Opportunity for Peace

INDIA’S Covid catastrophe is likely to impact the pace of the fledgeling re-engagement  between India and Pakistan. It may take some time before New Delhi emerges from this unprecedented crisis. Meanwhile, the Covid situation may go some way to generate more goodwill between the two neighbours. Pakistan’s Eidhi Foundation has offered to send a fleet of 50 ambulances kitted out for Covid-19 patients, along with emergency medical technicians, office staff, drivers and supporting staff, to India. This was followed by Pakistan government offering to provide relief support to India “including ventilators, Bi-PAP, digital X-ray machines, PPEs and related items” as a gesture of solidarity. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also extended his sympathy for the victims of the pandemic in India. “Our prayers for a speedy recovery go to all those suffering from the pandemic in our neighbourhood & the world,” he tweeted. Such cooperation at a time when India is grappling with a Covid-19 Tsunami will work as an important Confidence Building Measure between the two countries and help propel their engagement going forward.
Though the two countries have been talking to each other through back-channel for some time now, the engagement has been encountering some issues.  Pakistan wants India to take some more CBMs in regard to Kashmir before a formal dialogue can take off. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in an interview to with Turkey’s Anadolu Agency on Sunday  said that Pakistan would be “more than happy” to talk to India and resolve the outstanding issues if New Delhi was willing to “revisit” some of its decisions to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. This is expected to create what Pakistan says will be “an enabling environment” for talks.
India, on the other hand, has said that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. India has, however, put the onus  on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility.
If anything the current Covid-19 tragedy in India has underlined the significance of the need for India, Pakistan cooperation as neighbours. This has lent fresh resonance to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s wisdom that “you can change friends but not neighbours”. Pakistan and India can’t escape each other. Nor can they, as Qureshi pointed out to Anadolu Agency, go to war as both are nuclear powers. A war would thus mean a mutually assured destruction. So, there is no other way but to engage and work to resolve their long pending issues. This alone is guarantee for a peaceful and prosperous subcontinent.

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