Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] Same country, different script


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-Foreign relations with Pakistan, Issues and need to resume the talks.


Pakistan is changing significantly, which is good for itself and its neighbour as well.

Changing Pakistan

  • Major stakeholders in favour of peace: The civil society, the political parties, and even the military establishment of Pakistan have come to favour peaceful and cooperative relations with India.
  • Both the power-centre on the same page: Both Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan’s two centres of power, are now on the same page in seeking “honourable peace” with New Delhi on the basis of “sovereign equality”.
    • Heavy price paid by Pakistan: There is a broad consensus in Pakistani society and polity that their country has paid a very heavy price by supporting the forces of Islamist extremism and terrorism.
    • The futility of using terrorism as foreign policy: There is also consensus that using terrorism for achieving mistaken foreign policy ends in Afghanistan and India.

Conducive conditions for dialogues

  • Four factors have influenced the welcome winds of change in Pakistan.
  • First-Realisation that Pakistan has suffered a lot:
    • Harm at home and to the global image: There is the across-the-board realisation that Pakistan has suffered a lot, both domestically and in terms of damage to its global image, by supporting religious extremism and terrorism.
    • A large number of casualties: Terrorists have killed a shockingly large number of civilians -certainly far many more than in India. Several thousand soldiers have lost their lives in the army’s “war on terror”-more than the number of casualties in all the wars with India.
    • The threat of FATF blacklisting: Furthermore, Islamabad is under relentless pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to act decisively and irreversibly against terrorist organisations.
  • Second-Decrease in religious radicalisation in Pakistan
    • The decrease in the financial support to radicalism: What has contributed to the diminished importance of religious radicalism is also the shrinking inflow of petrodollars from Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries that promoted this agenda.
    • The ideological influence of religious radicalisation on Pakistan’s civil society is clearly declining.
    • Change in Saudi Government Policy: Export of Wahhabism is no longer a foreign policy priority of the Saudi Arabian government.
    • Changing policies in UAE: The United Arab Emirates has gone a step further, under the leadership of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, it is pursuing inter-religious tolerance with a zeal that has surprised Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
  • Third-Interest of China
    • Rise of China as an economic and security partner: The third factor is China, which has emerged as Pakistan’s most important economic and security partner.
    • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and BRI: The flagship projects under Beijing’s BRI has begun to modernise Pakistan’s infrastructure spectacularly, but its security is which could be threatened by terrorism is also the concern for China.
    • Connection with China’s Xinjiang Province: China has urged Pakistan’s ruling establishment to take firm steps to curb the activities of Islamist groups because they can easily foment trouble in China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.
    • India-China relation factor: Beijing is also engaged in a steady effort to improve relations with New Delhi, in recognition of India’s rising economic and geopolitical stature in Asia and globally.
    • Possibility of India-China-Pakistan cooperation: China’s President Xi Jinping even mooted cooperation among China, India and Pakistan at Mamallapuram summit.
  • Fourth-Military establishment in favour of peace.
    • The military establishment seems to be fully convinced of the need for normalisation of India-Pakistan
    • Opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor: The opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, perhaps the greatest confidence-building measure between the two countries since 1947, is almost entirely due to Gen. Bajwa’s personal commitment to the project.
    • The economic crisis in Pakistan: Bajwa’s is also said to be convinced of the need to open the doors for economic and trade cooperation between the two countries given a serious economic crisis Pakistan is going through.
    • Discussion on the Kashmir issue: The Pakistan Army may also be ready to discuss a solution to the Kashmir issue on the basis of a formula Gen. Pervez Musharraf had discussed with PMs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh.


India needs to seize the opportunity to resume the talks with Pakistan on all the contentious issues and try to resolve the disputes so that the improved relations could help both the countries and the neighbouring countries.

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