Signs of Thaw

IN fresh overture to India to resume dialogue on Kashmir, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said India will be benefitted economically by having peace with his country as it will be able to directly access  Central Asia through it. Delivering the inaugural address at the launch of the two-day Islamabad Security Dialogue, Khan, however,   said that “India will have to take the first step” for the dialogue with Pakistan.  “Unless they do so, we cannot do much,” he said.
Earlier last month, India had said that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. But India also put the onus on Pakistan to create a conducive atmosphere for the engagement.
The signs of thaw between the neighbours began emerging in January when Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had called for resolving the   Kashmir issue in a “dignified and peaceful manner” between India and Pakistan, saying it was “time to extend a hand of peace in all directions”.  Ever since the two countries have reaffirmed their 2003 ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control and signalled building on it to discuss the other issues dividing them.
It remains to be seen what shape the engagement between the neighbours takes in near future. Or whether they are able engage at all. Khan has not let it be known  what kind of concession he wants from India before the talks start. Pakistan has earlier been insisting that India first restore the Article 370 for the talks to start, which seems improbable. Some media reports in India have also been suggesting  that Islamabad wants restoration of the J&K statehood for the engagement to resume. But there has been no such indication from New Delhi. It seems unlikely that India would give statehood back to J&K until delimitation commission completes its exercise of creating more Assembly constituencies for Jammu.
At the same time, the shifting geo-politics of the region makes it urgent for India and Pakistan to sort out their relationship. China’s incursions in Ladakh have made the communist power as yet another party to the issue. And the alleged China-Pakistan collusion in the region has erected what some observers in Kashmir think ‘a great wall of China’ around India on its northern and western side. Also the cooperation among China, Pakistan, Iran,  Russia  is giving all indications of emergence of a geopolitical block. And if all goes well Afghanistan under Taliban could also be part of this block.
These shifting alignments are putting in place a new geopolitical order. This order, however, in no way will help resolve the issues of the subcontinent particularly those between India and Pakistan. That is, if the two countries themselves don’t show a willingness to address these. And this needs to be done before the two countries get sucked into  the emerging new cold war.

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