Ahead of February 8 polls, an intense debate is going on in Pakistan as to how its new government should reset relations with India which have frozen for almost four and a half years as these are crucial for the country in multiple ways. A positive twist in its relations with Pakistan can help it solve so many problems, internally and externally.
At the moment, Pakistan is gripped with so many uncertainties in its relationship with the foreign countries – in the neighborhood or distant lands, from Iran, Afghanistan, Iran to China and India- it needs a stabilizing factor to move ahead. Despite is very close relationship with China, Pakistan knows that it is only the developmental and financial from Beijing that sustains the “iron-clad friendship.” There is little or no commonality between the two countries. China is also helping Islamabad because it is trying to establish itself as a superpower in the region to counter the United States of America.
There is a growing realization in Pakistan that mending fences with India is critical to end a host of uncertainties in Pakistan. First, Pakistan is known as a nation where terrorism is bred and exported to other parts of the world and the international community, including its best friend China, looks at it with a lot of skepticism and mistrust. And, if it fosters good neighborly relations with India, a lot many of uncertainties would get replaced with certainties and help it shore up its image in the international community.
Pakistan is talking of foreign policy challenges after the new government takes over after the February 8 polls with all the intensity because it realizes fact that apart from handling the political and economic crisis, the new administration will have to “put Pakistan’s external relations on track.” An Editorial in Dawn newspaper on January 20 acknowledged the “unfortunate truth that ties with three out of four neighbors are strained, and it will take deft diplomacy to improve matters. Relations with India are the most complicated, and fixing these will be a time-consuming process.”
Islamabad loves to use the phrase “complicated” when it comes to addressing the ties with India for it has cobwebs that don’t allow it to simplify measures that can lead to straightforward and friendly ties with India. It refuses to acknowledge the historical facts, changed dynamics and something it needs to do first. It has, and continues to place Kashmir at center of the ties with India, little knowing that the UN resolutions that it keeps harping on are not only obsolete but dead. A formal burial is required.
Things have changed in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, 2019, when its special status under Article 370 was abrogated, and a new process of complete integration got underway. This parliamentary action, approved by the President of India, has been confirmed as “legal and constitutional “by the Supreme Court if India in its judgment on December 11, 2023. It establishes a fact that clock cannot be reversed, today, tomorrow or an any other date in future. As such, there is no complication on this issue – in fact, it spells out two things clear that the UN resolutions on Kashmir of 1948- 49 have no relevance whatsoever, and second Kashmir is not a dispute anymore between India and Pakistan. The only issue that remains to be addressed is, how to work on Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan. For Pakistan PoJK and GB may be two entities, for India these are parts of Jammu and Kashmir under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. The historical facts and the international law make it mandatory for Pakistan to vacate these territories, or start the process to do so. Pakistan has itself entangled the whole thing by allowing China to colonize these territories. It has defiled the history and geography and now it should work to get the things done in a manner that helps rebuild good neighborly relations with India. Alongside, rather immediately, it should start work of dismantling its terrorism network and handover all the terror masterminds, including Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar to India for trial for the crimes that they sponsored in this country.
These are certain fundamentals that Pakistan should do to enable itself for talks as art of its efforts to have good ties with India. Once these ties improve, Pakistan will get so many benefits delivered. It will open doors for it to improve ties with other neighboring countries and the western world will have better appreciation of Pakistan.
Arun Joshi is author of “Eyewitness Kashmir; Teetering on Nuclear War and senior journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir, writes on South Asian affairs)
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