Saturday 18th of May 2024

The Diminishing Possibility of Dialogue between India and Pakistan
Gaurav Kumar
Region : Asia, South Asia, India, Pakistan,
Issue : Military Issues, Nuclear Issues, Security, Terrorism,
The potential theoretical and political importance of dialogue has been an integral part of the solution oriented discoursein a conflict. The underlining assumption is that multiple and competing engagements with the adversary at the diplomatic level is the genuine solution to a conflict- short or prolonged. The stakeholders are supposed to sit on the negotiation table, delve into their grievances and interests on the set ofcontentious issues to be settled, allow the stakeholder’s position to emerge or evolve during the dialogue, and then clinically chart a course of action for the wide range of possible solution with some degree of pragmatism and flexibility. With some variance here and there, this has been the basic template for the many countries and organisation to find long term sustainable solution to a conflict.
Conflict discoursesin South Asia have not remained untouched to the alluring process of dialogue. India and Pakistan relations have witnessed short stints of friendly overtures amidst continuous turmoil. The recent peace overture came from the newly elected Pakistan president Imran Khan when he invited India to come and have a positive dialogue on a set of contentious issues India and Pakistan have been caught in since their independence. In a letter to Indian PM Narendra Modi,Imran Khan had sought dialogue between Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York at end of the month. The predominant thrust behind this initiative was to revive the relations which had taken a nosedive after the Pathankot attacks in January 2016. Initially Indian government had accepted the proposal, later to be discarded citing few of the developments that go against the grain of the initiative. Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, cited “two deeply disturbing developments” — the “brutal killings” of security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the release of postage stamps glorifying Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani who was killed by Indian forces in Kashmir in July 2016. However, these two reasons appears to be an alibi or an naive explanation for the rejection of the dialogue, as the events mentioned had unfolded long before the government accepted the proposal. The most discernable reason behind the murky decision to first accept and later discard the proposal appears to be domestic politics where the government doesn’t want to appear soft towards the Pakistan, even though it has cluelessly vacillated between talks and no talks with Pakistan in the past. The second possible reason could be the pure hesitance from Indian political class emanating from its past experience. Indian PM Modi had invested a lot of political and diplomatic capital on Nawaz Sharif before realising that it had zero return. The complex politico-military dynamics of Pakistan remained beyond the comprehension of both the hawks and dove alike in the Indian establishment.
The dovetailing of these two factors simply cautioned Indian government of not burning its finger again during the general election period. Apart from it, the Indian government has real reasons to dismiss such proposal of talks as mere posteringby Pakistan for international attention. The question remains was there anything substantial to achieve from these dialogue and on what cost. It must be remembered that dialogue doesn’t commence because there is a conflict. Dialogue commences because there is intent, scope and space for its resolution through non-kinetic means. The scope, space is always there given one has to see through the process. As far as intent is considered, it has to be shown from the aggressor and not the one on the receiving end.
The biggest bottleneck in Indo-Pak dialogue is the lack of intent from Pakistan- primarily because it sees dialogue through a tactical prism, and conflict through strategical prism. It considers use of proxies and violence to attain its strategical interest of halting India’s progress as a regional and a global player. Whereas,the process of dialogue is a tactical tool for Pakistan for deviating India’s as well as global attention from its acts of transgression. As long Pakistan sticks to its fancy theories of considering India as an existential threat to it, its ideological an identity underpinning will reflect on its intent that in turn with curtail any positive scope and space for a dialogue with India, or for that matter Afghanistan and the US.
As far as India’s stand is concerned, any flip-flop on the policy for Pakistan is only going to give additional advantage to Pakistan, limiting its locus standi on the issue of terrorism and resulting instability in the region. Having said that, dialogue will eventually enter into the discourse at some point of time in the conflict, however it would be advisable to the Indian government to not rush into it, and rather wait for the opportunate moment. At some stage of the relation, the costs of supporting proxies will supersede the benefit, which in fact is slowly starting to unfold in the socio-political sphere of Pakistan.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s)

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