Need for Better Indo-Pak ties in wake of Kulbhushan’s Conviction – Saad Marwat

Relations between India and Pakistan are once again strained in wake of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s recent conviction. Field General Marshal Court (FGCM) handed Khulbhushan Jadhav a death sentence for allegedly spying for India in Pakistan and his involvement in terror activities. If Jadhav is executed, it will surely inflict a lasting blow to Indo-Pak ties.

Jadhav was apprehended from Pak-Iran border last year with the Pakistani security agencies believing that Jadhav at the time of his arrest was a serving commander rank officer in Indian navy. In a rare video posted by the Inter services public relations (ISPR) – the military’s media wing – Jadhav confessed that he was involved in several anti-Pakistan activities which included organizing subversive activities in Karachi and Baluchistan along with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor on his special target list.

Pakistan also rejected Indian consular request to Jadhav due to allegations of espionage as it believed that the accusations were too severe against the accused. Indian foreign minister Shushma Swaraj termed the conviction as premeditated murder and warned Pakistan of dire consequences. According to many experts and strategists, the likely reactions of India, to Jadhav’s conviction, might include increasing cross border violations at the Line of control (LOC), increasing support to Baluch separatists, increasing diplomatic support to Baluch separatist leaders residing abroad, and intensifying its presence in Afghanistan.

It is also believed that a retired Colonel of Pakistan army recently abducted from Nepal is in the custody of Indian intelligence agencies and the kidnapping might purely be a tit for tat move for Jhadav. Also, increased cross border violations from India along the LOC will exert a significant pressure on Pakistan army because the military is currently stretching itself on internal matters and conflicts.

But all hope is not lost for both the neighbors and arch rivals.

France and Germany fought for centuries and both, just like India and Pakistan, shared a long border. Napoleon launched war on Prussia, Otto Van Bismark fought with France, and Hitler of Germany invaded France. When the Second World War ended, both nations realized that successive wars had brought only destruction and didn’t do any good for both the countries.

Today, France and Germany are close allies and also influential members of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO). France and Germany are world leaders in Philosophy, science, art and technology. If France and Germany can become friends with centuries of enmity and warfare, then India and Pakistan also have hope. Their continued rivalry has done more harm than good, not only for themselves but also for the region.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the Air force passing out parade in Risalpur said that, “cooperation rather than conflict and shared prosperity instead of suspicion are the hallmarks of our policy”. The PM, through his message, at least expressed his country’s intention for dialogue and peace, rather than conflict and confrontation.

In a regional context, the nose dive in bilateral ties is negatively impacting the region. Where Pakistan’s ties with Kabul are also not Ideal, India’s relationship with China is also deteriorating. India also suspects that China could have played a major role in conviction of Jhadav; an allegation which would further harm ties both the countries. The region could benefit if not only Indo-Pak, but Indo-China and Pak-Afghan relations also prosper.

Regional dynamics are rapidly changing; new alignments are in the making with changing balance of power. China is rapidly increasing its support for Pakistan in every area. On the other hand, United States and India are also moving closer. Russia, which historically has maintained good ties with India, is also concerned about growing cooperation between New Delhi and Washington. And in reaction, Moscow is increasing its cooperation with India’s arch rival Pakistan. With these new alliances and alignments, the last night the region needs is a confrontation between India and Pakistan.

The Indo-Pak region is gifted with immense resources that could only be fully utilized if both the countries engage in meaningful and productive ties through on going dialogue. After all, both the countries are neighbors, a reality that would always remain constant.

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