- The PTI chief has to be seen occupying the driving seat
Imran Khan has long cherished cordial relations with India. In his earlier political career the PTI chief had questioned why India and Pakistan can’t be good neighbours like the US and Canada. More recently, soon after his victory in the elections, Khan told media, “If they (Indian government) take one step towards us, we will take two”. This was understandable as turning Pakistan into a welfare state which Imran has long desired is predicated on peace in the region leading to the bringing down of defence expenditure.
Prime Minister Modi has taken the first step now by writing to Imran Khan showing readiness for a “constructive and meaningful engagement with Pakistan”. While it might not mean initiating talks straightaway, it does imply a willingness on the part of India to improve relations between the neighbouring countries. The least that can be achieved straightaway is initiating the CBMs that include promotion of people to people relations and cultural exchanges. There is a need on the part of Imran Khan to seize the moment. A significant improvement in Pak-India relations would be construed as a diplomatic victory for the PTI.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi claims the foreign policy would henceforth be formulated at the FO while consultations will be held with other institutions also. There is thus a need to urgently call a national security committee moot to seek inputs for achieving the goal of normalising Pak-India ties. While underlining the importance of Kashmir issue, Qureshi has maintained that coming to table and talking peace is the only option. He has also supported an uninterrupted dialogue with India.
The PTI leadership is currently at the peak of its popularity. It would be easier for it to take bold decisions now. While Kashmir is the key issue, it will take time to be resolved. Meanwhile the two countries can initiate talks for the resolution of less complicated problems to create an environment conducive for settling the Kashmir dispute. Steps like promoting trade and tourism should be initiated. If China and India can have mutual trade exceeding $80 billion in 2017 despite deep seated differences, why can’t Pakistan and India do this?