Many would agree with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari that disengagement from India is not in our interest and that it is time for pivoting to economic diplomacy and focusing on engagement. However keeping in view China-India border tensions that have led to bloody clashes despite their trade growing to a record $125.66 billion in 2021, one may not be sure if Pakistan would have been in a better position to influence New Delhi’s policy through economic diplomacy alone There have been times in the past when there was a possibility of improvement of relations between the two countries when something happened on either side that suspended the peace process. One can only hope that some of those on either side responsible for stalling the peace process have learnt the right lesson.
Kashmir remains the major issue between the two countries. The BJP has held Pakistan responsible for violence in Kashmir. Instead of recognizing the genuineness of the Kashmiri people’s struggle for self- determination, it has continued to commit atrocities which have been widely condemned in the world. The BJP’s policies have led to the questioning of its claim of being the biggest democracy in the world.
India’s aspirations to become a regional superpower have led to a situation where it is required to divert huge economic resources to be able to fight on two fronts. The hostility between the two countries has benefited neither India nor Pakistan. It leads the two to spend huge amounts on the purchase of costly weapons systems instead of concentrating on poverty alleviation.
Pakistan needs a peaceful neighbourhood to make economic progress. India believes Pakistan is behind militancy in Indian-Held Kashmir. Over the last many years it has supported terrorist groups in Pakistan which are now targeting CPEC projects. India’s patronage of these groups causes instability in Pakistan while it discourages foreign business groups from investing in the country. Hostility between the neighbouring countries forces them to import goods from far off countries at considerable shipping expense instead of ordering them from across the Wagah border. Resolution of mutual disputes through engagement would not only bring peace, strengthen internal security and make more funds available for poverty alleviation, but also revive the eight-nation SAARC, which has become dysfunctional on account of the Pak-India rivalry.