After the weeklong face-off at United Nations, India and Pakistan relations look only set to get worse before they get any better. Islamabad is likely to engage in actions which help maintain the international spotlight on the troubled situation in Kashmir following New Delhi’s revocation of the state’s partial autonomous status. New Delhi, on the other hand, wants to retain the focus on terrorism in the region which it argues emanates from Pakistan. It expects that a sustained diplomatic pressure on Pakistan would get it to crackdown on the militant groups which fight in Kashmir and sometimes target other parts of the mainland India. The measures have been met with applause by the sections of the national media and public opinion which see these as a fitting response to Pakistan after the terror attacks in the country over the past some years.
But while repeal of Article 370 and New Delhi’s diplomatic successes abroad have been largely welcomed in the country, they are unlikely to help achieve peace between India and Pakistan. The conflict between neighbours is rooted in history and is too complex to be approached in simplistic terms. Instead, New Delhi’s exclusive reliance on the coercive and security-centric measures, both in Kashmir and in relation to Pakistan, has further complicated the political scenario. For one, it has deepened the turmoil in Kashmir, making it more and more unresponsive to centre’s talk of development in the state. And second, it has ended any foreseeable chances of an engagement with Pakistan, a fraught situation which can only lead the region towards more conflict and possibly war, as the skirmish following Pulwama attack have underlined. In the absence of a bilateral contact, the two countries are left with no crisis tools to handle an extraordinary situation. A tough, macho approach in foreign policy might sell well with the people and win votes too, but it buys no peace. On the contrary, it complicates the already messy conflicts and makes it all the more difficult to tackle them.
The inherent problem with India-Pakistan dialogues has been their persistent refusal to pursue the resolution of the long-festering issues. On its part, New Delhi has generally sought to limit the dialogue to the efforts for an end to cross-border terrorism and establishing a trading relationship with Pakistan. This kind of approach has yielded nothing. The sources of conflict have remained intact and frequently risen to the surface to undo the cosmetic gains. The BJP-led central government has taken this approach to another extreme. It has refused to even acknowledge that the political issues exist, let alone agree to a discussion on them. This has bred a dead-end scenario which has created a fertile ground for the violence and conflict to thrive. As the February skirmish between the two countries underlined, such a policy will only end up into more conflict and war.
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