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Pak’s Proposal

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The world no longer hyphenates India and Pakistan while calculating the structure of global power. Even sections of the political elite in Pakistan acknowledge that and now stress on adopting an independent path free of comparisons with India. The present situation in that country underlines this reality. The focus has to be on dealing with internal problems – particularly the failing economy and the threat from terrorism – rather than on obsessing about how to hurt India.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has also been somewhat pragmatic in this regard during an interview with Al-Arabiya TV channel of the UAE, which is quite a brave thing to do considering the fact that the Sharifs are accused by their political opponents to be soft on India and Prime Minister Modi because of their business interests. There is, however, a developing consensus among mainstream politicians on improving ties. PTI Chief and former Prime Minister Imran Khan, during his tenure, also adopted a pragmatic approach on the subject.

Even as Pakistan is willing now to shed the pretence of being India’s ‘equal’, the big stumbling block remains differences on Kashmir. Nobody is willing to openly give up Pakistan’s claim on that territory. Sharif now wants talks between India and Pakistan on improving relations, which clearly implies that the Kashmir issue would not be central to the agenda. It is an important concession from Pakistan’s point of view.

But what’s in it for India? The hard line adopted by Pakistan after abrogation of J&K’s special status has only resulted in its being shut out from all the benefits it obtained from even the limited economic and business relations with India. Would not giving it another chance be taking a risk, as it is very likely to go back to its earlier animosity with the situation improving? Or, has it learned the necessary lesson? Its ISI and sponsored radical groups continue to launch terror attacks in J&K. Its support to Khalistan terrorists persists. The vilification of PM Modi, the BJP and RSS as fascist continues on the global platforms. The increasing attacks on Hindu temples by Pakistan’s proxies in several countries are an extension of the attempt to intimidate the Indian Diaspora and diminish its growing clout. So, perhaps, the time has not come for any ‘normalisation’, or even direct talks. Pakistan needs to back up its declared intent with action on the ground before India softens its stand.