India, Pak SCO Meltdown

THE Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Goa has once again highlighted the deep-seated distrust between India and Pakistan. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar launched a scathing attack on his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, calling him a “promoter, justifier, and spokesperson of the terrorist industry.” Jaishankar also accused Pakistan of committing acts of terrorism and stated that Pakistan’s credibility “is depleting faster than its forex reserves.”

The meeting was meant to focus on the SCO agenda, but as happens often  at the geopolitical events jointly attended by India and Pakistan, the spotlight soon turns to bilateral issues between the two neighbours. Pakistan, once again, raised the issue of the revocation of Article 370 and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Jaishankar responded by stating that Article 370 is history, and the so-called CPEC violates India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty of India. He also called out Pakistan for trying to play the victim card saying it was, in fact, India that was the victim of terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Jaishankar ruled out engagement with Islamabad, pointing out that “victims of terrorism do not sit together with perpetrators of terrorism to discuss terrorism.”

The fact that the meeting failed to achieve any breakthrough in ties between the two countries shows that India and Pakistan cannot normalize relations anytime soon. The trust deficit between the two countries remains deep, and there seems to be no political will on either side to bridge the divide. More so in New Delhi which seems to have given up on any near term prospect of engaging Pakistan.

The SCO summit was an opportunity for the two countries to engage in dialogue and explore avenues for cooperation. However, the meeting has only served to highlight the deep-seated distrust. New Delhi made it clear that as long as Pakistan continued to support terrorism, India will remain on guard and will continue to take measures to defend itself.

The path to normalization of relations between India and Pakistan is fraught with challenges. It requires both countries to move beyond their historical baggage, put aside their differences, and engage in constructive dialogue. However, the SCO meeting offered no such hope.

India does desire normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility, and violence. But Pakistan puts Kashmir above everything else. The positions of the two countries have thus become too irreconcilable to start a dialogue.  But it is still possible that, in the interest of regional peace, the two neighbours would transcend their differences and talk to each other. This alone will change the situation in the region for the better.

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