Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has called for peace with India, and made a concrete proposal, that of visa-free travel between the two countries by its citizens. Using his address on Saturday to the Fourth International Literary Conference to make this point, Mian Nawaz showed his generous intent by saying that confrontations along the Line of Control were beneficial for neither country. He did not mention that the current tension was sparked by the establishments making a mountain out of a molehill. In India, political parties go along with the upcoming general elections in sight, presuming that the anti-Pakistan card may go down well with the Indian electorate. Mian Nawaz also refrained from mentioning the original sticking point, which has been the core issue between the two countries for 65 years, that of Kashmir. That should not reflect a lack of understanding by a three-time Prime Minister that relations with India will not normalize, no matter how many confidence building measures, like the visa-free regime proposal, are introduced.

That said, Mian Nawaz must be given credit for understanding that peace with India is not just necessary because of a general principle, but because peace with India would be in Pakistan’s best interest. However, it should not be lost sight of that the US wants the two nuclear-armed neighbours to engage in dialogue. This dialogue fits in with Pakistan’s needs, but there is no point in carrying on with it unless it is result-oriented and deals with issues that Pakistan wants on the table. Indian obduracy in refusing even to discuss Kashmir has cost both countries very dearly. It has led not only to the Siachen Glacier dispute developing, but also to India’s water theft from Pakistan.

The idea of a visa-free travel regime also seems more the result of nostalgia for a better time rather than a practical proposal. It is true that there were no visas between the two countries at Partition, but that was also the time of the greatest migration in history, in both directions. This was also a time when obtaining a passport, now relatively simple, was a gargantuan task, and thus precluded jaunting abroad. While a lobby has cropped up among Pakistani businessmen, a class to which Mian Nawaz belongs, that wants freer travel to India, it cannot be forgotten that the borders that go up when there is distrust and tension between nations only come down when the cause of that tension dissipates. And for that, Mian Nawaz must pursue a lasting solution to the core issue of Kashmir.