The (over) Optimism in Pakistan-India Relations By Maryam Nazir

IN recent developments, despite the presence of Indian officials at the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor, India has once again ruled out the possibility of resumption of dialogue and participation in SAARC Summit. Indian belligerence over the years has grown into irrational stubbornness over the decades specifically after the Mumbai attacks episode. The possibility of dialogue and cooperation at any level has become hostage to lurid allegations of terrorism levelled by India against Pakistan. And then there is a suspected coincidence that whenever talks are to take place, a terrorist attack happens impeding the entire effort made to bring India on table.
External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, in her recent statement has made it very clear that there will be no dialogue with Pakistan unless it desists from terrorist activities against India. Adding further she said that India has been asking for a corridor, which will facilitate visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, for many years but that does not mean that bilateral talks will start only on this. And this brings all the euphoria and optimism associated with the ‘opening of Kartarpur Corridor and a new beginning in the bilateral relations’ to a naught, literally. India did announce the start of construction of Kartarpur Corridor up to the international border to which Pakistan responded positively. The commitment made by General Bajwa with Navjot Singh Sidhu on the oath taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan, saw its realization but India never learnt the art of reciprocating a gesture positively. Not long ago, the Indian External Affairs Minister declined to meet Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting at the very last moment, parroting the same old allegations of terrorism.
Despite knowing the Indian aggression and stubbornness, a certain kind of hype and optimism is normally associated with the bilateral relations especially when there is any chance or possibility of talks, on both sides of the border. Recent history has been marked with instances when Pakistan did express its desire for talks with India but those were always turned down. Unfortunately, if little does Pakistan know of how to publicize this irony, India painted black every issue between the two countries with the tag of terrorism. It is specifically after the occurrence of Mumbai attacks in 2008, the bilateral relations have taken a down-turn and it is all about terrorism since then. While India plants terror allegations against Pakistan, why it turns a blind eye to the case of Kulbhushan Yadav? Isn’t it one clear solid manifestation of India’s destructive designs against Pakistan in the region? Or why it forgets its policy renditions and practices against minorities in its land which is claimed to be the largest democracy on earth? Or with being so arrogant, why India does not give people of Kashmir their right to self-determination? Certainly, these are difficult ventures while manufacturing allegations is easy.
The Kartarpur Corridor episode might bring the Sikh community at peace for some time with the Indian Government but Sikh dynamics in larger picture will not change. Pakistan reciprocated the gesture well but it would be too early to associate high hopes with this development. Elections are scheduled soon in India and hate speech against Pakistan sells the nationalists’ agenda and buy them majority in the government. More so, since Indian Government is offering its Sikh pilgrims’ visa-free entry, Pakistan needs to be extra vigilant from security point of view. It is hoped that at some point, a case for the better handling and facilitation of Pakistani pilgrims in India will be made by the government. In the past, there have been episodes where such soft gestures met sad fates, Samjhota Express is one of them. From a pacifist’s perspective, there is a need for such projects and cooperations to be successful in order to keep peoples’ faith intact in humanity since the complexities of borders and statecraft are not a common man’s cup of tea. But for these faith corridors to do well, faith in peace is needed on both sides of border.
— The writer, works as an senior Research Officer at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), a think-tank based Islamabad.

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