The bilateral relations between two extremely important nations of South Asia– India and Pakistan, have remained engulfed in a cloak of mistrust and suspicion since they were both born out of the partition of 1947. Till date, the Indo-Pak relationship that has witnessed a tumultuous and rocky history, remains one of the most challenging aspects of India’s foreign policy. It is somewhat dispiriting and ironical to note that this intense strife is between two countries that share a similar history, demography, culture, language and economy and were once a single nation. However, while India has been fairly successful in developing a solid constitutional framework, Pakistan’s political development since 1947 paints an uneasy and troubled picture in the backdrop of a weak and unstable social and political atmosphere.
Kashmir is indubitably the main bone of contention between the two countries, and has been since 1947. Over the control of this region, the two states have gone to war, and have been embroiled in serious conflict, to such an extent that the United Nations has had to intervene on more than one occasion. The world in fact suffers a threat due to hostility between the two nations, since both are equipped with nuclear technology, and the repercussions of a nuclear war between the two could be catastrophic. This is has also caused problems in the functioning of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which has remained largely inefficient due to sour relations between the two.
On the flip side however, India and Pakistan have indeed made efforts at peace keeping and have also organized confidence building measures. A number of train and bus services have been launched to facilitate better interaction and cooperation, and both have organized joint summits to discuss matters of importance and for easing tensions between themselves. However, even if a marginal improvement was discerned, matters worsened with the terrorist attacks by Pakistan in India, especially after 26/11, and allegations by both countries of harbouring militants on each other’s lands. Matters seem to worsen day by day, especially in light of the recent Pulwama attacks, which have only deepened the chasm between the two countries, with India wanting Pakistan to take direr measures against the terrorism breeding on its ground. With the international community accusing Pakistan of protecting terrorists, she cannot remain in denial and needs to take more stringent action on terrorism related issues. It can also be seen that the communal antagonism of the region is creating space for external powers which have been exploiting Indo-Pak relations for their own vested interests.
Better economic and commercial cooperation, along with energy cooperation will indeed bring about a betterment in the relationship between the two countries. Certain positive initiatives have been taken, including the Ufa Agreement, signed during the meeting of the National Security Advisors of both nations at Ufa, Russia. This agreement has now become a new starting point for any future Indo-Pak dialogue.
If there is peace at the border, and a solution of Kashmir is arrived at, then the China Pakistan corridor, an off-shoot of China’s One-Belt One-Road (OBOR) policy can certainly benefit Kashmir, its people and its economy, whereby Kashmir can act as a gateway to Central Asia. The relationship between the two nations also needs to be improved in order to enable SAARC to regain its relevance in the South Asian region.
Tension and conflicts are historical between India and Pakistan, but they can be solved through bilateral, multilateral and even unilateral efforts aiming at peaceful dialogue and cooperation between the two countries. Kashmir, due to its geo-strategic location is going to play a major role in this tug of war. Achieving peace almost seems utopian, but while it is a distant dream, there still remains hope in the hearts of the people for a better future for the relationship. If concrete efforts are made for mutual peace and cooperation, resolution of internal disputes and reaching a consensus regarding major problems, there is still a chance to herald the much-awaited golden era of friendship between India and Pakistan.
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