The curious tale of Pakistan-India relations

Published: December 31, 2015
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: When Indian prime minister told his Pakistani counterpart: “ab to yahan aana jaana laga rahega” (now I will frequently visit you) Nawaz Sharif replied in complete sub-continental hospitality “aap ka ghar hai” (this is your house). That the two prime ministers had forgone formalities to use clichéd Bollywood lines marked a tectonic shift in India-Pakistan relations.

Beyond a jibe from hardline Hindu leader Pravin Togadia – who hoped that Narendra Modi would turn his attention to Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed once he was done hugging Nawaz – India has reacted positively to the rapprochement expecting it would set the tone for New Delhi’s foreign policy in 2016.

Modi departs from Pakistan after brief surprise visit

True, the Congress party has been vehement in wanting to know what has changed in the relationship to warrant the sudden warmth. But it is isolated. Almost all opposition parties have cautiously welcomed the new era in India-Pakistan relations, especially the effect it will have on the border states like Kashmir, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Surprisingly it is only now, when the weight is somewhat less, when one realises how much Pakistan factors in India’s foreign policy.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders are now talking in terms of a confederation of south Asia to lend the region more heft and weight in the international arena. Moves made by chief ministers like Amrinder Singh of Punjab in fostering business and economic ties with Pakistan’s Punjab province are now beginning to do the rounds.

Modi visit: China welcomes thaw in Indo-Pak ties

The new spirit of cooperation and partnership is being echoed in various chambers. “Aab-o-hawa badal gai hai” (the climate has changed) said a former foreign secretary.

The new spirit has imbued ties with other neighbours. While in Kabul to inaugurate Afghanistan’s new Parliament, Prime Minister Modi announced that India was not in competition with Pakistan in Afghanistan.

Instead, India seems to have hit the nerve that is hurting all neighbours as well as India itself – the activities of Daesh that is a source of deep domestic and international concern. This has leveraged India into taking proactive steps on Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Owing to dozens of border violations – where Indian and Pakistani troops traded fire – ties were fraught. However, after a July meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in the Russian city of Ufa, things started looking up.

The Nawaz-Modi waltz

Just a month later, however, talks between the respective national security advisers in New Delhi were called off at the last minute after falling prey to traditional pitfalls.

Though border guards on both sides of the working boundary held talks to get a handle on the cross-border violations, things only got worse. In October the right wing Shiv Sena first tried to disrupt a book launch by former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri. Then they forced the Indian cricket board to call of talks with the chief of Pakistan’s cricket board – the two neighbours eneded up without playing a bilateral cricketing series.

With hostilities mounting, there was a sudden spark.

Nawaz and Modi had a brief chat on the sidelines of the climate change summit in Paris on November 30. That was quickly followed up by talks between their NSAs in Bangkok on December 6. Days later, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj landed in Islamabad on December 9 to attend the Heart of Asia conference. Following a meeting with her counterpart, the talks process was revived under the ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ to discuss all outstanding issues including Kashmir.

But the best was saved for the last with Modi making a brief stop in Lahore on Christmas day while on his way back from Afghanistan – the first by an Indian prime minister in over a decade.

Ties which had ebbed for much of 2015, started flowing towards the end. With foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India to kick off the year with a bilateral meeting and Modi’s official trip to Pakistan scheduled for later in 2016, the incoming year looks like a year of great optimism, especially in India-Pakistan relations.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Pakistani in US
    Dec 31, 2015 - 4:06AM

    Modi’s short visit to Lahore is a cheap-scat stunt. For Pakistan to have fallen for it, is another cheap reflection. We are sovereign countries, embroiled in definitive disagreements. We should continue to maintain a dignified stance, not street politics, as if we have had a squabble over marbles and wish to resolve that discontentment.Recommend

  • Indian in US
    Dec 31, 2015 - 7:14AM

    @Pakistani in US:
    Even living in country like US, where Indians and Pakistanis are living together peacefully, you have learned nothing but hatred. Hopefully there aren’t many like you in US.Recommend

  • wajih Abbbasi
    Dec 31, 2015 - 7:36AM

    The recent developments can only be welcome. Pakistan and India have lot in common and must use it for their advantage. Poltical, economic, trade and people to people ties should be normalized. it wil create environment for resolution of disputes too. Keeping ourselves in past is not going to serve anybody. Recommend

  • Aiyoji
    Dec 31, 2015 - 8:19AM

    @Pakistani in US
    Go mind the store.Recommend

  • a&a
    Dec 31, 2015 - 8:44AM

    Nothing change between India and Pakistan.
    only bussiness of NS and co will flourish……..Recommend

  • Mansoor khan
    Dec 31, 2015 - 9:29AM

    India pakistan relationship is one of those unnatural alliance given that Strategic interests of both countries are poles apart. Recommend

  • Lalsinh
    Dec 31, 2015 - 11:17AM

    @Pakistani in US

    While you live in US you want Indians and Pakistanis have miserable coexistence. You must learn diplomacy and politics. Both are meant for betterment and welfare of people not for maintaining status quo. Both leaders PM of Pakistan and India are trying to resolve differences in given situation and they have not harmed interest of their respective people.It will be wise not to throw spanners in the works.Wait and watch Recommend

  • Aschraful Makhlooq
    Dec 31, 2015 - 11:32AM

    Never expect any thing great and changeable in India’s policy regarding Kashmir of Modi’s Pakistan’s surprised visit…..Recommend

  • Amit Lunia
    Dec 31, 2015 - 11:44AM

    @ all of us

    If NM come to Pakistan, half of us will be happy and half of us will be filled with hatred

    If NM doesn,t come to Pakistan ,half of us will be happy and half of us will be filled with hatred

    If NS come to India, half of us will be happy and half of us will be filled with hatred

    If NS doesn,t come to India ,half of us will be happy and half of us will be filled with hatred

    The Glass will forever remain half filled Recommend

  • Raisani
    Dec 31, 2015 - 1:20PM

    @Indian in US:
    Now i understand why India is called an intolerant country. You guys can’t even tolerate someone’s comments and don’t allow freedom of speech. Even living in country like US, where Indians and Pakistanis are living together peacefully, you have learned nothing but hatred. Hopefully there aren’t many like you in US.Recommend

  • liaqat ali
    Dec 31, 2015 - 1:22PM

    @Mansoor khan:
    No my dear , interests of Pakistan and India are exactly the same or must be the same . Rescue majorities ABOVE the abject poverty , progress to be developed countires, educate to eradicate terror , rise above petty communal pollitics .And you know what ? Indian muslims esepcially Kashmiries who suffer the most from the conflict BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTIRES are to benefit most out of it . If you are not one of those, you wont understand and will probably continue to be impressed by shallow emotional slogans from a distant . Modi and Nawaz ; go , make history and masses will thank you for it . RAHEEL SHARIF is on your side I believe and hope. We dont want another Kargil. Recommend

  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Dec 31, 2015 - 6:23PM

    The report, originating in India, talks favourably about Narendra Modi’s change of heart relative to Pakistan, which has been widely appreciated in both India and Pakistan, and rightly so. After all, with the option of living like decent neighbours, in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation which will benefit both, it doesn’t make sense for the two poor neighbours to remain in a permanent state of hostility, even going to wars which, in future, would be nuclear.

    As for the causes behind this change of heart, perhaps it was the combined effect of realization on Modi’s part that his aggression came in the way of his gaining concessions from Pakistan like land route to Afghanistan through Pakistan, while the stance could also result in bitter opposition by Pakistan to India’s ambition to gain a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. The persuasion by world leaders like Barack Obama and others may also have played a part in it.

    Needless to say, Pakistan should reciprocate Modi’s gesture in the same spirit but the real test would lie in seeing whether the improved relations result in the solution of problems between the two countries, starting with the simpler one’s first.

    Still, despite all the positive signs and results, Pakistan has to keep on guard all the time, keeping in mind the past conduct of Narendra Modi, as well as other warning signs.
    Unable to match India in conventional weapons, we rely on our nuclear arsenal as an effective deterrent. And while Indian nuclear weapons mostly depend on aeroplanes for delivery, Pakistan’s system is missile based which gives it a much wider range. However, in collaboration with Israel, India has just developed and tested a long-range missile capable of shooting down an incoming missile. Moreover, Indian is securing some very advanced missiles from Russia which can be used for the same purpose. Obviously, this will reduce the punch of our missile-based nuclear arsenal. And maybe Pakistan’s plans to get some latest F-16s from the US are meant to meet the changed situation.

    We also know that apart of traditional Indian hostility towards Pakistan, Israel has declared Pakistan to be an even greater threat than Iran. Moreover, the United States and other Western countries express concerns about our nuclear arsenal, and unnecessarily lose their sleep over the exaggerated fears of some of our nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. All these factors make it imperative for the armed forces to remain on the guard all the time and luckily for us, they seem to have adopted this very course.

    However, it is a bit unfortunate that while our armed forces are taking a very balanced view of events around the world and in our region, some of their officers, acting though Sindh Rangers and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, seem to have become too much obsessed with MQM as well as Peoples Party which is very unhealthy, and reminds one of the shameful drama enacted in former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

    KarachiRecommend

  • True
    Dec 31, 2015 - 10:59PM

    @S.R.H. Hashmi:
    Sir what I can conclude from that epic comments is: Win a prize money & stay awake all night to guard that money so that someone may not steal it knowing well that all others are richer than you. Coming to your nuclear arsenal the truth is that the whole world knows about AQ Khans one stop shop. There is plenty of evidence & documented proofs ONLY if one wants to believe in it. And we know what your response will be. That’s the reason why Westerners are worried about it. There is a real & present danger. But we know there are sane minds in Pakistan Army who know what it means falling in wrong hands.
    Coming to your second point. India’s delivery systems. Not long ago I think India tested Agni V with 5000 km range & I believe all the Agni series and Brahmos are capable of carrying all sorts of load. So please do some research on it. Apart from that transit route to Afghanistan is important to India so that’s why Chahbahar is in place. I don’t know what gives most Pakistanis a sense of belief that India will bend backwards to ask for these concessions. The apparent change in Modi’s stance is nothing personal but pure realpolitik. One incident like Mumbai is enough to change it and for sure minds (you know whom) are at work ….. trust me.Recommend

  • Cool Henry
    Jan 1, 2016 - 6:00AM

    Normally, a homeless, hungry and destitute person has a different outlook and often high on alcohol or drugs to forget the pain. Whereas a well-fed person with roof over his head and a prosperous future ahead will think very differently.

    Indian leadership is keenly aware of this simple fact and tries to nudge Pak to try strengthening economic, cultural and other relations which in turn will give rise to new stakeholders who would then address the problematic issues lot differently.

    The civilian leadership of Pakistan seems to be of the same belief – ‘coz they probably do want to improve the lots of poor masses…but, every serious effort towards peace is followed up with Operation Gribraltar, or Nusrat, or Grand Slam, or Kargil….

    Let’s hope there’s not a sequel Operation this time around. The poor and hungry need food, clothing and shelter.Recommend

  • Del Huss
    Jan 1, 2016 - 5:23PM

    The biggest threat to world peace is the increasing Zionisation of the West. The West is in far greater danger of Zionisation than it is of Islamisation as it increasingly adopts Zionist policies and practices. The Zionist Nexus works tirelessly to sour relations between Christians and Muslims, to the extent that Muslims are now the Neo-Jews of Europe.’Terrorism’ is the direct result of this Zionist effort and will continue to plague the world as long as it suits the expansionist ambitions of Zionistan, and it is in its interest to keep the Middle East in turmoil so long as it diverts the worlds attention from their policy of slow genocide of the Palestinians.Witness the daily murder of Palestinians on the slightest pretext.(Shoot to kill first and answer questions later .. if anybody bothers to ask any questions at all!). The threat from Islamisation is a continuous attempt by the Zionist Nexus to make the Muslims of the world enemies of civilization so that the West will continue to bomb this ‘threat’ on behalf of Zionistan.Recommend

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