We need to be prepared for the change that is coming. The withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan next year will inevitably place huge pressures on nations in the region to take more responsibility for what is happening within their borders and ensure that order can be established as far as possible. Pakistan and India need to take the lead in this, and they can do so realistically only if they are willing and able to work together. For this, they need closer ties, better understanding and the ability to work together. We must, therefore, hope India reacts positively to the new dossier outlining a route to peace handed over to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by the Special Assistant to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi, who formed part of a Pakistani delegation visiting New Delhi.
In the past, New Delhi has rejected peace overtures from Pakistan, or treated them rather coldly. Recent friction along the Line of Control has added to the problems. We understand these are tied in to India’s domestic situation and the general election due in that country in just a few months, which makes peace with Pakistan hostage to the necessity of gaining votes. However, looking past these, New Delhi has to recognise that there are even bigger matters at stake here. It is simply essential for the people of both nations and for those making up the region as a whole that we move forward towards a fully functional relationship. After all, Pakistan and India are always going to occupy the geographical spot that now makes up their territory. There is then no alternative but to learn to live together.
Pakistan’s dossier is set to include a plan to move towards resuming the composite dialogue. Prime Minister Sharif has also proposed informal talks on Sir Creek and the Siachen Glacier. We know, too, that the US is desperate for Islamabad and New Delhi to put aside their differences. The rather stubborn position taken by India on this needs now to be abandoned and the wider interests of millions of people put ahead of those of the hawks who oppose peace in either country.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2013.