Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asking his Indian counterpart to ‘sit down and have serious and sincere talks’ over ‘burning issues including Kashmir’ is a welcome step towards attempting to normalize relations with our recalcitrant Eastern neighbour. India’s consistent unsubstantiated allegations of Pakistan sponsoring terrorism can only be addressed in any meaningful and satisfactory way if the former is able to produce credible and tangible proof of this activity so that the latter can take necessary action to make things right. For this, a conversation has to be had by sitting across each other on the negotiating table, not through hyperbolic statements by foreign offices or colorful jingoistic television programming.
But perhaps the larger issue at hand is that of Kashmir. Spontaneous protests broke out all over the Valley after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rescinded the status of Indian-Occupied Kashmir in August 2019. India tried to put down the protests through draconian measures. With separatist leaderships in jail, and peaceful protesters dispersed by recourse to pellet guns, this forced young political activists to turn into militants. Instead of realizing that militancy in IOK was a homegrown affair, India blamed it on Pakistan. This further strained relations between Pakistan and India.
Any war between India and Pakistan, who both possess nuclear bombs, could be devastating not only for the two neighbouring countries, but also the entire region and beyond. The only way out for India is to seek the resolution of the issue through talks with Kashmiris and Pakistan, who are also stakeholders in the resolution of issue. For decades, Pak-India tension has forced both to spend an extra large chunk of their budgets on defence instead of education, health and poverty alleviation.
While fully supporting the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination at all international forums, Pakistan should simultaneously try to normalize relations with New Delhi. Improved relations could become a factor in a peaceful resolution of the conflict. An enhanced Pak-India trade and facilitation of people-to-people interaction can create strong peace lobbies in both the countries that could help in the resolution of all disputes, especially the Kashmir issue.