India has agreed to allow Pakistan to inspect its hydroelectric projects in the Jhelum basin and Pakistan will allow New Delhi to carry out inspection of the Kotri barrage on the Indus. Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan has also offered peace talks to India but experts in both countries fear Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is more interested in early next year’s elections and the peace initiative will once again fall prey to its internal politics.
Foreign policy experts on both sides have expressed cautious optimism about an improvement in bilateral relationship after Imran Khan’s offer for meaningful talks. According to Pakistani analysts, the country faces a serious threat from India after warnings of “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control (LoC) and the deployment of the vast arsenal of conventional and strategic weapons and advanced technologies which India is acquiring from the US, Israel, Russia and elsewhere. It has escalated violations of human rights in occupied Kashmir and shifted the blame for the violence to Pakistan. It is also feared that the Indian leadership may heighten its anti-Pakistan rhetoric ahead of the upcoming national elections, which will further intensifying tension. “The new prime minister has offered to take two steps if India takes one. But it takes two hands to clap. India remains adamant in refusing to resume the dialogue with Pakistan on the agreed ‘Composite/ Comprehensive Agenda’ (which includes Kashmir and peace and security as the principal items) until violence is ended. This begs the question — the very purpose of the dialogue is to end the possibility of violence and war through the equitable resolution of conflicts and disputes,” wrote senior diplomat Munir Akram in a Pakistani newspaper. “India has been unable to suppress the current Kashmiri uprising or to impose its dominance over Pakistan despite its threats, co-option of venal Pakistani politicians and American support. Faced now with a Pakistani government that is committed to peace, but also to national interest and self-respect, India may at last agree to resume a dialogue without preconditions. Prudence dictates that Pakistan offer peace and a dialogue to India but maintain the capability to deter and repel India’s threats of surgical strikes, a limited war, or a Cold Start (surprise) attack. As long as there is credible deterrence, India cannot contemplate a war against Pakistan. This provides space for Pakistan’s government to focus on its socioeconomic priorities,” he opined.
“The army will not allow the Pakistani prime minister to take these decisions,” said Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think-tank. The doubt extended to India’s media, with the Economic Times editorial headlined “Army back in the saddle in Pakistan,” while the Hindustan Times editorial stated: “By extending a hand of friendship, Khan has been politically correct and scored diplomatic points. The test, however, will lie in how much freedom his own army will give him on India; that is strictly their domain.” The reality will constrain Khan’s foreign policy ambitions, noted Bloomberg. “Imran could still shake up the region. His immediate outreach to India stands in contrast to his previous comments on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he called an anti-Muslim politician,” it observed.
On the other hand, the New York Times claimed Pakistan’s military has quietly reached out to India for talks. “Concerned about Pakistan’s international isolation and faltering economy, the country’s powerful military has quietly reached out to its archrival India about resuming peace talks, but the response was tepid,” it said, quoting Western diplomats and a senior Pakistani official. “The outreach, initiated by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, began months before Pakistan’s national elections. Pakistan offered to resume on-and-off talks with India over their border dispute in the Kashmir region, which stalled in 2015 as violence flared up there. A key objective for Pakistan in reaching out to India is to open barriers to trade between the countries, which would give Pakistan more access to regional markets. Any eventual peace talks over Kashmir are likely to involve an increase in bilateral trade as a confidence-building measure. Increasingly, Pakistan’s military sees the country’s battered economy as a security threat, because it aggravates the insurgencies that plague the country. Pakistan is expected to ask the International Monetary Fund for $9 billion in the coming weeks, after receiving several billions of dollars in loans from China earlier this year to pay its bills,” it observed.
The report said General Bajwa had linked Pakistan’s economy to the region’s security in a hallmark speech last October, and the idea that the two are inseparable has since become known as the Bajwa doctrine. “The Army Chief is also seen as more moderate than his predecessors were on India, which has been Pakistan’s bitter rival since the bloody partition that came with independence in 1947. The Pakistani general and his Indian counterpart, General Bipin Rawat, served together in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo about a decade ago and get along well, diplomats say. Earlier this year, General Bajwa said the only way to solve the two countries’ conflict was through dialogue, a rare statement from the military. Diplomats say General Bajwa has tried to reach out to General Rawat to initiate talks. But the effort has been stymied by what one diplomat called a “system mismatch.” The army is Pakistan’s most powerful institution, but India’s military is much weaker and could not agree to a peace deal without the civilian government’s approval. Diplomats in New Delhi say Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is preoccupied with elections expected early next year and does not want talks before then, fearing that if talks collapse — as they have many times before — it could cost them at the polls,” the newspaper said.
Analysts say Pakistan is serious about peace efforts with India under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan because the establishment thinks he has no personal agenda to advance, unlike former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who wanted promote his personal and business interest with India and its leaders. The Indian economy is growing by 8.2pc, making it the world’s fasting growing economy after China, with a growth rate of 6.7pc. It thinks Pakistan is offering talks from a position of weakness and it may miss another chance for peace.