Pakistan. Indeed, over the years, maintaining a status-quo on these issues produced many other issues, which have now attained their separate identities and significance. In the presence of unresolved core issues, non-state actors would repeatedly find opportunities of spoiling the trust between both states. As a result, the nuclear rivals would again turn to the mobilization of troops, risking nuclear disaster. In the realistic paradigm, the only worry is that, in the presence of unresolved core issues, the peace process can be derailed even on the occurrence of any sporadic incident as happened in the past, like the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. Under such a scenario, there would be a constant threat to the recently agreed cooperation for the promotion of trade and commerce between India and Pakistan. At the end of the day, both India and Pakistan must devise a via media to keep the peace process on track for the ultimate solution of core issues. This is only possible by adopting an optimistic approach; positive thinking about each other and rejecting the none-state actors, rampant on either side of the divide.
Embarking upon the path of promoting trade and commerce, alongside making headway for the durable solution of core political issues and bridging the trust deficit is the best way forward. In collaboration with the Kashmiri leadership, India and Pakistan will have to find a durable solution for Kashmir, the major irritant and potential threat. Indeed, except Sir Creek, all other issues and mistrusts are the product of this issue.(Dr Raja Muhammad Khan)