“Season’s Greetings”?: Changing contours of India-Pakistan ties
- December 28, 2015
- Posted by: admin
- Category: Uncategorized
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘surprise’ stopover in Pakistan on December 25 while returning from Kabul, Afghanistan unfolded like a movie. Modi tweeted about the visit while returning from Kabul and many officials from both sides claim to have gotten to know about the visit from the said tweet, considering the details of the visit had been kept highly ‘secret’. Not only did Modi become the first Indian PM to visit Pakistan since 2004 but also he arrived on the day of Nawaz Sharif’s birthday and his granddaughter’s wedding revelry. Friday was also the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the founder of Pakistan) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (the erstwhile Indian PM who had visited Pakistan in 2004). This visit marked a forward push to Indo-Pak talks and an ice-breaker of sorts for the high level diplomatic talks set to take place between the two countries in January, 2016.
This visit, like the meetings before, too sparked immediate debate. The debate on India-Pakistan relations has been going on since time immemorial. It has, however, garnered as much attention every time the contour of ties between the two neighbouring regions has changed- being spoken about with as much fervor as if it were a fresh headline.
The reasons are quite simple really- the two nations were once ‘one’ and have a shared common past. The dichotomy lies in the fact that while the two neighbours are probably the closest in terms of ethnic, cultural and historic links, they hardly see eye to eye in terms of political and foreign policy issues. There are some key sticking points that usually shape the talks between the countries and make or break them, namely: divergent approaches to nation-building (India built upon a secular approach while Pakistan began with a 2-nation theory based on religion), constant dispute on the status of Kashmir and Pakistan’s alleged indifference towards terrorism and extremism breeding in its own backyard. Sadly, these differences have spilled over into jingoism in cultural and commercial relations between the two nations as well. There has been sustained resistance to Pakistani artistes working in India- be it protests again Pakistani actors and actresses or cancelling concerts of renowned Pakistani singers due to demonstrations by certain factions.Most of these protests centre around constant ceasefire violations by Pakistan, the attitude of the country towards terrorism, with many stating that Pakistan is shielding the conspirators of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, and many Indians languishing in Pakistani prisons.
Taking into account all these factors, the only way to proceed towards a solution is through constructive and sustained dialogue. A logjam or freezing of ties will only be counterproductive similar to the deadlock that paralyzed the parliamentary session this winter. Considering the geographical, cultural and historical proximity between the two countries, it may not be wise to block dialogue and indulge in propaganda. Like any human problem, even these issues can be solved when the situation is analyzed and options are explored rather than looking the other way. What good will stopping actors, singers from across the border yield? What good will marring sport with politics do? Are they part of the problem? Or can they be harbingers of harmony? It’s time to decide.