Paused Detente

PAKISTAN Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that India and Pakistan cannot afford to engage in an all-out war, as both countries are nuclear armed. He reiterated that “all issues could be resolved through dialogue” and called on New Delhi to create “a conducive environment”.

Earlier, Pakistan deferred a decision made by the country’s top economic decision-making body to allow imports of cotton and sugar from India until it reviewed August 5, 2019 decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir. Over the last one and a half month, the two countries have witnessed some positive movement in their relations. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that durable peace and stability in South Asia was contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues between the two countries, “in particular the issue of Jammu and Kashmir”. The letter was a response to the PM Modi’s greetings to Khan on Pakistan Day.

After the decision to put on hold the trade, the prospect for further normalization of the relationship looks moot. It depends on what Pakistan wants New Delhi to do by way of creating “an enabling environment” and what is it that New Delhi wants in return. Significantly, India-Pakistan thaw is taking place amid shifting geo-politics of the region. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov who was in India is now in Pakistan for a two day visit for delegation-level talks on a number of important issues from enhancing bilateral cooperation to the Afghan peace process. In a tweet, Qureshi said that “building multi-dimensional relations with Russia is a key priority for Pakistan”. Lavrov will also hold meetings with the country’s top political and military leadership, including Prime Minister Khan and Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. This is the first visit by a Russian foreign minister to Pakistan since 2012. According to Qureshi, the two leaders also discussed “worsening human rights situation” in Kashmir.

These are very significant developments and reflect the changing geo-politics in South Asia. The war in Afghanistan is certainly the top priority for the neighbouring countries including the US. The US, as the president Joe Biden has also re-affirmed, is on its way out of Afghanistan. This is likely to pave way for Taliban to regain power in Kabul, a development of profound import for the region. India-Pakistan detente assumes some significance in this context. A normal relationship between the neighbours would go a long way to usher in the regional peace.

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