Pakistan-India: Let’s Get Talking, Please

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

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

  1. Ammar says:

    South Asia is the hub of terrorism, and India and Pakistan are direly affected by the growth of religious extremism. Both nations have lost numerous lives due the attacks by extremist elements. We can join our forces and mutually fight extremism so to ensure a better future for the next generations.

  2. Rashid Saleem says:

    The two Asian nuclear powers have much in common and much to share. Both have been hit by the wave of terrorism and their people have suffered a great deal because of this. The talks between the two countries can be a hope for change for the people.

  3. DARWEESH says:

    No harm in adopting ” keep talking” formula which always suits politicians, but ground realities are different.Pygmies cant move a straw even
    We need statesmen of the stature of The Quide and Mahatma to change the course of history which seems to be heading towards some deadly collusion in south Asia.
    Of course ,no one would like this but history seems to have set its course,say ” for the time being”.
    Both countries ,unfortunately, are bringing up the worst form of politicians

  4. Umar Shah says:

    Someone has to give up Kashmir. Afterall with the way it has been administered for the last 63 years both India and Pakistan have survived -even after fighting several wars, dismemberment of Pakistan and all the turmoil that has engulfed this region after the Soviet invasion of ’79. Honestly, no one is interested in the Kashmiri people. If we stop giving them false hope that they’ll join Pakistan one day maybe the Indians will stop killing the Kashmiris who listen to Pakistan or one who call for freedom. Countless men, women and children have died in this horrendous never ending saga. Were their lives useless? and no just because they died we shouldnt let more Kashmiris die. Pakistani hands are equally red with Kashmiri blood. When are we going to knock the door of sanity? If India is stubborn why dont we take the first step? We cant run what’s left of Jinnah’s Pakistan, we’ve lost half the country courtesy Z.A Bhutto and the Army, do we really want to become another Kashmir, Afghanistan or Palestine -an occupied land? What will we do with Kashmir if we get it one day miraculously? Govern it like we do K-P & Baluchistan?

  5. libertarian says:

    … and in a tiresome manner the Kashmir thing gets raked up again. If Pakistanis get emotional over Kashmir for water control that’s understandable. Anything else is an itch that’s gotta be scratched. Wonder how much society and the establishment would get riled up if the Kashmiris were darker-skinned like the Bangladeshis.

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