Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s statement made in a discussion with Indian parliamentarians led by Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Badal that Pakistan and India would have to join forces for trade and economic cooperation on a war footing is over-ambitious. He asserted that talks were a key to the resolution of disputes between the two countries. This friendly phraseology has been talked and heard for decades now. In fact, it was in January 2004 that the composite dialogue was initiated with much fanfare and hopes were expressed by the two sides that this would lead to the settlement of outstanding disputes, including and especially Kashmir, within a reasonable span of time. The process was skilfully stalled, stymied by constant hitches and irritants by the Indian leadership and the army that kept thinking that Pakistan would ultimately concede more ground. That we surely did. During these years, despite photo-ops and seemingly pleasant negotiations in fact at every level the talks did not contribute towards some sort of an understanding that could have paved the way for a just solution of the Kashmir dispute as urged by the UNSC resolutions. Obviously, Islamabad’s sheepish posturing is to blame for emboldening India into what it is assuming at the moment; Kashmir is non-negotiable.

The logic, hence, that we must start trade and commerce in order to resolve conflicts with India sounds absurd. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif must understand that monetary interests with India will be hostage to the Kashmir issue and could never be long lasting unless the dispute is resolved first.