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Sat. October 20, 2018
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The India - Pakistan Dispute
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By Dr. Sohail Mahmood

Ever since the Partition, India and Pakistan have had an antagonistic relationship, primarily because of the Kashmir dispute. Given the nature of the territorial dispute, it isn’t easily resolvable. Lately, the two neighbors have been more antagonistic than usual. Despite the many attempts by the Nawaz Government o reach out to the Modi Government, it has been rebuffed and slighted by the Indians. However, a new opening may be in the cards now. It is high time that the two nuclear powers settle their differences over Kashmir and move on. The two countries face massive poverty and need to focus on improving the lives of their citizens. The two also suffer from immense governance challenges of a complex nature.

Corruption in public services is the norm, and not the exception in both countries. Albeit, India has done well economically compared to Pakistan but still suffers challenges rooted in dysfunctional public services. Because of the sour relationship with India, the Pakistan military establishment is paranoid of Indian interference in the country. There is ample evidence of Indian mischief in Baluchistan and the FATA region. Indian interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs is real enough. Notwithstanding the claims of the Modi Government, Indian interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan still continues in the shape of support to the insurgency in Baluchistan and support to some terrorist entities inside Pakistan. That has to end. Also, support to entities like the Lashkar-i Taiba by the Pakistan military establishment must end. This cannot be done through bilateral negotiations as both officially deny such occurrences. That is not going to change any time soon.  Only the United States has enough leverage in the region to make meaningful negotiations happen. The Obama administration balks at this sort of facilitation because of the Indian attitude. Pakistan would welcome help in this regard but not India. However, there does exist a small peace constituency in India that seeks improved relations with neighboring Pakistan. It would be best to work here to create the climate for any meaningful negotiations to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

There are other issues that need to be tackled like Siachin glacier, Sir Creek estuary and the Line of Control peace through better monitoring. All these disputes are of a secondary nature as Kashmir remains the main dispute between the two neighbors.  Settlement of the Kashmir dispute is a doable only if, and when, the United States acts to be the chief facilitator. Britain must also play its role to end the lingering business of the Partition. The UK has a moral responsibility to step in and resolve the Kashmir dispute. After all, it was the colonial power which did not perform its moral duty at the time of Partition. Hence, Britain should partner with the United States to solve the Kashmir problem.

Without resolving the Kashmir dispute there cannot be peace in South Asia. The Pakistan military establishment cannot be removed from its dominance of the country. With a friendlier India the very raison d’etre of the Pakistan Army is lost and the civilian government has a reasonable chance to assert itself. The Indian threat to Pakistan isn’t just military paranoia, as history is witness to Indian military aggression in East Pakistan in 1971 which led to the breakaway of the province from Pakistan and the establishment of an independent Bangladesh. However, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then and we not dwell in the past too much. The point being that the threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty by India is real only that the Pakistan military establishment seemingly is paranoid about the matter. Let bygone be bygone and let us move forward for the sake of peace and security in South Asia. Let the two peace constituencies reach out further and embrace a new vision of a peaceful, secure, tolerant, and prosperous South Asia. Let the UK and the United States step in to make it happen. India and Pakistan must now end their enmity and tackle the Kashmir issue in all earnest. Resolve the left over business of Partition and do it now. The future of our children depends on bold action today. The world will be a better place with peace in South Asia. That is certain.

 

Dr. Sohail Mahmood is a faculty member at Oxford Higher Academy, UK and Professor & Board Member, Department of Political Science, Faculty UniVirtuelle, MethodologicaUniversitas.

 

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