Peace begins when the world leaders exhibit their coolheaded behavior and act like a responsible statesman even after going through a severe confrontation. For this, they need to opt for de-escalating possible warfare and emphasize the prospect of peace.
South Asia is in high focus due to the rising uproar in the region. This sub-continent has brought continuous interest and watchful eyeing of the world’s major powers because of its impulsive geo-political situation or perhaps because of the rising enormity of the nuke powers. Yet, the chances for peace in South Asia are higher once the leaders of the region desire for peace with the spirit of peace.
There were high chances of war between India and Pakistan after the recent confrontation in Kashmir. If the Pakistani Prime Minister had not shown the “gesture of peace” and not released the captured Indian pilot or Indian Prime Minister was not vying in the verge of general election, the conflict would have been severely escalated. Even the Indo-Pak war is mostly revolving around territorial disputes followed by Hindu-Muslim issues, the prospect of peace is again possible because of the alkaline chemistry of the respective Hindu and Muslim Prime Ministers. For instance, PM Khan, in the eve of general election in India, reiterated that “Modi’s government might actually be the best possible option for settling the Kashmir conflict, because right-wing Hindus would support Mr. Modi in achieving it”.
The Indo-Pak peace process has to offer an opportunity to de-link the Hindu-Muslim conflict from war and violence. It has to further generate significant common ground on which a cordial political settlement could be founded. For this, both India and Pakistan have to take over equal responsibility for the peace negotiation with a transparent and common strategic framework and have to bear the co-ownership of the peace diplomacy.
The Indo-Pak negotiation should not turn in a binary (0 or 1) either war or capitulation axis. Delhi and Islamabad must realize that both of their policy should not be practiced as if it’s an ON-OFF switch. They must bring the possibility of identifying several fractional numbers (peace prospects) lying between 0 and 1. They need to be planning for these options, with cold blooded rationality. If they still stick only on 0 or 1 (totally destroying one another) instead of creative ways to deal with the burning issues, they would be running down one’s own nation and fostering a sense of decline. So, they must stop fulminating and start dealing responsibly with principled negotiations and conflict transformation.
India and Pakistan have witnessed several ups and down in their bi-lateral relations since their establishment. Both the nations have had tried their effort for peace process in various occasions in the past. The negotiations and peace process have not been absolute failure either. For instance, PM Modi, after his electoral victory in 2014, invited all the heads of state/government of SAARC countries in his inauguration ceremony with a ‘neighborhood first policy’. Even, with a “gesture of goodwill”, he travelled to Islamabad to attend the wedding ceremony of PM Sharif’s daughter. On the other hand, PM Khan, right after his electoral victory, extended cordial hand with India for talks. He has shown an appreciative “gesture of peace” and released the captured pilot even after the severe confrontation in Pulwama.
Turning to the religious aspect, India and Pakistan have had agreed to initiate a visa-free corridor in Kartapur where Sikh nationals in both countries were allowed to worship across the border. This Religious Diplomacy, under PM Modi’s foreign policy, has brought people and nations together. Yet, the Religious Diplomacy, as of Karatpur Corridor, needs to be continued such that it can help for the normalization of ties leading to a bi-lateral dialogue and diplomacy.
Delhi and Islamabad both need to assess the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) regularly so that various strategies could influence them in a constructive and balanced way. Indo-Pak peace process has to end the conflict, restore normalcy and build or re-build confidence.
For the sustainable peace and security, economic partnership needs to be initiated between India and Pakistan such that this partnership can function as a start-up for both nations to work under partnership in other sectors. Economically, they can benefit by trading each other under a strong economic integration. When the Indo-Pak border crisis is resolved and their relations get warmer, Indian fear psychoses of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be watered down and that would help find ways to both India and Pakistan to benefit from economic integration. The process of economic integration could create a platform to interact peacefully and cultivate sustainable peace in the region.
Diplomatically, Pakistan has been tactful enough and has improved the bi-lateral ties with Afghanistan and Iran. Further, it has been successful in reviving strategies to China, Saudi Arabia and UAE. These moves certainly help flourish Pakistan economically.
After all, India and Pakistan both have the shared problems such as terrorism, crime, poverty, rising rate of unemployment, security and transnational issues. Neither India nor Pakistan alone can solve these problems. And, there is no option between India and Pakistan other than peace diplomacy and stand together to combat the shared bi-lateral and transnational issues.
On the other hand, Nepal stands at a very important location in entire Asia. So Nepal, being the current chair of SAARC, can play strategic role by making India, China and Pakistan realize the possible threats to their economy and security. Nepal’s security or lack thereof is going to affect the security in South Asia because of Nepal’s geo-political proximity with all the countries. Nepal’s development, stability and security can leave profound impact in international affairs.
Trust and Tone
Since, South Asia has a significant geo-political and geo-strategic importance in the global political spectrums; both India and Pakistan need to take responsibility for peace process that would make this region more important sub-continent for trade, economy, security, diplomacy and politics.
Both Delhi and Islamabad must realize that the improved and rejuvenated bi-lateral relations would help minimize the hostility in South Asia that would be beneficial to either and bring peace, harmony and prosperity in the region. Realizing the prospects of economic and security architecture, they need to step ahead for peace process to avail the plethora of opportunities. When India and Pakistan stand on good terms, several challenges of economic prosperity can be countered both at the bilateral and regional levels.
For the broad regional integration and peace and security in South Asia, inter-state conflict, gap of trust, diplomatic crisis and suspicion to each other need to be watered down now. Yet again, both India and Pakistan need to project a ‘balanced tone’, politically and diplomatically to respect the core and genuine interests of each other that would help maintain the sustainability of the peace process and embark on ‘new type of international relations’ in the region.
Acharya is a researcher and analyst who holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Statistics, MPhil in Management (Studied) and M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy (Research Progress).