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15 February 2014

By Saeed Qureshi

The incumbent PMLN regime in Pakistan is striving hard to normalize relations with neighboring India. It is bending over heavily backward and ready to go extra mile for a new beginning of peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship with the big neighbor.

But such an earnest ambition and thrust may not fructify because India would never be ready to part an inch of Kashmir to Pakistan or to Kashmiris. It is another matter if both agree to declare the line of control as the permanent border.

Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif's outlook and perception about friction-free relations between India and Pakistan is laudable and promising for the stability and progress of both the countries. During his earlier two stints as the Pakistan's prime minister he has addressed this prime issue very diligently. As a result of that the then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made an historic visit to Pakistan in February 1999 to inaugurate the Delhi-Lahore bus service.

The Lahore Declaration signed by Nawaz Sharif and Mr. Vajpayee enshrined among others, such momentous clauses as initiation of process for permanent settlement of Kashmir dispute, expansion of trade relations and denuclearizing South Asia.

Unfortunately the Kargil conflict watered down that milestone accord as military under Musharraf did not want a rapprochement with India. Furthermore, Mian Nawaz Sharif was deposed on October 12, 1999 in a military take -over throwing up the then COAS Pervez Musharraf as the head of state.

The bitterness and the malaise of strained relationship are spawned by the hardliners and fanatics of all sorts on both the sides, most notably the religious outfits. As such in a festering animus loaded environment, it is difficult to presage if Pakistan and India can forget their strife ridden past and embark upon a path of abiding friendship.

Unfortunately, India and Pakistan thus far have failed to sort out their mutual disputes for lasting peace and good neighborliness. There is no precedent in the past that they worked out a bilaterally acceptable solution or agreement with regard to such thorny issues as the demarcation of borders, mutual trade, the apportionment of water from rivers flowing down into Pakistan or the paramount lingering Kashmir issue. The Indus Basic Treaty was breached by India being the upper riparian.

There is no record of accomplishments for the two neighbors liberated from the British colonial yoke in 1947 of sitting down and coming up with a recipe of veritable peace and friendship. India will not give up her hold on Kashmir, nor will Pakistan or Kashmiri nation relinquish or forego their claim about holding a pledged plebiscite to elicit the local population's opinion as to which country they would prefer to join.

Indian deems Kashmir as an integral part of Indian federation while Pakistan's standpoint is that Kashmir is a disputed territory whose final status has yet to be determined by the people of Kashmir though a plebiscite.

The three wars, in 1948, 1965, and 1971 followed by brief skirmishes in Kargil in July 1999 have failed to bring about change of hearts on both the sides. The fact is that primarily it is Pakistan that would be the major beneficiary of the illusive settlement of the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan.

For that matter, India would not let Pakistan off the hook lest it can move forward on a course of stability, progress, and prosperity. By facilitating cross border trade Pakistan would earn 12 billion dollars per annum.

India's military intervention in Bangladesh in 1971 led to the dismemberment of Pakistan and a humiliating defeat for the Pakistan's armed forces. The Simla Agreement signed in 1972 between India and Pakistan, binds both the countries to settle all contentious issues via parleys to be conducted in the framework of the UN Charter.

Now building of 22 barrages by India on rivers emanating from Kashmir apart from being a violation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, would give a complete control to India to stop or release water to Pakistan, which is a lower riparian. India agreed to sign Indus Basin Treaty because it deprived Pakistan of three rivers. Otherwise, she would have never agreed if such a treaty had impinged upon her interests.

There can never be a consensus agreement on water distribution and a workable arrangement for water share to Pakistan because India would never do anything that would even marginally benefit Pakistan. Indus Basin Treaty or no treaty, Pakistan agricultural sector would always remain at the mercy of India for release of water that she would do after taking care of her domestic needs.
If Pakistan doesn't get enough water, it would be exposed always to a looming threat of drought and famine. Tacitly India's preference has been to turn Pakistan into a market for disposal of her products both industrial and agricultural.

Both the countries have not been able to smoothen and ease flow of cross border travel because of stringent visa rules that bar the travelers from either country to go beyond the cities specified in the passport. The intelligence operatives chase and keep a strict watch on the visitors until they depart. There have been many instances when a visitor was apprehended on mere suspicion and languished in Indian jails for years.

Besides, since the inception of both the states in 1947, Pakistan has remained under unrelenting diplomatic, military, economic, and psychological pressure from India. So the talk of CBMS (confidence building measures) is a mere ploy to obfuscate the real issues. Both countries have varying and different interpretation for CBMS.

For Pakistan, primarily it is the easy movement of citizens of both the states without much of harassment and strict conditions. For India, it is to allow India to export her goods to Pakistani without any let or hindrance. While Pakistan has ever remained ready to talk on substantive issues India's priorities and prerogatives have been focused on pushing them to back burners or keeping in a state of limbo.

Good neighborly relations between Pakistan and India have remained elusive because there is no overwhelming goodwill or an earnest desire to resolve the contentious issues bedeviling their relationship for almost seven decades. At people's level, the deep-seated animus can be witnessed when a match is being played or a situation of tension like the attack on a Bombay hotel arises.
The Hindu extremists have been demonstrating the anti-Muslim vendetta by lynching and burning the Muslims and their houses in ethnic and communal clashes. One such horrible mayhem happened in Gujarat and Ahmadabad when Muslims suffered a kind of carnage and mini genocide at the hands of Hindu extremists. These anti Muslims riots continued for three months causing unspecified number of deaths and casualties and loss of property.

The hate and the animosity have a history of a thousand years between the Muslims and Hindus. Hindus think that Muslims were primarily aliens and intruders into the sacred Hindustava or Bharat Mata and they have no right to live and survive in the Indian subcontinent.

Muslims, though, have been rulers in India until the British came, seldom indulged in the persecution or ethnic cleansing or proselytizing their religious minorities. The Muslim rulers like Akbar married with Hindu women and invariably treated Hindu population well and on equal level.

While Pakistan is caught in the throes of a civil war at home front and also has been fighting a proxy war for the west, it cannot afford to ignite a crisis situation that can lead to a war and military confrontation with India. Given the Indian expanding role and interest in Afghanistan, Pakistan is genuinely worried that it night get a push both from the eastern and western fronts once the foreign occupation troops leave Afghanistan.

Only the time would unravel if the future Afghan government would allow India to carry on its anti Pakistan activities and be able to incite pro-Indian Afghan and tribal militants against Pakistan for an insurgency. There are rumors that India was backing the insurgency now going on in Balochistan for separation. However, hopefully Pakistan would be able to stem the extremists' militancy in Balochistan as it did in Swat, Dir, and Malakand and of late in South Waziristan.

India is more interested in dislodging China in Balochistan. India is deeply incensed over the Chinese running the Gawadar port. Moreover it would not want an increasing influence of China by way of a motorway linking Karachi with Kashgar or establishment of industrial zones on Pakistani territory.

However Chinese presence in Pakistan in a way would also be a redeeming feature for Pakistan. India may not venture creating further troubles for Pakistan or military action for fear of Chinese reprisals in safeguarding here own commercial interests.

Therefore, in the backdrop of this endemic and seething hostility, any goodwill visits to other country by politicians would hardly make any difference in generating genuine and sincere cordiality between India and Pakistan.

The former Indian External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna came to Pakistan on a three-day visit in July 2010 with a "message of peace and friendship from the people of India". Yet that proved to be another futile attempt in mending fences even marginally between two inveterate adversaries.
Since then four years have passed and there doesn't seem to be any demonstration of goodwill. As the past betokens the possibility of a far reaching or watershed breakthrough at present or in future looks remote. Such visits have been window-dressing and cosmetic without throwing up tangible outcome for fostering a real era of friendship and peace between India and Pakistan.

However one would wish that China, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and even Iran can join hands through a regional treaty to work for the uplift, peace and economic cooperation of this part of South Asia. Wars and military engagements are not lasting answer to the stability and advancement of this thus far neglected region especially war-torn Afghanistan.

One can hope that better sense prevails. The first giant step towards lasting peace, enduring goodwill and abiding mutual understanding between Pakistan and India is the dire need to resolve their lingering disputes. One such paramount bone of contention is the Kashmir issue.

The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat. His blog is www.uprightopinion.com

 

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