Ironically, though India and Pakistan still entertain differences over Kashmir and several other issues, prospects of their being engaged in an open and full-fledged conflict over the same may be now regarded as nonexistent. The link between their nuclear drives, deterrence pact and their heading towards better ties stands out. Equally significant is the role played by communication revolution, people-to-people interaction and the diplomatic maturity displayed by both countries, particularly in times of crisis. It cannot be missed that their nuclear diplomacy has faced strong tests, including the Kargil crisis and Mumbai strikes. The anti-Pak and anti-India rhetoric has lost the frenzy that it held earlier for politicians in both countries. While nuclear diplomacy has helped India and Pakistan to stay away from the battlefield, communication revolution, together with global and regional developments, has led to a major change in the attitude of people from both countries towards each other. There was a phase when Indo-Pak cricket matches had the agitated crowds turn the pitch almost into a battlefield. The commercialisation of this game now has Pakistani cricketers playing for Indian teams. Tennis has taken a lead against cricket, with an Indo-Pak team playing in the U.S. Open finals.
The anti-Pak and anti-India rhetoric has lost the frenzy that it held earlier for politicians in both countries. The nuclear diplomacy has helped India and Pakistan to stay away from the battlefield, communication revolution”¦
The Indo-Pak nuclear diplomacy has undeniably defied apprehensions held about their heading towards ‘Mutually Armed Destruction’ (MAD). A communication revolution has prompted leaders from both countries to display through the media that they are engaged in dialogue and not war to resolve their differences!
Still known as “permanent enemies” in international circles, though diplomatically India and Pakistan have come a long way from being at war or near war with each other, their relations have not yet reached the stage of being friendly. This demands an analysis of their relations from two angles. What has led their ties to reach the no-war stage, and why have they still not moved further from this stage to being viewed as friendly neighbours?
History stands witness to the partition of India and the end of British colonialism, leading to the formation of Pakistan as well as independence of the countries in 1947. Though more than six decades have passed, India and Pakistan still remain a long way from resolving differences over certain problems, including Kashmir, which may be viewed as a legacy of their partition.
“¦despite terrorism leading to diplomatic tension between India and Pakistan, it has had limited impact on bilateral relations promoted through people-to-people interaction.
Prospects of India and Pakistan reaching any mutually acceptable agreement over Kashmir remain as dim today as they were earlier. Nevertheless, the notable change in their approach towards the issue cannot be ignored. The same issue that once brought them to the battlefield now at least has them discuss it over the table, even though numerous rounds of talks have only led them to say that the Kashmir problem remains “unresolved.” Nevertheless, despite Kashmir and other problems remaining “irritants” in their diplomatic relations, they have slowly but definitely started steps to ease tension over the same. Where Kashmir is concerned, no less significant is the implementation of their agreement to open the controversial Line of Control (LoC) at a few points for facilitating trade and travel. They began the bus service in 2005, across the LoC between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capital cities of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistani Kashmir, respectively.
The Poonch-Rawalkot bus service began in 2008. Undeniably, India and Pakistan are still nowhere near reaching any agreement on Kashmir, but at least they have backtracked from going to war over the same. This in itself needs to be hailed as a major diplomatic step taken by both India and Pakistan.
There is definitely no doubt that the anti-Pak and anti-India approach entertained by certain groups of people on both sides has not yet been erased totally. It would perhaps be presuming too much, equivalent to chasing a mirage, to expect this attitude to ever disappear completely. Nevertheless, what stands out is that the anti-Pak and anti-India frenzy, earlier played upon with full fervour by politicians during their respective election campaigns, has now lost its old electoral appeal for the leaders as well as the people. This implies that India and Pakistan have not simply diplomatically moved away from the war phase but, more importantly, people on both sides are no longer in favour of taking to the battlefield.
There was a phase when cricket matches between India and Pakistan excited certain sections in India to express their anger against the same by damaging property where they were being held, shouting anti-Pak slogans and so forth.
Undeniably, the turn in Indo-Pak ties cannot be delinked from developments in the subcontinent as well as on the global stage. Normalcy in their bilateral ties marked by India and Pakistan at least refraining from being engaged in war bears diplomatic importance not just for the two countries but major powers closely involved in regional developments. It is no more the phase of Cold War, the period when India’s diplomatic ties with the then Soviet Union held greater importance than with the United States. The end of the Cold War period, the break up of the Soviet Union, the emergence of China as a great power, the United States’ remaining the only superpower and the Afghanistan crisis, among others, may be viewed as significant developments that have had a strong influence on Indo-Pak ties.
Nuclear proliferation pursued by both India and Pakistan, defying apprehensions voiced about the risk of it leading to MAD, has its own importance, globally, regionally as well as bilaterally. Soon after India and Pakistan stepped on to the nuclear path, they also mutually agreed to respect the deterrent value of their nuclear prowess. Nuclear diplomacy maintained by India and Pakistan, though largely sidelined, even ignored globally, can from no angle be overlooked, especially with regard to their having stayed away from waging any war against each other. Ironically, there is a striking parallel between India and Pakistan staying away from the battlefield and the menacing role assumed by terrorism with an increasing alacrity during the same period. Yet, despite terrorism leading to diplomatic tension between India and Pakistan, it has had limited impact on bilateral relations promoted through people-to-people interaction. The latter has received a major boost through various organisations, including the ones linked with SAARC. Neither of these developments can be delinked from the role played by the communication revolution at several levels, from films, cultural exchanges (dramas, ghazals, mushairas) and cricket, among others.