India-Pak Deadlock

TERMING Kashmir as the “main difference” between India and Pakistan, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said there is currently “no relationship” between the two countries and talks between them can be held only if New Delhi restores the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Khan said that Pakistan’s security concerns increased after India’s decision to scrap Article 370 that granted J&K its semi-autonomous status under the Constitution. “Yes, go back to August 5, 2019, and yes, we can talk after that,” he told the newspaper terming India’s move as a violation of international law.

New Delhi has so far not reacted to Khan’s statement. If anything, it also underlines the lingering estrangement between the neighbours that has further deepened since New Delhi's move of August 5, 2019. The situation can only be expected to improve if the leaders of the two countries deem it in their core interest to engage.

And if not then we can only hope that the current climate of distrust and antagonism doesn’t lead to further escalation of tensions. More so, when due to suspended talks, the two countries lack the diplomatic tools to manage the fallout. It is therefore important that the two countries get back to the dialogue and work towards the resolution of their longstanding issues for durable peace in the region.

But with both the countries looking forward to their respective national elections in the following two years, it looks unlikely that there will be substantive efforts to engage each other.  The window for dialogue is fast closing. Towards the end of this year, Pakistan would already be in election mode circumscribing the chance and the space for a sustained dialogue. And by 2023 also, the government in New Delhi will have an eye on the 2024 polls, dissuading it from a troubled engagement with its neighbour. The period thus will hardly be conducive for purposeful dialogue. This leaves India, Pakistan, the coming few months to try and re-establish the contact and hope to carry it on into the next two years. If they choose to squander the chance,  they are unlikely to get it until after 2024. But if the discourse in the ongoing Uttar Pradesh polls is anything to go by, the dialogue with Pakistan seems to be on nobody’s mind in New Delhi. And it is a tragedy. For such a state of affairs would ensure there is unlikely to be any rapprochement between the neighbours in the foreseeable future. We need statesmen who transcend the political compulsions and lead rather than follow their respective populations.

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