During the recently concluded visit of the President of China, Mr. Xi Jingping to India, the two sides signed 12 agreements that would pave the way for Chinese investment in India worth US$ 20 billion over the next five years. Apart from the expansion of economic ties between the two countries, the Chinese President also agreed to begin talks on civil nuclear cooperation with India and supporting her bid for full membership of the SCO and expected India to support China in building relations with SAARC so that both India and China could work together to contribute their due role in regional stability and development. Both sides agreed to resolve their festering border dispute through negotiations. China also supports India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. In a statement Mr. Xi reiterated China’s commitment to peaceful development saying, “A war like-state, however big it may be, will eventually perish. China believes that its neighbours were a key to its well being.” These developments represent a realistic and imaginative break from the debilitating factors of the past that hampered improvement of relations between the two countries

This new narrative dictated by the burgeoning economic power of China and the consequent desire to promote its commercial interests at the regional and global level, has opened up new and mutually productive avenues of economic cooperation and shared economic prosperity between the countries of the region. China’s endeavours to revive the old silk route and building the Pak-China Economic Corridor are the vehicles to achieve those objectives. Chinese overtures to India, however, would not affect its relations with Pakistan in any manner. Time-tested relations between the two countries are in fact a pivot for China’s new regional approach. China is poised to invest US$ 32 billion in Pakistan. The postponed visit of the Chinese President to Pakistan will hopefully take place in the near future to formalize agreements under the Pak-China Economic Corridor. The bottom line of this new Chinese narrative is peace with neighbours and formulating strong economic, regional linkages.

The same holds good for Pakistan. The present government has been vociferously advocating the normalization of relations with India and using trade liberalization to promote desired bonhomie between the two countries. Trade with India has multiple advantages in addition to the economic benefits that would accrue to both countries in the shape of expanded markets. The economic dependence on each other would ultimately pave the way for resolution of the disputes between the two countries through diplomatic and political channels.

Similarly, the new narrative on Afghanistan built on the premise of casting aside the theory of strategic depth, the adoption of a non-partisan posture with regards to political developments in that country, and assisting the process of reconciliation amongst different factions, is an imaginative policy initiative. Peace in Afghanistan and our neutral posture towards all stakeholders in the power equation in Afghanistan would certainly go well with the new Afghan leadership and facilitate the completion of transregional projects like CASA-1000 and TAPI. These initiatives fit well into the emerging concept of shared regional economic prosperity and security being pursued by member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and other countries of the region. Pakistan’s economic, political, security and strategic interests are inextricably linked in the South Asian region and would be best served by reorienting its foreign policy objectives in line with new regional and global realities.

Forces and lobbies within Pakistan who are trying to sabotage the new narrative of better ties with India and revisiting our polices towards Afghanistan are actually trying to push Pakistan off the chessboard of global and international politics. The prospect of China, India and Pakistan working together within the framework of SCO (which, apart from economic cooperation between the member countries also aims to fight the scourge of terrorism collectively), SAARC and any other forum that emerges as a result of regional economic linkages, holds a great promise for economic prosperity of the countries of the region, becoming a catalyst in resolving political and territorial disputes between them. China and Russia, the two important members of the SCO also support Pakistan’s quest for full membership of SCO.

The European Union (EU) is an example of the success of this concept. The European Steel and Coal community formed by six European countries in the aftermath of World War II in 1951 has developed into a politico-economic union of 28 countries leading to the economic and political integration of Europe.

Over 45% of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line and needs to opt out of disputes with neighbours, especially with India in conformity with emerging ground realities. Similarly, India needs to reciprocate these gestures with sincerity of purpose and alleviating the sufferings of the teeming millions on both sides. Both countries need to retrace their steps to the process of reconciliation started during Vajpai’s visit to Pakistan. The core issue of Kashmir must be looked at from the perspective of new realities by Pakistan that also dawned on the architect of the Kargil Episode when he came to power. The new realities are that despite 23 UN resolutions on Kashmir promising the right of plebiscite to the people of Kashmir, it is no longer possible to enforce those resolutions. The powers that be do not want to play a mediating role and instead urge both countries to resolve the issue through bilateral efforts. Even the UN toes the same line. The best chance to lay a foundation for a solution lies in building and strengthening economic relations with India at the bilateral and regional level and creating strong economic linkages that eventually build the momentum for resolution either at the bilateral level or within the framework of a regional forum.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.

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