The subcontinent continues to experience a HIGHTENED state of tension, with relations between Pakistan and India at an especially low point. Though relationships have never been perfect, with mostly downs and a few ups, ties have been extremely testy since Narendra Modi took the reins of government in New Delhi in 2014.
Indian adventurism along the Line of Control has contributed to the uncertainty, though Pakistan has demonstrated that on various occasions it is able to protect itself. The episode of the Balakot incident last year, in which an Indian fighter jet was shot down, specifically demonstrated that any attack on Pakistan would be countered. But reckless and provocative comments by Indian generals and politicians indicate that the mood for peace in New Delhi is not there.
In this regard, while touring forward positions in AJK recently, Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa said any Indian “misadventure” would receive an effective response. In addition, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed in Multan that “in the prevailing situation” dialogue with India was not feasible, while making special reference to massacres in occupied Kashmir.
Though peace is a noble aim and war must be stopped, the question arises: will Pakistan thrive by opening up to India when such gestures continue to be rejected by India? It seems the solution is clear. Although decades of conflict have hindered socio-economic development in South Asia and stopped the region from realising its potential, there seems to be little appetite for peace at the moment in New Delhi.
Hell-bent on removing Indian Muslims from the national mainstream, though at the same time demonising Pakistan, is the Hindu chauvinist BJP that governs India.
Further, the BJP’s ham-headed policies in India-held Kashmir have struggled to subdue the contested area. The latest evidence of this came in local elections in IHK, in which parties opposed to the BJP captured the majority of seats.
The irony is that even some of the region’s staunchest loyalists in New Delhi have cried foul over the strategies of the Modi government to scrap the autonomy of occupied Kashmir.
Indeed, it is impossible to make reconciliation efforts in such a stifling environment at the moment. The people of South Asia, however, must question themselves whether living in the perpetual shadow of war, hunger and disease is the destiny of the country. It does not have to be this way, even though the rivalry thrives on some lobbies on both sides, hawkish forces in Pakistan and the Hindutva brigade in India.
Saner minds on both sides, particularly in India, need to recognise that the nearly two billion people in South Asia deserve a better future, one that can be accomplished by talks, trade and travel. Of course, visionary measures are necessary, such as a just solution to the Kashmir conflict, though Pakistan must be recognised by the Indian establishment as a fact.