The future of India–Pakistan relations

There was much hope of the new era of good relations based on love, respect and cooperation between Pakistan and India when after assuming the office, Imran Khan extended good gestures. But these best wishes were not reciprocated in the same way. The incident of Pulwama wherein forty Indian soldiers were killed further exacerbated the already strained relations. The post-Pulwama political situation, especially during the general elections, shaped a new narrative in the Indian policy circles against Pakistan. While many in both countries were optimistic that once the general elections were over, India would mold its way toward Pakistan. But it was just a delusion.  One can understand that the intransigence of Indian political and military elite through the overall emerging geo-strategic alignments, the political culture based on jingoist nationalism emerged after the rise BJP in India, day by day exacerbating security situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir, cross border terrorism and severe ceasefire violations. 

Pakistan and India have had a long history of hatred, animosity, competition, and conflicts. Both countries have fought four full-fledged wars and unlimited border skirmishes.  Thousands of people have died in these wars and ceasefire violations from both sides. This has instilled hatred in the minds of general populace especially those living in the border areas. While Kashmir—the bone of contention still stands where Nehru and Jinnah left in 1948. Kashmir apart, the policymakers in New Dehli hesitate to even talk on other perennial and much desired solving issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, water, trade, ceasefire violations, human rights abuses in Kashmir, visa and people to people contact. Despite offering good gestures from Pakistani premier—tacitly backed by the security establishment—the recalcitrance of the Indian ruling elite is beyond the understanding of many. But here are some factors stopping Narendra Modi to take positive steps for ameliorating the relations. 

The expectation of a thaw in India–Pakistan relations from RSS backed Modi is nothing more than a utopian dream. 

Unlike the previous Indian general elections of 2014, this time BJP contested the whole foray on jingoist nationalism, exploiting national security threats especially from Pakistan and the dream of Hindutva (Hindu State).   Narendra Modi had created an anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslims culture before the elections. Despite many setbacks on the economic front and failure to deliver what he promised in 2014 elections campaign—the recent landslide victory is a manifestation of Modi success in exploiting the Hindus nationalistic and religious sentiments. The growing fascism in India of which a member of parliament from Congress has also mentioned in her recent speech in parliament will not allow Narendra Modi to take any positive steps for breaking the ice.  With the emergence of Hindutva —it seems that the old narrative of Akhand Bharat is finding no place in the Indian power corridors. The BJP of Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been hijacked by the RSS jingoists and any expectation of thaw in the relations seems a utopian dream.

Secondly, the regional geo-strategic dynamics and overall international alignments are also impeding both countries to come closer.  The power which has been dwelling on the shores of Atlantic for last four to five hundred years is moving toward the shores of South China Sea. Two blocks have already emerged. One led by the United State and other by China. The competition and confrontation between both are inevitable. India has already aligned its strategic interests with those of the United States and taken a major role in containing China in the region.   Pakistan being a natural Chines ally would take the same role from the Beijing side.  The US is heavily investing in the development of the Indian military, striving to make India member of Nuclear Supplier Group, and building its navy to confront China in the Indian and the Pacific Ocean. The attitude of India and the United States against belt and road initiative and its flagship project CPEC shows that competition between two blocks is going to be fierce. Though competition and cooperation can run simultaneously but in the case of India and Pakistan—it seems quite impossible.

Thirdly, cross border terrorism and ceasefire violations will determine the future of India–Pakistan relations. India has always accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in the Indian occupied Kashmir. According to them these terrorist outfits freely operate in Pakistan under the auspice of Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence. The Indian side believes that real bone of contention is cross border terrorism, not Kashmir, which is why many times the dialogues between both countries yielded nothing. Pakistani interlocutors have failed in convincing their counterparts regarding the seriousness of Pakistani security establishment in carrying out actions against proscribed organizations. And this time Indian security establishment is more apprehensive than ever before as when the Afghan war ends, Kashmir could be an attractive place for many jihadist to pursue their mission. Many in Indian establishment is foreseeing the same situation once Kashmir had experienced in 1989 after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Afghanistan.  The future of India–Pakistan relations would be dark if the things happen in the same way.

The human rights situation in Kashmir is worsening day by day. Dissent voices of local journalist are being suffocated while international media is not allowed to cover the real situation of the valley. The United Nation lambasted Indian security agencies in its recent report on the human right situation of Kashmir.  Social and political processions are not allowed while curfew was imposed on the third death anniversary of Burhan Wani. Many even in the Indian establishment believe that India is losing Kashmir due to the policy of oppression they have been adopting for the last seventy years. The uprising started after the death of Burhan Wani has been creating severe problems for Indian establishment in managing the affairs of the valley. India makes Pakistan responsible for the post-Wani uprising and if the situation goes from bad to worse in the near future, the more it will negatively affect the bilateral relations.      

These are crucial factors shaping the future of India–Pakistan relations. In the given circumstances there are very little chances of a breakthrough; only if the leadership of both countries brings a paradigm shift in their strategic culture, keeping political and strategic compulsions apart, and think of a better life for the future generations of both poverty ridden countries.

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