See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Opinion

Dialogue important after India-Pakistan crisis

As India and Pakistan wake up to the real possibilities of war, it is time to give dialogue another chance.


Written by

Updated: March 15, 2019

Although the 2019 India-Pakistan standoff may have passed its immediate intensity, it is clear that the entire episode has left a slew of new worries for policymakers all over the world. It is crucial that lessons are learnt and crisis-handling procedures between the two countries put in place. Because there is no doubt that Pakistan and India were perilously close to war.

In a digital age, resonating with the red noise of alternative facts fuelled by ultra-nationalisms, it was clear that the Modi regime’s need to bolster its flagging electoral ratings before an election took the Indian act of border incursion into Pakistan’s Balakot to act of war status. The second motivation was the impulse to divert attention from the growing insurgency in India-held Kashmir.

Read more: Kashmir bomber radicalised after beating by troops, parents say

However, one outcome of the crisis sparked by the Pulwama blast is that Pakistan’s response has redefined international assessments of both the resolve and capabilities of the two countries. The second counterintuitive outcome was that Kashmir re-emerged as the most dangerous flashpoint in the world, as the Modi government ended up internationalising the Kashmir issue. The world had chosen to forget that the Kashmir dispute remains the world’s longest international dispute on the UN docket since 1948, when India’s Nehru took it to the global body to resolve its status.

Today, Kashmir has emerged as the bone of serious contention between two countries bristling with nuclear weapons. What was dangerous about its Pulwama trigger is that it brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Since 1971, we have never been as close to a full-scale war as we were on the night of February 28. Yet in 1971 neither country had invested in nuclear capabilities.

Take a look: Who are the real victims of India-Pakistan tensions? It’s Kashmiris

This 2019 standoff, therefore, brought new strategic equations and new choices to the policy mix. Faced with the unimaginable, unlike India, Pakistan united across the party divide, never losing sight of the need for de-escalation and the goal of normalisation. Amid all issues, the one point that resonated in parliament was a testament to our policy maturity. It is a truism worth repeating: Wars never resolve political disputes. If they could, Afghanistan after 17 unending years of conflict and turmoil would not be in the throes of violence today. This stands truer for countries like Pakistan and India.

The costs of war, both human and material, remain too great.

Also read: Balakot and beyond

Pakistan and India have fought four wars since 1947 that have seen a combined death toll of 22,600 and 50,000 wounded and maimed. While reliable data on disappearances and civilian casualties is not available, at least 100,000 families have suffered direct human costs. The last major troops mobilisation in South Asia in 2001-02 cost the two countries a combined $3 billion.

According to a study by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a full-scale conflict between India and Pakistan will have unimaginable consequences. Scientists have estimated that if 100 nukes having the same size as that of the one dropped on Hiroshima are detonated, nearly 21 million South Asians will die from direct impact and half of the ozone layer will be destroyed. They estimate that the impact on agriculture from the black aerosol kicked up into the atmosphere will result in a famine of global proportions resulting in the deaths of nearly two billion people. Even a “demonstration” nuclear strike will result in 50 per cent fatalities within a five-mile radius.

While the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir ceasefire has all but died with artillery guns continuing to blaze since 2012, it combines with the low-intensity conflict on the Siachen glacier to result in the deaths of several hundred civilians and soldiers over the past five years. Even more have been injured, with homes shelled and communities periodically evacuated.

Despite such heavy costs in both human lives and material, both countries have drifted dangerously away from dialogue. This has been perpetuated by a misplaced Indian belief that coercion can beget dialogue only on cross-border terrorism allegedly originating from the state of Pakistan.

Based largely on Indian self-assessments of growing power, such analysis has ignored the very real conventional capabilities at play today, the resolve of Pakistan when challenged to war, and the plight of the Kashmiris. What India also chooses to ignore is the public conversation against terrorism within Pakistan and renewed steps to disrupt networks. Conversations with Delhi on how to sort through borderless challenges like dismantling militancy and climate stress issues is crucial.

While many in India argue that previous attempts at dialogue have not borne fruit, we must not let past failures overshadow our future. Pakistan does not glorify conflict. Not in the way majoritarian India does today, and not the way we used to. Having lived through more than a decade of the war against terrorism and having lost 70,000 citizens to conflict, Pakistan is very cognizant of the death and destruction caused by war. There is clarity of thought in Pakistan on pursuing normalisation, if not peace, with India. The gesture to open the Kartarpur corridor speaks to this unanimity of thought in charting a new destiny for South Asia.

As we wake up to the very real possibilities of war, we must give dialogue another chance. A dialogue that is neither preconditioned nor selective, but a dialogue that must encompass the whole gamut of our troubled relationship. A dialogue that sees Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris as equal stakeholders in finding a path towards a brighter millennial future.

Sherry Rehman is Chair of Jinnah Institute. She served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the USA and federal minister.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Dawn
About the Author: Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Opinion

S. Korea, Japan to hold working-level talks

The two countries have not pursued diplomacy since a high level talk failed earlier this month. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced Thursday that an official handling Asia-Pacific affairs will visit Japan to meet his counterpart amid mounting tensions between the two countries. Kim Jung-han, director general for Asian and Pacific Affairs at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, will meet Shigeki Takizaki to discuss matters of mutual interest, the ministry said in a press release. This is Kim’s first one-on-one meeting with Takizaki, who replaced Kenji Kanasugi as head of Japan’s Foreign Ministry’s Southeast and Southwest Asian affairs departmen


By The Korea Herald
September 20, 2019

Diplomacy, Opinion

PM Imran expresses Pakistan’s resolve to stand with Saudi Arabia in face of threat to security

Saudi Arabia say they were attacked by Iranian drones. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and expressed Pakistan’s resolve to stand with Saudi Arabia “in the event of a threat to its sanctity and security”, a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said. The premier condemned the recent drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities and assured King Salman of Pakistan’s continued support to the Kingdom. According to the PMO statement, Prime Minister Imran also briefed King Salman on the current situation in occupied Kashmir. “King Salman reiterated the Kingdom’s solidarity and long-held support on the Kashmir issue,” said the statement. The two leaders discussed relations between the two countries as well as the regional and global political situation. They also talked about other matt


By Dawn
September 20, 2019

Diplomacy, Opinion

China demands US drop bill on HK

China has accused the United States of meddling in the past. China on Thursday demanded the United States stop advancing a Hong Kong-related bill and its interference in Hong Kong affairs on Thursday, after US lawmakers held a news conference to back the bill. US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a bipartisan group of members of Congress held the media event on the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019”. Hong Kong separatists, including Joshua Wong Chifung and Denise Ho Wan-see, attended the event. China is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposed to the move, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday. Pelosi and other US politicians “failed to distinguish right from wrong” despite China repeatedly expressing its solemn stance over US meddling in Hong Kong affairs, Geng said. They were “brutally interfering in China


By China Daily
September 20, 2019

Diplomacy, Opinion

Pakistan denies India’s request for use of airspace by Modi for flight to Germany

The latest in a series of escalating diplomatic tit-for-tats. The government on Wednesday announced its decision not to grant India’s request for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use Pakistani airspace for his flight to Germany. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the decision has been made “keeping in view the situation in occupied Kashmir”. “A request was received from India saying that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to use Pakistani airspace for an overflight on the 20th to Germany and wishes to use the same for a return flight on the 28th,” said the foreign minister in a video statement. “Keeping in view the situation in occupied Kashmir and India’s attitude witnessed in the tyranny and oppression [suffered by Kashmiris] and the violations of rights in the region, we have decided not to grant this request,” he said.


By Dawn
September 19, 2019

Diplomacy, Opinion

Challenges loom for Asia’s digital landscape

An overview of digital strategies across Asia in light of the first ever annual Digital Economy Report released by UNCTAD last week. Last week, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released its first ever annual Digital Economy Report (2019). It came at a time when countries across Asia have been grappling with a complex digital future. Digital technologies help cut costs, enable delivery of services without leakages, reduce opportunities for graft, promote ease of doing business, leverage an increasingly non-tactile world, grow economies, have the potential to create millions of new jobs and, it appears, even help fight fake news. On the flip side, there are concerns of the cost of the emerging digital economy in terms of loss of traditional employment sectors, eroding the right to privacy, abetting authoritarian state-control of citizens’ lives, causing a s


By Ishan Joshi
September 19, 2019

Diplomacy, Opinion

Pakistan strongly condemns India’s remarks about ‘having control’ of AJK one day

The remarks were made by India’s foreign minister. India’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that Azad Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India and that he expected New Delhi to gain physical control over it one day, raising the rhetoric over the territorial dispute. In response, Pakistan strongly condemned and rejected “the inflammatory and irresponsible remarks made by the Indian External Affairs Minister regarding Pakistan and AJK”, according to a statement by the Foreign Office. The statement also called upon the international community to take note of the “aggressive posturing”. India claims the heavily populated Kashmir Valley while Pakistan has a wedge of territory in the west of the disputed region — Azad Jammu and Kashmir. “Our position on [Azad Kashmir] is, has always been and will always be very clear. [Azad Kashmir] is part of India and we expec


By Dawn
September 18, 2019