One step forward, two steps back?
Pakistan and India have agreed to end harassing each other’s envoys. The Indian High Commissioner says the two countries can raise the bilateral trade to $30 billion. The Indian ambassador and military attaché were invited to the Pakistan Day parade after a long time while an India Minister of State was deputed to attend the Pakistan Day ceremony in our New Delhi Chancellery. The developments are in sharp contrast to the erstwhile routine summoning of each other’s envoy to receive protests, demarches, notes verbale and stern warnings. But all this might turn out to be no more than the neighbouring countries’ willingness to act in accordance with the most essential diplomatic norms. Meanwhile the COAS’s remarks during an interaction with a group of journalists have led to the perception that the military establishment does not rule out normalization with India. There has also been an unusual lull on the LoC since March 19.
There is a need now to move to the next stage to preserve and add to these otherwise meagre gains. Unless this is done, there can be a relapse into the all too familiar hostility anytime. To start with there should be more diplomatic interaction between the ambassadors and the foreign offices of the countries where they are deputed to help remove apprehension and miscalculations on both sides. Equally important is for their DGMOs to have increased contacts to ensure that peace on the LoC and international borders continues to hold.
There have been no composite talks for nearly a decade on the core issues that have kept Pakistan and India at loggers head. One way to create an environment conducive for talks is the expansion of mutual trade and people to people relations. But this too needs meaningful and targeted action on both sides. Pakistan and India have a chance to improve their relations further if their PMs agree to meet on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in June. One must not however harbour unrealistic hopes. The BJP has roused unprecedented hostility against Pakistan in India. Modi alone can undo it. One will have to wait to see what line he adopts in the elections due next year.