Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] Seize the summit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Relations with Pakistan and need to resume the talks to resolve the issues.

Context

India announced that it will invite all heads of government of Shanghai Co-operation Organisation member countries, including Pakistan.

Significance of the invitation

  • First since 2014: The summit will assume significance should Pakistan Prime Minister accept the invitation.
    • As it will be the first by a head of government or state of that country to India since former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister in 2014.
  • Hopes belied: Nothing came from that meeting and hopes created by the invitation were belied.
  • Failed attempts to engage: Attempts to engage after that failed, including at a previous SCO summit at Ufa in 2015.

Latest events that further reduced the engagement

  • Pulwama attack: First, there was the February 2019 Pulwama attack, India’s Balakot response, and Pakistan’s counter-response.
  • Article 370: After India did away with Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, India and Pakistan have downgraded even their diplomatic presence in each other’s countries.
  • Both the countries withdrew their high commissioners after the Article 370 issue.
  • Trade stopped completely: Bilateral trade, which had managed to survive earlier shocks to relations, has stopped completely.

Opportunities presented by SCO summit

  • “Inputs of all stakeholders”: In deciding whether to accept the invitation, the Pakistan PM will have to take into consideration “inputs of all stakeholders”.
  • A polite way of saying that the final yes or no will rest with the Pakistan Army.
  • A chance for a high-level meeting: Even if Imran Khan stays away and sends a minister instead, it would still be a chance for a high-level bilateral meeting.
  • The world wants India and Pakistan to engage: The world wants India and Pakistan to engage, and this was evident in the way the UNSC refused to take up the Kashmir issue, saying it was not the forum for it.
  • Opportunity for India to make a start: India has declared several times recently that it wants to peel away from historical foreign policy baggage.
    • India should make a start with Pakistan by making it possible for such a meeting to take place.
  • Making acceptance of invitation easier: India can make it easier for the Pakistan Prime Minister to accept the invitation.
  • Resuming trade: A start could be made by resuming trade, which has ground to a dead halt
  • Sending High Commissioner back: India can start by sending India’s High Commissioner back to his office in Islamabad.

 Conclusion

The SCO summit presents an opportunity for both the countries to end the long hiatus in the relations which is essential for both the countries to resolve the long-standing issues and progress of both the countries.

 

 

 

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