The World Bank in its latest report has observed that bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan was costing them $35 billion worth of annual trade. According to the report trade between the two largest economies of the region could jump up to $ 37 billion if they tore down artificial barriers. The report further says” Someone might want to tell the leaders of the two countries both of whom want to boost trade to battle widespread poverty.” Nobody in his right mind can take an issue with the contents of the World Bank report. It is an irrefutable reality that bonhomie between the two countries besides boosting trade can also add enormously to the shared regional prosperity, peace and security and save the region from the adverse impact of the global politics.

Pakistan has made innumerable peace overtures to India emphasising the need for the resolution of disputes between the two countries, including the core issue of Kashmir. But India unfortunately has not responded positively to these initiatives and has invariably wriggled out of its commitments to engage in dialogue with Pakistan on one pretext or the other. The hopes raised in the backdrop of letters exchanged between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Narendra Modi for a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of UN General Assembly have also been dashed to the ground by inexplicable Indian decision to backtrack from its commitment. Not only that the Indian army Chief General Bipin Rawat has been threatening Pakistan of dire consequences and hinting at surgical strike against her like he claimed India did in the backdrop of the Uri incident in 2016., though Pakistan proved it to the world that it was only a hoax meant for the consumption of the Indian masses.

It is pertinent to point out that the same General who is adopting a threatening posture towards Pakistan had advocated initiation of dialogue a few months back. According to the Indian media the General in an exclusive interview with The Economic Times said he supported dialogue to solve the ongoing problems in Kashmir. He reportedly said “Talks must happen. We kill them and more of them join. Infiltration can be controlled, but this cycle of recruitment of local youth can go on and one. So let us give peace a chance and see” It was a clear admission of the freedom struggle in Kashmir being an indigenous movement which India was trying to portray as Pakistani supported terrorism.

In response to the threat hurled by the Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat, the message given by the civilian and military leadership is that Pakistan is a peace loving country which firmly believes that peace could be established only through dialogue and not war and that the yearning for dialogue was being made from position of strength and not weakness as Pakistan was fully capable of a befitting retaliation against any aggressive action. Foreign minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaking to the media in New York also reiterated Pakistan’s desire to stay unprovoked and seek peace by saying that situation could be aggravated by only two sentences but he would not utter them because Pakistan wanted peace in the region. The stance taken by Pakistan is laudable from the perspective of its innate desire for peace notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan was fully capable of responding befittingly to any indiscretion by India.

Peace and security in the region are vital for economic progress of the two countries and changing the fate of the teeming millions. It requires peace and the road to peace leads through resolution of the Kashmir issue. India needs to realise that it cannot keep the people of Kashmir subjugated with the barrel of the gun as is evident from the ever burgeoning freedom struggle in the IHK where the Indian forces are killing the Kashmiri youth every day. Modi government’s attempts to change the demographic realities in IHK and changing its special status through the repeal of article 35 A and article 370 of the Indian constitution will never succeed and might further precipitate the situation. The breach of the ceasefire agreement of 2013 through regular firing incidents along the LOC and working boundary and killing of innocent civilians with a view to divert the attention of the world from her atrocities against the people of Kashmir is bound to backfire. Pakistan whose forces are befittingly responding to the Indian indiscretions along the LOC also cannot be brow-beaten through such antics.

Kashmir is unfinished agenda of the partition. India has made the commitments to hold plebiscite to settle the question of Kashmir to either of the countries as enunciated in the UN resolutions on the subject. The UN through its resolution number 91 and 122 has repudiated Indian claims of Kashmir being integral part of India. In the Simla agreement and Lahore accord India has acknowledged Kashmir as a disputed territory and committed to resolve all the outstanding issues through dialogue in consonance with the spirit of the UN charter.

It is however regrettable to note that instead of realising the ultimate realities and working for regional peace, India is trying to import instability in this region by conniving with US and its allies to check the snowballing influence of China in this region and beyond. They are propping up India as a regional super power for the purpose and as a reward for India doing their bidding they have closed their eyes to what India is doing in IHK. They also readily reinforce Indian rhetoric of Pakistan sponsoring terrorism in the region. India and USA are also working against strategic interests of Pakistan besides making overt and covert attempts to sabotage CPEC. These are all pointers to Indian attempts to consign the region to perennial instability that would surely harm its own interests in addition to scuttling the chances of shared regional prosperity.

India must realisze that Pakistan and China are not only nuclear powers but also its neighbours. Notwithstanding the fact that both of them desire to smooth out the kinks in their relations with India and make a new beginning with a view to promote peace and security in the region, they would not allow India to work against their interests. Both of them have offered India to join CPEC which amply proves their honest intentions to become partners in the efforts to put the region on the road to peace and progress that benefits all the countries of the region. India belongs to this region and its economic progress and security are inextricably linked to this region. It has to and must abandon its war-like posture and cooperate with the countries of the region in bringing peace and tranquility to the area, including resolution of all disputes with Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

It is pertinent to point out that the same General who is adopting a threatening posture towards Pakistan had advocated initiation of dialogue a few months back.