An Integrated South Asia

ON a visit to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan at a function talked at length about India, Pakistan relations. He once again expressed his desire to have better relations with India but said that Kashmir issue was in the way. "There is only one issue between India and Pakistan and it is the issue of Kashmir. If only we are able to get it out of way, we will be good neighbours," Khan said. Pakistan premier once again dangled the carrot of the access to Central Asia to India. should the two countries be able to normalize their relations. In an obvious call for India to take bolder steps to resolve its issues with Pakistan, Khan said that the most successful business people are those who look ahead and take risks. "The ones who go on the trodden path never really become outstanding in any field, let alone business," he said.

Whatever New Delhi makes of Khan’s observations, his vision of an integrated, peaceful south asia is too tempting to ignore. However, this is not the first time the prospect of regional connectivity has been laid out whereby India and Pakistan are foreseen to not only trade with each other but also with central Asia, In Kashmir, China’s Border Roads Initiative project has drawn a lot of attention for its alleged potential to boost regional connectivity which in the long term may also help aid India, Pakistan reconciliation. Many observers have predicted that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor will have very consequential impact on the overall framework of India-Pakistan relations. The project, as it progresses is expected to introduce new geo-political factors which in the near or long term will help shape the future of South Asia..

Already, the new factors being unleashed by the project are straining existing geo-politics of the region. However, for now, we are only witnessing the beginnings of this shift. And considering India and Pakistan have not been able to mend their relations over the past seven decades, the prognosis for the future of their relations can’t be optimistic. But who knows new geopolitical factors and the great possibilities of a normal bilateral relationship might force a decisive rethink after all. Here's hoping that India and Pakistan do go back to dialogue and engagement and, for once, try to seriously sort out their longstanding issues. And for that the leaders of both the countries need to act in a statesmanlike way.


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