Building Bridges with India-Pakistan Peace

The peace process between India and Pakistan is fourteen years old. It was hoped that following a structured process, peace could be established.

peace-india-pakistanThe confidence building measures included the people-to-people contact to help make peace viable and consolidate the peace constituency.

The process initiated during Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure was taken forward by former Premier Pervez Musharraf who openly propagated and supported the concept of an “out-of-box” solution to the Kashmir dispute.

The four points raised supported the incremental approach including the eventual demilitarization of the de facto border between India and Pakistan known as the Line of Control (LOC). This helped India and Pakistan ease tensions and increased shared optimism with bilateral talk prospects.

In recent times the 2008 Mumbai attacks, 2011 Mumbai bombings and the LOC violations have created serious concerns, causing the peace process to suffer.

This violence in turn has given rise to militant patriotism displayed by the Indian electronic and print media. The articles and the op-eds published recently have suggested “surgical strikes,” and decisively inflicting damage on Pakistan’s army.

The electronic media has only created difficulties for damage control measures that should have been initiated by Islamabad and New Delhi.

The gap created in reviving the peace process by India is tantamount to playing into the hands of militancy

The encouragement infused by statements given by Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony who, retreating from his previous statement, talked of “giving a free hand to the forces to respond to the LOC situation.”

The present negative environment undermines the desire for constructive engagement expressed by the Nawaz government. Soon after forming the government, he indicated engagement with India and emphasized a “no meddling policy” in India and Afghanistan.

The developments on the eastern front are being seen by many Pakistanis as a tactical move where the intention is to build pressure on Pakistan and take advantage of the current regional political environment.

Despite Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s remarks made in his independence day speech, the Pakistan Army is being seen with doubts by Indian policy influencers.

The South Asia Portal managed by Indians indicates an increase in terrorists killed by Indian security forces on the LOC, indicating an increase in the violations by Pakistan.

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Blaming “some elements” of Pakistan’s army, they gently sideline the fact that it is the same Pakistan army which has been responsible for ensuring peace on the LOC for last several years.

Unfortunately, the distrust has started casting doubts on the functionality of bilateralism even if economic bridges are built. The financial diplomacy would remain hostage to the failures of political diplomacy.

It is also clear that neither the containment policy nor the appeasement policy would help in preventing the set-back. Once again, back channel diplomacy will have to work over-time to first control the damage done to the peace process and then advance to identify where the trust deficit lies.

Is it the Pakistan Army, the intelligence agencies, the political behavior (particularly that of the Indian side) or the Indian mind-set which has repeatedly demonstrated of keeping the peace process hostage to one single violent (terrorist) attack that takes place inside India?

This Indian approach of making peace conditional to terrorism alone will certainly not help in moving the peace process forward. Equally important is to understand what is causing the trust deficit. The doubts being cast on the Pakistan Army are unfounded and unwarranted.

It is important for the leadership of the two countries to revisit the framework of peace. This framework neither helped in deepening regular coordination nor has it helped in developing the consensus on the approach that can be applied for addressing the major issues. Had it not been so the peace constituency would not go into hiatus when it is needed the most.

Khalida Ghaus is the former Director of the Centre of Excellence for Women Studies; Chairperson in the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi, and Pakistan Centre for Democracy Studies. She is currently serving as the Managing Director of Social Policy and Development Centre in Karachi. Khalida has a PhD in International Relations. Read more articles by Khalida.