Two positive developments in a span of week gives enough indication that India and Pakistan are moving towards a fresh engagement. On Tuesday, Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic effectively removing the ban on Indian flights that were not allowed to use majority of its airspace since the Balakot air strikes in February. The move is expected to give a major relief to Air India, which suffered a huge financial loss of around Rs 491 crore and the other commercial airliners which had to re-route their various international flights due to the closure of the Pakistan airspace.Earlier, Islamabad agreed to allow visa-free, year-long travel to Kartarpur Sahib for Indian pilgrims. The initiative which will aid the people-to-people between two countries could be the first major step to normalize ties. Even the United States has welcomed the Kartarpur Corridor initiative between the two countries and said Washington was incredibly supportive of the project. The developments augur well for the prospect of dialogue between the neighbours.
So far, India has refused to engage with Pakistan unless the country takes some demonstrative measures against the terrorism. Prime minister Narendra Modi even avoided his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan in June. This had put to rest any hope of immediate resumption of the dialogue between the two countries. It has turned out that the negative sentiment generated by the anti Pakistan rhetoric used liberally by the BJP leaders during election campaign has been carried into the government also. In BJP’s shrill security-centric campaign, Pakistan was invariably painted as an enemy. So, the BJP 2.0 at the centre is baulking at suddenly turning reconciliatory towards its neighbour. And so far this policy has held. Government seems in no hurry to go back to talks.
But meanwhile the initiatives like Kartarpur corridor and the opening of the airspace are rebuilding the confidence between the two countries. And in time this could lead them towards a fresh engagement.There is hope that the Prime minister Modi would use his strong second term mandate to usher in long term peace and prosperity to the South Asian region. India and Pakistan owe it to their peoples 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.