The Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria’s assertion regarding the need for Pakistan and India to take small steps for normalizing their strained relationship is a welcome line of thought, especially in the wake of re-escalating tensions over the recent violence in Kashmir.

There is no question regarding the testy nature of the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan since the latter’s inception. Pak-India relations have been defined by a vociferous rivalry, deep-rooted antagonism and inherent mistrust. Wrought by a tenuous history before and after Partition, the fraught relationship has been further exacerbated by successive governments on both sides that have used the rhetoric of ‘the enemy across the border’ to pander to conservative elements and maintain the status quo. Where the deadlock over Kashmir further presents a bone of irascible contention and a source of recurrent hostilities, the ultimatum of resolving the Kashmir issue before contemplating any form of amicable relationship with the recalcitrant neighbor is losing its canonical viability.

What needs to be considered now is an attempt to foster a sense of goodwill through small symbolic gestures, reciprocated by both sides, and pointedly circumventing the incendiary dispute of Kashmir for the time being to focus on the larger bilateral relationship. Over the years there have been many initiatives that have sought to herald a peaceable liaison that have withered under the overarching nationalistic cessation of relations that came with reignited cross-border tensions. However, if the current example of the on-the-mend engagement between North and South Korea is to be considered, then there is much to be said for earnestly initiating ‘small steps’ that tip-toe around the larger irreconcilable ideological differences to pave the way for a more tempered approach towards bilateral amity.

As presented this can take form of exchange of prisoners, visits of medical teams, trade enterprises and humanitarian initiatives. It would also be a huge step forward if reigning governments on both ends make a concentrated effort to neutralize acrimonious narratives used for political favor with the masses. Any attempt to broker peace in this instance requires a moderating of decades’ worth of animosity between the two neighbors, a process that would first and foremost require changing the dominant storyline that defines our entwined colonial and postcolonial histories and to adopt a more empathetic and conciliatory approach towads understanding the nuances of this relationship.

Only then can we work towards a process of dialogue, peace, equal security, and shared prosperity.