Pakistan Muslim League(N)’s Shehbaz Sharif taking over as Prime Minister could provide an opportunity to Islamabad to come out of its frosty relations with India, bruised and humiliated Imran Khan-led PTI’s upping the ante, notwithstanding. By all indications, deposed former Prime Minister and Shehbaz’s elder brother Nawaz Sharif, living in London now, will rule by proxy. There are clear indications that he is waiting to return. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif shared special relationship.
The all-important Pakistani Army under Gen Bajwa is believed to have lent its helping hand to Shahbaz Sharif in his fight against Imran Khan who lost power as PM in an Opposition sponsored no-confidence vote in national assembly last week. The new Government may initiate measures to resuscitate working relations with New Delhi which got disrupted following a series of anti-India incidents involving Pakistan’s state and non-state actors, including the Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.
The biggest issue in Pakistan’s relations with India will naturally remain Kashmir, no matter who heads the government. In his maiden statement after taking over as PM, Shehbaz too brought Kashmir into focus. But he is believed to be pragmatic having been Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab sharing good relations with leaders across the border.
Elder brother Nawaz Sharif reportedly tried to improve relations with India when he was at the helm but his period was cut short mired by corruption charges, judicial intervention and subsequent upheavals in politics in Pakistan.
Shehbaz Sharif and Gen Bajwa are said to be on the same page so far as India is concerned. They do not favor constant confrontation between the two countries while at the same time keeping the Kashmir issue alive. Despite frequent militant attacks in Kashmir, for example, the LoC has been largely quiet and peaceful after the ceasefire agreement between the two countries in February last year. Much as the attacks and violence in the Valley are attributed to Pakistan’s involvement, local militants are known to play a major role. Of course non-state actors of Pakistan like Hafiz Sayeed have always been active to create troubles in India.
It is perhaps time to begin track II diplomacy between India and Pakistan. Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee as PM went quite far in his attempt to bring peace between the two nuclear neighbors, thanks to the track II diplomacy. Dr Manmohan Singh carried it forward as PM in UPA one in the same spirit. Both Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh contributed significantly, despite adverse circumstances. Sharif and Modi may do well to renew the effort all over again.
The Russian attack on Ukraine destabilizing the geopolitical situation in the world has brought about new situations.
Countries like India and China have closed ranks. Pakistan has not remained unaffected. After all, Imran Khan’s Moscow visit on the eve of the Russian attack on Ukraine became a major issue in the country ultimately resulting in his ouster.
It is in the interest of Pakistan that it lives in peace with its neighbor and vice -e-versa. The best thing to do for both is to maintain tranquility on the LoC and the international border. Pakistan’s responsibility is greater. Vajpayee, Musharraf and Manmohan Singh are said to have toyed with the idea of making LoC the international border. Maybe it is time to pursue it again with the new leadership in Pakistan.
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