India and Pakistan are squaring off for a duel on Kashmir in United Nations later this week. This will be first such face-off between the neighbours in the wake of the revocation of the state’s special status under India’s constitution. Both, the prime minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan are meeting US president Donald Trump for talks reportedly focussed on Kashmir. Khan has already declared his intention to raise Kashmir in his speech to the General Assembly. In fact, in his recent rally in Muzaffarabad, Khan told the gathering they should wait until his return from the UN for a signal to breach the Line of Control. New Delhi is also bracing for Pak’s Kashmir challenge at the UN. The PM Modi is likely to raise Islamabad’s support to militancy in Kashmir and urge the world to force Islamabad to reign in the militant groups operating from its soil.
However, there is little hope that anything constructive will come of the ritual sparring at the world body between the two nations. Also, it is unlikely that the bitter exchanges at UN would affect the tenor of their current engagement, but they do indeed spoil the atmospherics. The repeal of Kashmir’s special status has plunged the already soured relations the two countries to their new low. At the same time, the recurrence of the tension over Kashmir is a constant reminder that the two countries will need to give due space to the settlement of the long-festering political disputes should they return to dialogue in the near to distant future. Only such an approach can safeguard dialogue from the intermittent treacherous turns in their relationship occasioned by the incidents along LoC or a terror attack.
What recent developments have underlined for the umpteenth time is that any attempt to build a relationship without addressing the longstanding political issues is destined to fail. Only way out is to make the future dialogue inclusive of all the issues dividing the two countries and then work towards more or less simultaneous progress on them. And, of course, this dialogue has to be “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” for it to reach its logical conclusion, which is to enable the two countries to finally to come to terms with each other.
As of now, the way situation is shaping up in the region, there is every possibility that things can take ugly turn if there is no conscious attempt to repair the relations. This is all the more important considering the fraught security situation evolving in the region as US prepares to leave Afghanistan. Two countries need to work together to confront the new geo-political challenges facing the region than to pursue and further deepen their historical rivalry.