Pakistan-India: Let’s Get Talking, Please

Posted on April 27, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations
28 Comments
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Adil Najam

Much has been happening on the India-Pakistan scene. Much of it is good. But, given that this is India and Pakistan, ominous clouds of distrust are never very far away.

With the SAARC Summit gathering steam in Thimphu, Bhutan, there is much talk of a serious meeting and possibly some joint communique from Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gillani and Manmohan Singh. But with typical South Asian theatrics, doubts still linger on whether such a meeting will be held and whether something will come of it. A recently more confident Pakistani Foreign Minister is calling on India to move on from 26/11 to start forging better relations with Pakistan. And Indian opinion, jilted by the news of an Indian diplomat who was reportedly “spying” for Pakistan, is also in danger of being turned away from whatever good vibes have been created by the recent warming in the relations between the two neighbors and civil society initiatives such as Amn Ki Aasha, or glitterati gossip of the Shoaib Malik-Sania Mirza wedding, etc.

Much more importantly, perhaps, we have again been reminded by former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri just how close the two countries were just a little while ago on a real and meaningful agreement on long-standing disputes, including on issues related to water management, to Kashmir, to economic cooperation, etc.

My colleague Moeed Yusuf and I recently published a research paper in the academic journal Third World Quarterly that looks at the history of the Kashmir issue between the Pakistan and India and undertook a detailed content analysis of every proposal made for its resolution in these 60+ years. In short, the analysis suggests that “the dispute may be more ‘ripe’ for resolution today than it has ever been in the past.”

As I have argued elsewhere, this does not mean that the dispute is ready to be resolved. It does mean that there is a opportunity today to improve these relations that must not be missed. But unless the leadership of the two countries really start talking, it will be missed. And that has been by central argument about India-Pakistan relations for many years now. As I said recently at a discussion organized by the Asia Society in New York (with me and Indian defense analyst Raja Mohan as the featured speakers), the simple fact is that “Not talking is never a good way to start talking.” Here is a video of my detailed argument and the ensuing discussion with Raja Mohan (my formal presentation starts around minute 14):

So, my plea for Thimphu and beyond Thimphu remains the same that it was before Thimphu. Please talk, Dear Prime Ministers. And please keep talking.

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28 responses to “Pakistan-India: Let’s Get Talking, Please”

  1. Rashid Ali says:

    In the last few decades any talks with India have been just “talks about talks”. India keeps dragging negotiations on the main issue of Kashmir, always hoping that other events will take over or population balance in Kashmir will turn into their favour. Any alleged “confidence building measures” are nothing but a facade. Just look at the travel facilities between India and Pakistan. Obtaining Indian tourist or visit visa by a Pakistani national or a US citizen of Pakistani origin is near to impossible. Every application is treated as unique by Indian embassy and requirements imposed on Pakistani travellers will shame even ex Nazi regime. This time Pakistan is doing the right thing by insisting that talks must be meaningful.

  2. Anuradha says:

    Yes, the mood amongst the people has changed and there is a greater willingness amongst people on both sides to finally resolve our issues. But one wonders if our governments are finally ready to do so?

  3. S.C. says:

    Could you please post your paper on the analysis of the Kashmir proposals that you mention. I followed the link to the journal but could not get to the paper.

  4. Some comments from the ATP Facebook Page:

    – “All is Well”
    – “Great post. Am watching the video now.”
    – “The point you make about India-Pakistan relations is right on mark and this is really the right way to think about the relations between the two countries.”
    – “I certainly hope that the two prime ministers will not just meet but come to serious agreements.”
    – “Let’s STOP “asking” India for Talks!!!!!!!!!!”
    – ” India ONLY talks when as the punjabi saying goes, ‘UDDI DAAL GALLDI NAZAR NAI AANDI’. Remainder of the time it spends subverting Pakistan internationally. ‘Amn Ki Aasha’ are generally the fraud movements started by the likes of Geo that demonstrates that you cannot fool all the Pakistani people all the time.”
    – “we didnt need to request them again for soming to the negitiations… we shoud we beg before them in such a way,why to adopt the defensive stance , our govet is providing them all the good reasons to justifies their offensivbe and agressive attitude towards us.. just leave them for god sake…. we did desire for a peaceful pakistan living in hormonius relations with all of the neighbours and regional powers but not at the cost of national pride and self respect…..”
    – “AMN KI AASHA is such a crap….just to take attention away from the core issues, i wonder why people talk about the ‘similarities’ b/w the two nations when there are hardly any,india always uses its culture to dominate us and we fall for it”
    – “There always a conflict b/w India Pakistan Whether Its Kashmir, nuclear weapons Issue and now currently Sania And Malik issue actually the people and civil society groups of both the countries in favour of resolving the present crises through dialogue, cooperation and appropriate actions by both the governments to address terrorism and all other outstanding issues”
    – “Do people even know what you are commenting on… read the post that is linked and watch the video there before you comment so that your comment has some sarr pair, yaaro.”
    – “its all AMAN KA TAMASHA”
    – “well, i do hav followed the link before my cooment, poore story hai pak india relations pe, kashmir issue, 29/11, sania shoiab, aman k ashaa, saaarc summit, but the bottom line is yyy shoud pakistan always bow before indian authorities, are we scared of them to an extent that even after many requests for composite dialougues, we didnt get a good diplomatic reponse that talk about the bilateral ties betwen 2 conutries on equality basis, hm yahen keh rhe hen , k pakistan shoudnt begg before them so so so much humbly, that tehy start taking us for granted which they are currently doing………..”
    – “yeah, right. they do not want to talk us, why should we then? to hell with india”

  5. Aadeesh says:

    I am glad the two PMs had their meeting. ALthough it seemed to be more routine, but we will be in a better place when these meetings actually become routine.

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