Whilst caution as ever has to be exercised in commenting at all publicly on the state of relations between India and Pakistan, there does appear to be if not a thaw then a lowering of temperature. With Independence Day of both states now behind us, and Pakistan hours away from a new prime minister being sworn in, both the actual and putative leaders of both nations appear willing to consider moving to being on the same page. Indian PM Modi, speaking on August 15, has distanced himself from his usual militaristic line on India-occupied Kashmir by saying that he would seek peace in the disputed region “by embracing its people”.
There has already been an exchange of phone conversations between Imran Khan and Mr Modi which has been spoken of warmly on all sides; and the Chinese have weighed in with their envoy in Delhi making an unusual visit to the Wagah Border post where he declared his support for improved ties between India and Pakistan. With China being a major investor in both of these, it was a move that pushed the diplomatic envelope. Some detail was added — with IOK currently under Governor’s Rule there is to be a Panchayat and local body elections but no timeline was given.
As ever with IOK and any resolution thereof, the devil is going to be in the translation of fulsome speechifying into concrete realities, and that is going to take a sustained effort that in reality is going to span more than the lifetime of the incoming Pakistan government. What both governments could usefully engage themselves with is the way-paving actions that build confidence on both sides and go some way to repairing the trust deficit. That is going to mean greater transparency, mutually-owned bilateral agreement over a host of details, small and large, and a stated aim of creating a road map that successive governments can use to go forwards. Given the political will — and it does appear to be there — we move into the realms of the definite maybe.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2018.