An opportunity to ease India-Pakistan tensions

Saturday, 2019-03-09 17:46:27
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Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says that Pakistan-India tensions are cooling down. (Photo: Bloomberg)
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NDO – Relations between India and Pakistan have shown signs of cooling down after days of tensions. An escalating military conflict between the two nuclear-armed countries would threaten to cause catastrophic consequences, not only for the region but also the whole world. Therefore, both sides should make good use of this opportunity to promote peace and avoid the risk of pushing South Asia into a new conflict.

Pakistan recently announced that it is trying to ease the situation and will send diplomatic representatives back to India. After shooting down an Indian fighter jet, Islamabad quickly returned the arrested pilot to New Delhi. Pakistan also began a campaign to crack down on rebel groups as international pressure increased after a group of rebels in Pakistan bombed Indian-controlled Kashmir. Accordingly, Pakistani security forces took control of 182 religious schools and arrested more than 100 people. In addition, Pakistan plans to send a delegation to visit New Delhi to negotiate the Kartarpur Corridor project, which will allow Indian followers to go to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, a holy site in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, without a visa. India and Pakistan have also resumed trade activities in the border town of Uri, in the disputed region of Kashmir. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that tensions between the two countries are cooling down.

The aforementioned moves are said to be a right path and have been welcomed by the international community in the context of India-Pakistan tensions surging earlier after the two sides carried out a series of retaliatory military actions, such as India’s air strikes targeting a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group in Pakistani-ruled Kashmir, and blocking Pakistani fighters that violate its airspace. In response, the Pakistani air forces shot down two Indian planes. Tensions led Pakistan to declare airspace closure for several days, disturbing thousands of flights around the world.

An ease in tensions between India and Pakistan is an encouraging sign, because the hostile relations between the two neighbouring countries have broken out a number of times and become a “hot spot” causing security uncertainties in South Asia. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have always been in confrontation or on the brink of conflict. In addition to territorial disputes in the Kashmir region, relations between the two countries are often tense as India has accused Pakistan of supporting extremist armed groups, some of which are based in Pakistan, in carrying out attacks aimed at the Indian territory. New Delhi also claimed that Islamabad was behind the extremist Islamic forces demanding separation in Jammu state and Indian-administered Kashmir, where more than 60% of the population are Muslims. Meanwhile, Pakistan has always refuted these allegations. The aforementioned facts have repeatedly pushed relations between India and Pakistan into a state of high tension, thus making the dialogue prospects between the two countries difficult. Gunfights between the two sides’ military forces on the Line of Control (LoC) separating Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir have frequently occurred. Violence in the disputed Kashmir region has been regularly repeated, resulting in an estimated 70,000 deaths in the past 30 years. The turbulent relations between the two countries have led to permanent unrest in South Asia.

Furthermore, both India and Pakistan own nuclear weapons. According to estimates by the Arms Control Association, each side currently has between 120 and 140 nuclear warheads. So, the military conflict between the two sides, if escalating, would cause catastrophic consequences, not only for the region but also the whole world.

Recent tensions in Kashmir show that this area has potential risks threatening to trouble the inherently thorny relations between India and Pakistan. In order to neutralise the “detonator” to build a stable environment in South Asia, there is no alternative but negotiations and peace talks. Moreover, in the context of India currently preparing for an important general election, while Pakistan is facing many economic difficulties, the escalation of tensions will go against the interests of both countries. The door for the two sides to resolve tensions have opened. Public opinion is that both India and Pakistan should make use of this opportunity to ease tensions and promote peace, for the benefit of the people of both countries and the entire South Asian region.