India & Pakistan
Published: September 3, 2014
India & Pakistan, It’s been a rocky time for India-Pakistan relations the past few weeks. On August 18, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled scheduled talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries that were to occur in Islamabad on August 25. Modi’s decision came in response to a meeting held between Islamabad’s envoy in New Delhi and Kashmiri separatist leader Shabir Shah earlier in the day, which he viewed as unacceptable.
The prior week, on August 12, during a speech to Indian army and air force soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir, Modi made reference to “our neighbor’s attitude” of engaging in a proxy war. Modi’s remarks prompted a quick response from Pakistan the following day, which called his comments “most unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan has been experiencing political tumult and anti-government protests, led by politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri. The protests appear to have forced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to concede to the long-held understanding that Pakistan’s civilian government is expected to share space with the military — shorthand for the military maintaining the dominant role in security policy, and consequently calling into question Sharif’s ability to press for improved ties with India.
These developments are all the more troubling given that, until recently, bilateral ties had appeared to be making considerable progress. Only three months ago, Modi’s invitation to Sharif to attend his inauguration ceremony, and Sharif’s decision to accept the invitation, were viewed as positive signs of new momentum between the two countries.
The two countries have come a long way given their troubled bilateral history. Since Partition in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought each other in three wars, and most recently, in the limited Kargil war in 1999. But despite numerous conflict-resolution efforts — including multilateral, bilateral, official, and track-two initiatives — a solution for lasting peace on the Subcontinent has proved elusive.
The most recent peace initiative is the Composite Dialogue. The idea for a “structured dialogue” to address multiple issues simultaneously — including, but not limited to, Kashmir and terrorism — originated during a discussion between Indian and Pakistani leaders in 1997. The Composite Dialogue process is structured along parallel but separate talks on eight issues, including peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir, water and border issues, terrorism, and economic cooperation.
Early attempts at a Composite Dialogue began in 1998 between the two governments and were followed by the signing of the historic Lahore Declaration by Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999. However, the process was derailed in 1999 by the Kargil war, and continued to flounder as tensions between the two countries increased after a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament in 2001. As tensions decreased, the Composite Dialogue restarted in 2004. Several rounds of the Composite Dialogue resulted in the establishment of confidence-building measures, including a ceasefire along the Line of Control, agreement for advanced notification of ballistic missile testing, and new overland and air linkages. Unfortunately, the Mumbai terrorist attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba on Nov. 26, 2008 again derailed the fledgling Composite Dialogue process.
Despite these setbacks, the new leaderships in India and Pakistan offer reasons for cautious optimism toward reviving peace efforts. Both Prime Ministers Sharif and Modi have given top billing to better relations between the two countries. Since coming to office, Modi has often spoken about regional relationships in the context of working together to promote economic development and fighting the common enemy of poverty.
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