At the strategic level, peace between India and Pakistan is the prerequisite for achieving stability and economic development in South Asian region. However, the history of India and Pakistan is marred with revulsion, mistrust and hostility, resultantly; a generation of the post-colonial era of both countries has departed without having the slightest feeling of amity and trust between the two geographically contiguous neighbors.
In the past, efforts were made at both level; bilateral and multilateral levels to normalise the relationship between these key South Asian neighbours; however, the output remained limited to a symbolic interaction and there was little genuine determination or effort to address core political and bilateral issues that were a cause for belligerency between the two. The strategic culture of unpleasantness, the sense of insecurity and mistrust, and the divergent geopolitical interests of the great powers have also contributed to this environment of distrust and antagonism. Consequently, peace remained a distant dream for the people of India and Pakistan.
The history of regional associations is testimony to the fact that without achieving political understanding, an environment of trust cannot be created. The critical nature of the relationship between India and Pakistan needs particular attention at the bilateral, regional and global level. Arguably, tensions between both rivals has the potential to bring the world to the brinkof nuclear disaster, on the other hand, the resolution of core issues between the two, would bring the region to new heights of peace and economic prosperity.
Analysing the case study of the European Union (EU) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), one learns that, leadership of these regions had the political will and determination to resolve their bilateral differences and political issues for a greater cause; the regional concord, stability and economic prosperity. Conversely, the South Asian neighbours however, failed to produce an environment of trust, mainly owing to some unresolved political issues, and have remained hostage to animosity for the last sixty-seven years. So far, the Indo-Pak relationship has been driven by aversion and mutual distrust. In the historical perspective, Indo-Pak Strategic Culture has been the one aspect, which hindered their close collaboration. In fact, Indian successive leadership wanted domination over Pakistan, which was undesirable in Pakistani strategic culture.
Then, sequel to independence, the state of Pakistan remained under a constant security threat from India mainly over the unresolved issue of Kashmir; which became the focal point of rivalry between India and Pakistan. Hence, on Kashmir, it is Indian stringency versus the international community and Indian repression versus the right of self-determination of Kashmiri people. The presence of hardliners, in terms of their respective strategic cultures, in both countries strengthened each other’s position in the society by counter opposition. A graver problem is the covert quasi-alliance that “hawks” on both sides establish by thriving on each other’s prejudices. This has an impact on domestic politics, in that the objective, value neutral, apolitical commentary by hardliners reinforces-if only unwittingly reactionary forces in polity. This can be witnessed on both sides of the border.
For a durable peace and stability of the Subcontinent, there is a need that, the leadership of India and Pakistan realistically visualises the future of the region and accepts the ground realities through an optimistic mindset. Embarking upon the path of promoting trade and commerce is a welcoming step, but, this should not be at the cost of resolving the core political issue; Kashmir. Indeed, except Sir Creek, all other issues and mistrusts are the product of this issue. Therefore, India and Pakistan must continue talking to each other, remain engaged in negotiations, take all measures for the promotion of peace and tranquility, initiate more CBMs and develop their economies to eradicate poverty widespread among their masses. This is only possible by giving peace a chance, ending antagonism by bringing concord among the leadership and people of two countries. This process would provide opportunities for enhance economic development and social integration in the Subcontinent.
A bilateral approach of addressing the issues between Pakistan and India has never worked in their past sixty-seven years of post independence history. It is pertinent to mention that, there exists three agreements on the bilateral approach of resolving their issues. These agreements include; Tashkent Declaration-1966, Simla Agreement-972 and Lahore Declaration-1999. These agreements establish a formal regime of principles, in the conduct of bilateral relations and the settlement of disputes.
There has been failure of political leadership of both countries in this regard. Politicians on both sides never looked beyond their party politics. They never conjoin the roles of the civil society organizations and ‘non-party experts’, to take the people of India and Pakistan out of the political woods. Indeed, leadership of both countries, have failed to put into practice, the scope and wisdom of the bilateralism regime, which otherwise have substantive and a rich jurisprudence.
As a major country and beneficiary of bilateralism, India has been stressing to resolve outstanding issues between India and Pakistan according to this framework. Nevertheless, unlike the spirit of bilateralism, it has never accepted the Pakistani viewpoint on genuine grounds. Now, with Modi in the driving seat, the process of dialogue, revived by previous Indian government has been disregarded on a number of occasions. Therefore, the only option left with Pakistan is to approach the UN and international community for the implementation of UN resolution on the issue of Kashmir, the core issue and main irritant in the bilateral relationship of India and Pakistan.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.
Role of Bilateralism in Indo-Pak Ties | Dr Muhammad Khan