Opportunity at Shanghai


In a fresh glimmer of hope for a renewed engagement between India and Pakistan, the prime minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan are expected to run into each other on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) scheduled on June 13 and 14 at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Though nothing is final as yet, there are some indications that a “pull-aside” meeting between the leaders will take place. So far, New Delhi has denied that any formal meeting will be organized between the leaders. According to External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, the PM Modi will have bilateral meetings with leaders of Russia and China during the SCO summit  but not with Pak  PM  Khan. However, both the countries haven’t also ruled out the meeting. And the positive vibes from the neighbours generate  hope that the things are progressing in right direction. Pakistan has approved  India’s request to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aircraft fly over its airspace to Bishkek to attend the  SCO summit this week.  However,  the PM Modi, in a last minute decision, has opted to not use Pakistan airspace  Besides, in a recent letter  Imran Khan offered dialogue to the PM Modi to reconcile their differences. Congratulating Modi on his second term as prime minister. Khan wrote that Pakistan wanted to resolve all problems, including those associated with the disputed Kashmir region. 

This has once again build up some media excitement in both the countries about the SCO summit.  Now the question is whether the two leaders can seize the moment and build a long-missing momentum for peace in the region. Over the past two years and especially since Pulwama attack which killed 40 CRPF personnel, the relations between the neighbours have steadily gone downhill. The subsequent skirmishes between the two countries have created a deep sense of impasse and diminished the prospect of progress in the relations. 

The general elections in the country didn’t help matters either.  The BJP made Pakistan a major issue in the polls. The country was slammed for its sponsorship of violence in J&K and rest of India by top BJP leaders including the PM himself.  In BJP’s security-centric campaign, Pakistan was painted as enemy.  So, the BJP 2.0 at the centre is baulking at suddenly turning reconciliatory towards its neighbour. 

The only hope for a redeeming difference lies in a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries. They owe it to the peoples of their respective countries to resume a long-stalled dialogue to forge a way forward and renew hope for a reconciliation and the resolution of their long-festering issues.

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