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Analysis

Old Challenges and New Opportunities in India-Pakistan Relations

Friday 17 July 2015
Old Challenges and New Opportunities in India-Pakistan Relations

Alwaght- Since the partition of India from British imperial rule in 1947 and the establishment of India and Pakistan, there have been conflicts between the two countries over several issues, especially land and water conflicts which still remain unresolved. Although the major issue in Kashmir dispute was over determining the borderline, border disputes between the two countries have not been uncommon. However, the relations between India and Pakistan at the time of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been much more favorable than before.

1-      The old challenges: Indian nationalism and Pakistani extremism

The role of the political structure in Pakistan and the role of powerful groups such as Pakistan's army and the pressure of the Salafi forces should not be overlooked in prevention of the tension. However, one should pay careful attention to unconstructive role of Hindu nationalist ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India-Pakistan relations and variables such as the perception of the political elites of both countries about the quality of relations between India and Pakistan. In the meantime, it should be noted that Pakistan believes that, to intensify the perceived threat from India and to disturb the Pakistan's balance of power as opposed to that of India, will weaken the position of Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan's political system, and could pose a serious obstacle in the path of improving the relations between two countries. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Nawaz Sharif's government has little control over the security of Pakistan, and it is likely that groups whose interests lie in the strained relations with India, resort to hostile acts in India, or the borderline between the two countries to damage the relations between Delhi and Islamabad.

Water and security challenges

In recent months, the Indian intelligence agencies warned against the spread of ISIS terrorist groups to some areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even some regions in India. Currently, due to short distance between the states of India and Pakistan, Indian authorities are concerned about the spread of ISIS to India which could create a serious security threat for India. In fact, if ISIS spreads across Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, India will also be faced with a serious threat.

Narendra Damodardas Modi, the Prime Minister of India, in his speech at the University of Dhaka, accused Pakistan of encouraging terrorism in the region. However, Pakistan's Senate and authorities rejected the allegations. The Pakistani army and government believe the disapproval of India is the main reason why security agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan failed, they also accuse India of unwarranted interference in Baluchistan of Pakistan and supporting the Baloch separatists. Another major obstacle in the path of normalizing the relations is Kashmir dispute and its unresolved issues, particularly the impediments related to the source of rivers that come from India. In the past, Pakistan's ambassador once sent an invitation to Kashmir's separatists which lead to cancellation of peace talks between India and Pakistan.

3. New opportunities in India-Pakistan relations: favorable views of both countries to ease the tensions

In fact, Modi, the Indian Prime Minister is a pragmatic character within the structures of power in a democratic country; therefore, changes in India's diplomacy must be mainly positive and in the large-scale context it should help to improve the international position of India. It should be noted that the emergence of various forms of regional convergence in other areas, have made the Indian leaders come to the conclusion that if they do not make coherent regional efforts, too early they will face redundancy in the world economy and politics. In contrast, it also seems that changes are happening in Pakistan with regard to India. Besides, Pakistani elites are recognizing the need to change their views about India. They have now come to believe that main threats against Islamabad are posed by Pakistan's domestic issues. This change in view can provide an unprecedented opportunity for the relations between Pakistan and India. In this regard, decisions made to improve relations between India and Pakistan through cricket games between the two countries, and agreements to use indirect diplomacy to better understand each other's perspectives on the issue of Kashmir can be described as an attempt to calm the situation.

Economic opportunities

Prime Minister Modi is an economist who came to power from a party with nationalist approaches, and the main reason of his victory in the Indian election was his economic achievements and economic promises. He will require a pragmatic foreign policy with higher priorities given to business and economy to fulfill his economic promises. Therefore, India's policy toward Pakistan is based on reducing the tensions and increased opportunities for regional cooperation in a stable environment to achieve economic interests. Besides, Nawaz Sharif's government came to office with the camping slogans of economic recovery and increased trade and economic exchanges with India. Therefore, in the current situation, Pakistan, the same as India needs the new situation in the region which is based on the development of trade, economic cooperation and reduction of regional tensions. This will provide opportunities to reduce tensions between the two countries as well.

Regional opportunities in relations between the two countries

Although close relations between China and Pakistan, and Beijing's plan to invest $ 46 billion in "Beijing-Islamabad economic corridor" have been a source of concern for India, the political choices available for the two countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and their role as observing members in this organization, can increase détente in relations between the two countries. By the same token, in the past few months, Modi and Nawaz Sharif several times made phone calls and called for the resumption of peace talks and normalizing the relations. As a result, hope to improve the relations between New Delhi and Islamabad has increased as the presidents of both countries visited. Recently, the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India had a visit in the SCO summit and discussed and settled issues such as the release of all fishermen, which was one of the main reasons for the recent two-month political standoff between the two countries. At the same time Modi, in a meeting with Nawaz Sharif accepted his invitation to visit Pakistan and said he will travel Islamabad in the near future .

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