The first Pakistani foreign minister to visit India since 2011 is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is in Goa for a Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference:SCO summit.
Hina Rabbani Khar met her Indian partner SM Krishna in Delhi quite a while back, yet conditions were different then, at that point. India and Pakistan were attempting to boost trade while experiencing a limited thaw. There was a crisis in Pakistan’s relationship with the US. At the time, the diplomatic opportunity was ripe for reconciliation efforts. According to Michael Kugelman of The Wilson Centre, an American think tank, “it’s a different story today.”
Since 1947, when they became independent, the nations engaged in three wars. Everything except one were over Kashmir. In 2019, in response to a militant attack on Indian troops in Kashmir, India launched strikes in Pakistani territory. In his most recent memoir, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the two nations had “come close” to a nuclear war following the attacks.
However, a new border truce that was signed in 2021 has maintained order. At the point when India coincidentally terminated a supersonic rocket into Pakistan last year, Islamabad gave an assertion censuring the send off, without heightening the occurrence into a serious emergency. ” However, this does not imply that the relationship is secure. Even in the best of times, it’s always on edge,” says Mr. Kugelman. Today, all it would take to bring the two sides back up the escalatory ladder would be one trigger, one provocation.
It should come as no surprise that Mr. Bhutto Zardari’s trip to Goa, a popular beach destination, has low expectations. He stated that his trip was “exclusively focused on the SCO” prior to his arrival in India and that he was looking forward to “constructive discussions with my counterparts from friendly countries.”
According to TCA Raghavan, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, the visit of Mr. Bhutto Zardari demonstrates “mostly that both India and Pakistan attach great significance to the interface with the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO).”
China, a significant ally of Pakistan, and Russia, a significant new friend of Pakistan, lead the SCO, which was established in 2001 to discuss economic and security issues in Central Asia. It also has four members from Central Asia, which Islamabad wants to get more involved with for energy, connectivity, and trade. According to Mr. Kugelman, “skipping the conference would increase the risk for Islamabad of being isolated from an organization that strongly supports its interests.”
Mr. Bhutto Zardari and his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, are not anticipated to meet. Aside from the way that a Pakistani unfamiliar priest has not visited India in quite a while, this visit is basically immaterial in the bigger two-sided setting,” Happymon Jacob of Jawaharlal Nehru College in Delhi, says.
A similar sentiment is expressed by Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is currently working at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC: In and of itself, the visit does not indicate any thawing in the relationship.”
According to Mr. Kugelman, it is best to view the visit of the Pakistani foreign minister through a “multilateral lens, not a bilateral one.” He will not attempt to reconcile with Delhi. He is going to attend a regional organization conference that is very important to Pakistan’s interests.
As a result, the rivals remain frozen in what Prof. Jacob refers to as “cold peace.” He states: In order to seek or begin a dialogue regarding the unresolved issues, neither side wants to upset the situation but is unwilling to make significant concessions.” “The relationship has been stable for the past two years or so, but at a low plateau,” according to Mr. Raghavan. The relationship, according to Mr. Haqqani, is like “being on a treadmill with periodic ups and downs.”
The good news is that both countries are very interested in reducing tensions. Pakistan cannot afford another conflict with India and is mired in internal chaos. What’s more, India is progressively worried about China, its greatest security challenge, and doesn’t have any desire to have unexpected difficulty on its western front from Pakistan,” says Mr Kugelman.
But if both sides want to ease tensions, why isn’t the India summit a chance to work toward lasting reconciliation? Obviously, legislative issues holds up traffic.
“If efforts are made to pursue peace, there would be a significant public outcry in either country. According to Mr. Kugelman, this would be particularly costly in Pakistan, where the government is already deeply unpopular and in over its head.
“Toward the day’s end, every nation accepts that its great condition for formal exchange hasn’t been met: Pakistan wants India to alter its policy regarding Kashmir, and India wants to do more to combat terrorism. India and Pakistan guarantee all of Kashmir, yet control just pieces of it.)
According to Hassan Abbas of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., relations between India and Pakistan even “remain precarious” in the “best of times.” The situation is made even more perilous by political polarization in Pakistan and India.
The pundits are not impressed by recent unconfirmed media reports of backchannel talks between the two countries. According to Prof. Jacob, these talks are more about “conflict management rather than conflict resolution.”
Mr. Haqqani provides a glimmer of hope. He claims that meetings like the one in Goa frequently “pave the way for a resumption of dialogue.” Others are not really confident. Mr. Abbas states: Relations between Pakistan and India remain fragile even in the best of times. Considering the present situation, a ‘quiet limbo’ is a decent choice. Over the long haul, anything shy of a harmony arrangement will harm.”