‘The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal’.~ Aristotle
The answer to the subject question depends on who is asking and who is answering. For academia or for a Westerner with disregard to the realpolitik, the answer may be a simple ‘yes’. However, for any neighbouring country of India especially the member countries of SAARC, despite its very noble charter, the response may be as tricky as probability of friendship between Hare and Hound. The prospects of Peace between Pakistan and India is even more complicated as both countries have already fought four wars since 1947, out of which three were fought over Kashmir issue. The Indian sponsored 1971 war in former East Pakistan turned it into Bangladesh…most tragic loss of half the country largely due to a Tragedy of Errors. The legacy of territorial disputes left behind by the colonial British in 1947 included IIOJ&K, non-demarcated boundary North of point NJ 9842(the northernmost demarcated point of the India-Pakistan cease fire line in Kashmir known as the Line of Control/LoC) and Sir Creek (a 96-km tidal estuary in the uninhabited marshlands of the Indus River Delta on the disputed border between India and Pakistan). Besides, the grave violations of Indus Water Treaty by India causing desertification in Pakistan (signed on September 19, 1960, between India and Pakistan and brokered by the World Bank), media onslaught, unrelenting international defamation campaign against Pakistan through false flag operations (e.g. Pathankot, Samjhota express, Parliament and Mumbai attacks), ceaseless atrocities against Muslims and all other minorities in India and particularly in occupied Kashmir, misuse of FATF and other IFIs to hurt Pakistan economically, sustained subversion and sabotage activities in Pakistan from all three directions by RAW intelligence networks in Pakistan( e.g. Surbajeet Singh and Kulbahasn Yadev networks), and by funding, equipping and supporting proscribed terrorists organisations, which have kept both the countries in “no war, no peace” situation for the last 75 years with poor impact on the economies especially for Pakistan.
Interstate warfare has been defined as military conflict between separate states over a territory. This does not include civil wars and wars of independence, or smaller clashes with limited casualties (less than 100 combat deaths). In Asia, the majority of the armed conflicts in the region are fought over issues of territory, political control, and political rights. Interstate conflicts in the region over the past decades included the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese Border War, and 1948,1965, 1971 and the 1999 (Kargil) Indo-Pakistani Wars. Not to forget the most consequential war against terrorism by invasion of Afghanistan involving whole of US led NATO and almost 60 countries in the conflict. According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals around the world, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, competing, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising. The history of conflicts in Asia and especially between Pakistan and India seem to miss all five instruments due to a host of reasons. The same has been further exacerbated since 2014 after RSS/ BJP extremist Hindutva regime came into power under Narendra Modi known as butcher of Gujarat due to government sponsored massacre of Muslims in 2002 when he was the Chief Minister. Some significant developments during 2019, which were considered pivotal for Indian occupied Kashmir and dispute resolution between India and Pakistan included India’s August 5 decision to abrogate article 35 A and article 370, division of IIOJ&K (illegally Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir) into two parts and declaring it integral part of India, Citizenship amendment act and NRC specifically targeting Muslim majority in India, facilitating issuance of domicile to Indians to become citizen of IIOJ&K to change its demography, establishment of Sainak/ retired Indian military personnel colonies, handing over economic control of Kashmir to Indian rich class by giving away industrial zones in Kashmir, and putting valley under complete lock-down with heightened atrocities unleashed to suppress freedom struggle.
In big powers contest, the rapidly evolving regional and extra regional geo-strategic environment, drawing up of fresh battle lines in Eurasia, the CASA and Indo-Pacific regions, global economic and military realignments and some pressing domestic politico-economic compulsions of both Pakistan and India may have contributed towards projected Indo-Pakistan thaw and background promotion of the ‘peace theme’ between the two unequal with obvious pitfalls for the weaker on the table. USA obviously wishes to focus on China as number one economic and military competitor while keeping an effective check on old rival Russia. For that her first priority is the realisation of American Indo-Pacific strategy. Therefore, USA would like India to be unhooked from Pakistan to allow her to concentrate on contesting China that has recently given well measured political cum military embarrassment to India in Ladakh/ Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh regions. Besides, India as a new strategic ally is expected by America to help her keep a strong foothold in Afghanistan for keeping an eye on Nuclear Pakistan, assist spying on Iran and compliment American efforts to exert in Russian sphere of influence in Central Asia. Moreover, India is to help US to pinprick Western China and above all counter Chinese BRI Grand project in CASA region. It is obviously win-win situation for India on all counts especially after having almost settled Kashmir issue as per their strategic calculus with false claims now on Pakistani northern areas and Azad Kashmir. Therefore, once again TTP, BLA/BRA/BNA and all other terrorist groups are being launched by NDS and RAW with specific targeting of the Pakistan Army, law enforcement agencies, Chinese and other foreigners working on development projects in Pakistan with evil eyes on the CPEC and other development projects.
On the other hand, China considers success of CPEC as a flagship project of BRI that essentially aims at regional and global economic integration. Therefore, any major conflict between Pakistan and India is bound to not only retard CPEC but may also dilute the chances of India and other regionally countries to ultimately join BRI for mutual economic dividends. Hence, China may also like and support a rapprochement between Pakistan and India though with necessary safeguard to thwart US’ aims and objectives. As regards borders dispute with India, China has just proven her resolve and capability to settle it on her own terms but without losing focus on BRI and with overall preference for economic prong till China can attain status of leading global military and economic power.
Nevertheless, India also has a plethora of political, economic and security problems mostly aggravated by Mr. Modi’s BJP regime fanning RSS extremist Hindutva ideology, which includes declining economic graph, heightened atrocities in IIOJ&K and gross human rights violations and maltreatment of minorities causing international voices of protest, recurrent farmers’ protests joined by many other oppressed millions, more than dozen active independence movements, rampant corruption, and politico-military embarrassment suffered from China’s slap in disputed regions. However, after assurance by America and allies for due role and space in Afghanistan and enhanced pressure by the US to mend fences with Pakistan and focus on contesting China appear to subtly nudge India to indulge in meaningless, unyielding and cosmetic dialogue with Pakistan from a position of given political, economic and military strength. However, the real Indian design and haughtiness repeatedly get exposed with her Prime Minister and all other BJP extremist ministers and even Indian generals openly threatening Pakistan off and on. The public opinion in India has also been spoiled about Pakistan by RSS/ BJP stalwarts and even bilateral and international sports events are subjected to nefarious political mileage.
The history of India-Pakistan’s core disputes, four major conflicts and secret and public diplomacy including its outcome are too well known (need to bear in mind the peace treaty signed with India on January 4, 2004 and the period till November 26, 2008 that had created similar excitement on possible resolution of core issues including IIOJ&K, Siachin, Sir Creek and water issue through composite dialogue…all in vain and India used the period to further consolidate in IIOJ&K). It is a given that ultimately all disputes are solved through political determination and diplomatic skills; therefore, any direct or indirect effort to find peace ought to be appreciated. Nevertheless, deliberate appraisal of the global, regional and domestic environment and selection of favourable time and place for undertaking dispute resolution through farsighted composite dialogue remains an irrefutable obligation. While India appears intoxicated with elevated strategic status granted by America, and on the contrary Pakistan has been brought down to face the worst economic woes, political polarisation and confronted with multi-dimensional 5th generation warfare, indulging in peace dialogue under disparaging environment cannot be considered a prudent step until and unless Pakistan can emerge stronger from the current crises. For that, after due debate in both houses of the parliament and with due government approval, a visionary institutional approach is considered more productive for undertaking multi-tracked engagement between the two old rivals like India and Pakistan preferably on the forum of most potent and appropriate regional organisation i.e. SCO. It may be advisable to first undertake government approved Track-2 approach (for which cessation of covert war inside Pakistan and restoration of pre 5th August 2019 status in IIOJ&K should be a prerequisite) to pave the way for Track-1 diplomacy by agreeing on the framework and formulae for resolution of the critical issues rather than putting the cart before the horse.
Above discussion notwithstanding, Pakistan’s decision makers need to keep in mind few important points: Is RSS/BJP ready to commit political suicide having won consecutive two elections by raising anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim tirade? Is Pakistan in a good position with own house in disorder to indulge in dialogue with India at this point in time? Is American backdoor nudge going to get any favour to Pakistan in UN Security Council as for implementation of its resolution on Kashmir issue? Can any other country stop India except Pakistan from launching proxies from Afghanistan? Pakistan will have to be extremely careful in handling carrot and stick approach exercised by USA that will obviously hinge on meaningless economic incentives or coercion by IFIs and other money lending countries. The shifting of emphasis from geopolitics to geo-economics must not mean any compromise on core national issues. Quite in contrast to the illusionary and academic peace hypotheses, the realpolitik may keep in place ‘the dilemma to love or hate thy neighbours’, till the bigger side is genuinely interested in peace. “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom”. ~Malcolm X