The thaw on the India-Pakistan front
Responding to Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s letter greeting Pakistan on its national day, Pakistan’s PM, Imran Khan, has claimed that his country seeks “peaceful, cooperative relations with all neighbours, including India”. Mr Khan also said that durable peace and stability in the region was contingent on resolving all issues betwe-en India and Pakistan, “in particular, the Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] dispute”. He then added that the creation of “an enabling environment” was “impera-tive for a constructive and result-oriented dialogue”.
There are two ways to interpret this letter. The first, sceptical, view can see it as an attempt by Pakistan to hold the ties hostage to the J&K issue yet again, without confronting the issue of terrorism. The logical conclusion of such a reading would be that there is little merit in engaging with Pakistan. A second way to read the letter is to focus on why Mr Khan has said what he has, and what he has not said. A reference to J&K is imperative for any Pakistani leader to survive domestically. The fact that despite relentless propaganda over the past year-and-a-half against India’s moves in J&K, Pakistan has not made any tangible demands other than mentioning an “enabling environment” leaves space for diplomacy. This reading would lead to a different conclusion — of the merits of engagement.
While India must have minimal expectations from Pakistan’s establishment and be prepared on the security front, there is a definite churn in Pakistan. Mr Khan’s letter, which would have been approved by the army, is an attempt to signal Pakistan’s willingness to engage, as is Islamabad’s decision, on Wednesday, to resume limited trade with India. While sticking to its redlines, Delhi should be open to building on the ceasefire pact and resuming a comprehensive dialogue.