September 19, 2022
ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is in the Uzbek capital of Samarkand where he is attending the 22nd annual meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Other heads of the states are also there, as will be Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The shared presence of a Pakistani leader and an Indian leader at any summit is always linked to hopes that they could meet and the frigid relations between the two countries would improve.
While the Foreign Office has denied any plans for a meeting on the sidelines of the summit, its spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad did not rule out the possibility of a “brief courtesy meeting” between the two leaders.
And even though the chances of bilateral engagement seem remote at this point in time, the importance of peace between the two neighbouring countries cannot be understated.
Here, Dawn.com looks into why Islamabad and New Delhi should actively seek to resolve their mutual suspicion, not least because the neighbours share a 3,000-km border. Experts note that everything — including Kashmir — can be resolved if there is a will in both capitals.
Here are four reasons why the two countries should actively work towards a working relationship.
1. Food security
The most pressing issue for Pakistan right now is ensuring food security in the wake of devastating floods, which decimated agricultural crops.
A thaw in ties could lead to a resumption in trade. From a purely economic standpoint, it can provide the “quickest means of bridging a looming demand-supply shortfall in various kitchen commodities”.
A Dawn editorial notes: “In purely logistical terms, it makes sense for Pakistan to first tap its neighbours for its immediate needs before turning to global markets.
“Both the cost of shipment and the time taken for the goods to reach local markets will be much lower in case foodstuff is imported from India rather than anywhere else.”
2. Increased connectivity
Connected to the previous point: South Asia is the world’s most populous region yet, it is also the least integrated, and has the largest number of poor people, according to an article by Musharraf-era foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri and former Atal Bihari Vajpayee aide Sudheendra Kulkarni.
He suggests that it can be a “region of prosperity for all by jointly implementing ambitious connectivity projects”, given that mutual mistrust is addressed.
He notes that this also means “India should not be suspicious of CPEC but see it as an opportunity which could lead to connectivity of the whole of South Asia, benefiting India as well”.
3. The risk of nuclear winter
Both are nuclear-equipped countries. Last year, a US Global Trends Report warned that India and Pakistan may “stumble into a large-scale war neither side wants”. An escalation brings with it the risk of a full-on nuclear exchange, which would be MAD (mutually assured destruction).
4. More matches, religious and cultural tourism
We all want to see more Pakistan-India cricket matches. Better ties would make such lucrative events more frequent. It would also make religious and cultural tourism easier, as well as visits for people who have family and friends on the other side of the border.
In the end, both sides owe it to their people to forge a peaceful path based on coexistence and friendship.