Given the events of recent weeks, there are not many that would lay money on the possibility of a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. The death sentence awarded to Kulbhushan Jadhav, appeared to be the final nail in the coffin with some in India calling for a severing of diplomatic ties with Pakistan. The conviction of Jadhav whether he was tried by a civilian or a military court was a foregone conclusion in view of the weight of evidence. He has made a detailed confessional statement that has not been refuted and was caught red-handed. The death sentence will have been no surprise either. Death for spying is a not uncommon sentence elsewhere in the world and no matter that this newspaper deplores any and all executions the law followed its course. Spying is akin to treason when it comes to the weight of sentencing. All of the foregoing will have been known to the Indians as it is to those in Pakistan that have a hand on the foreign affairs’ levers, and subtle pressures are building on both sides for a resolution to the Kashmir issue.
August is a little over three months away, and a 70th birthday. It is high time that Pakistan and India gave their people something to celebrate jointly rather than separately, and with a strengthening geopolitical breeze wafting through the region the time may be right to make moves — and the moves will need to be substantive and made by both sides — if not to formal resolution then to bilateral re-engagement.
One of the factors producing pressure is the membership by both countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The SCO is a powerful trading bloc of which India and Pakistan have a conditional membership. Their continued membership is dependent on both countries making a move towards a resolution in Kashmir. With Russia and China at the heart of the SCO and both having a close interest in matters Indo-Pak, the upcoming SCO summit in June in Astana, Kazakhstan, would be an opportunity to initiate contact at the highest level. India cannot stonewall the internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute indefinitely. An exchange of birthday gifts would be entirely appropriate.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2017.
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