Y et again, ever-belligerent India has backtracked on its commitment to come to the deliberations table with Pakistan. Within 24 hours after agreeing to the meeting of the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 73) that opened in New York on September 18, 2018 India, as usual, took a blatant U-turn.

India’s positive and prompt response to Pakistan Premier, Imran Khan’s communication addressed to his Indian counterpart, Premier Narendra Modi, to revive the long-stalled talks between India and Pakistan was taken on a positive note not only by Pakistan but also by the U.S. and other civilized nations of the world. As a matter of fact, the exuberance on Pakistan’s side, as usual, was far greater than it should have been; not because the Indian response was something out of this world but because Pakistan, as always, had made the offer for revival of the mired talks between India and Pakistan in all sincerity.

India’s discreditable U-turn from its earlier stance to recommence negotiations with Pakistan has cogently exposed its ulterior motives. India, as known to the world, is not prepared to come to the negotiating table as long as the issue of occupied Kashmir, which has been a bone of contention between the two countries since over seven decades, is a part of the agenda set forth by Pakistan for negotiations with India. Knowing the Indian stance vis-à-vis the issue of occupied Kashmir very well, was it sagacious on the part of Pakistan to still make overtures to India for revival of the stalled talks? Pakistan’s magnanimity has always been misinterpreted by India as its weakness. Instead of reciprocating with the same level of warmth and sincerity, India, instead, has always affronted Pakistan, as it did lately, by calling off the proposed one-on-one meeting between Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, on the sidelines of the 73rd Session of UN General Assembly.

The reasons why India has backed out from the committed informal summit between Pakistan and India’s foreign ministers, as hurriedly as it agreed, are apparently three: (1) as already enunciated above, India does not want any discussions whatsoever on the issue of occupied Kashmir (2) not only the incumbent Indian government but successive governments in India never had the courage to face the wrath of the awfully-strong extremist groups operating in that country, and (3) India’s current internal political circumstances; charges of corruption lately leveled by different political parties against the incumbent Indian Premier, Narendra Modi, in a military deal with France over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets worth approximately $8.7 billion.    

The Indian Army Chief, Bipin Rawat’s highly irresponsible statement, issued immediately after the announcement of cancellation of dialogue by India, was extremely reckless. Such a shoddy statement emanating from a person belonging to the highest echelon of the Indian Army is outrageous indeed. While threatening to teach Pakistan a lesson the Indian Army Chief, Bipin Rawat perhaps became oblivious of the fact that Pakistan too is a nuclear power, and is fully equipped and prepared to give a befitting response to India in case of any aggression. India, therefore, should desist from making such disparaging remarks to cover up its massive internal political and social predicaments.

Pakistan, India must appreciate, made an offer for resumption of the long-stalled bilateral dialogue in good faith. Pakistan has always been sincerely desirous of amicable resolution of all outstanding issues between the two countries, including the long-pending issue of Indian occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir. India, on the contrary, has been prepared to have a dialogue with Pakistan on all issues except the issue of occupied Kashmir. Pakistan should realise that India will never be serious about bilateral dialogue with Pakistan as long as Pakistan continues to list occupied Kashmir in its roster of issues to be discussed between the two countries in the proposed talks. On the other hand, India too must realise that a dialogue with India sans the issue of occupied Kashmir will never be acceptable to Pakistan. This stark reality is what both countries must appreciate and seriously take into account before contemplating to go to the negotiating table to hammer out other bilateral issues. Any endeavor, from either side, to go for a dialogue will, as in the past, prove to be an exercise in futility, until India is serious in resolving the long-outstanding issue of Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK). The sooner both countries realise this fact the better it would be for them. 

Let us now get down to the crux of the whole issue. It is a universally known fact that poverty in India has today attained inconceivable dimensions. As reported in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, clocked at a growth rate of 7.11% in 2015, and a sizable consumer economy, poverty continues to be a significant issue in India, The World Bank reviewed and proposed revisions on May 2014, to its poverty calculation methodology and purchasing power parity basis for measuring poverty worldwide. According to this revised methodology, the world had 872.3 million people below the new poverty line, of which 179.6 million people lived in India. This situation may have changed over the past two to three years, but certainly not appreciably. What does this manifest? This shows that those at the helm of governance in India are focusing less on improving the lives of the people, and unnecessarily burning their energies on pursuing India’s hegemonic aspirations in the region.  

So far as the issue of poverty is concerned, Pakistan and other countries of the region too don’t lag far behind in this realm. As reported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in Pakistan, 29.5% of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2013. ADB reports that in Bangladesh the population living below the national poverty line is 24.3%, in Nepal, 25.2% of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2010. According to ADB, the situation in Afghanistan has been far worse; 39% of the population lived below the poverty in 2014. This amply signifies that abject poverty is making a significant segment of the populace on both sides of the divide in particular, and some other countries of the region in general, persistently live in a miserable state lacking even the basic necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter. The truth of the matter is that having access to three square meals a day has become inordinately onerous for them.

Time has come for the two recognised nuclear powers of the region, India and Pakistan, to make determined efforts to resolve all outstanding issues, including the unsettled issue of Jammu and Kashmir, with unparalleled sincerity and a sense of utmost urgency. However, in doing so both sides must ensure that the talks held are all-encompassing and result-oriented. Not only India but the powers that be must also clearly understand that war is no solution to problems, and enduring peace and prosperity cannot be brought about to the people of the subcontinent in particular, and the region in general, unless India and Pakistan come to terms with each other and attempt to resolve all its issues amicably, like two civilized nations. On the contrary, if India continues to be hell bent on intimidating Pakistan of war it must remember that Pakistan is a nuclear power and possesses sated capability to get even with India equally forcefully.

 

The writer is an analyst/freelance columnist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.