India and Pakistan are bound by a multiple of facts and factors. Language, culture, history and civilization are the facts of this relationship whereas neighbourhood, strategic regional affinity and the indispensability of peace for progress and prosperity are factors to find consideration in our planning and formulation.
When we look at the past of the two countries, there are four wars between them, the Liaquat-Nehru pact, the Tashkent Agreement between the late Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and General Ayub Khan of Pakistan, the Simla Accord between Mrs Indira Gandhi and ZA Bhutto, the Zia-Rajiv Agreement on sharing strategic information pertaining to nuclear facilities, the Vajpayee-Nawaz Sharif Lahore Declaration, the unsuccessful Agra Summit between Vajpayee and Musharruf and a long list of routine engagements and disengagements.
Kashmir, the sharing of river waters, the Siachin glacier, Sir Creek, terrorism and mutual trust deficit remain the core issues of conflict between the two nations. Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif is running the third term in office whereas Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the first ever BJP Government at the Centre, a unique political proposition Indian democracy has achieved which the Opposition finds it difficult to swallow. Both Sharif and Modi are the most popular leaders of their respective nations. Both are democrats and draw their support base from the popular will and wisdom of the people. Also both are serious players of diplomacy as they together realise the dividends of peace and the harm that continuing hostility is causing to the cycle of diversified progress of each other.
Poverty, unemployment and violent extremism are the common enemies of India and Pakistan whereas development stays as their core agenda. Digging the past and finding follies in each other is not going to resolve any of their issues.
As a nation, Indian democracy, national institutions and governance enjoy regular elements of consistency and stability whereas Pakistan is still struggling to achieve that. The last few decades of violence and extremism have failed its military establishment in drawing any positive yield from its policy of hostility towards India. The Pakistani Army is fighting almost a full-fledged war with its own created militants, extremists and fanatics. Here is a country which has become the victim of its own wrong policies.
The national and global agenda on which PM Modi is working demands bold diplomatic initiatives. He is conducting exactly in the same manner, mode and module. Pakistan cannot be an exception to this. The recent Sushma-Sartaj meeting in Islamabad and the decision to engage in the composite dialogue again reflects on the wholesome approach to diplomacy and conflict resolution that the Modi Government is pursuing.
India should not shy of discussing the Kashmir issue with Pakistan. The world knows that the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is taken every five years. They elect their representatives and govern their affairs themselves within the constitutional framework of India. New Delhi’s stand has been consistent that J&K is an integral part of India and there is no give and take on that.
Let us not forget that there are very powerful vested interests in Pakistan who are opposed to this engagement. Indian diplomacy cannot allow a hijacking of regular engagement with Pakistan by such disgruntled and disqualified elements on either side of the border. As a great nation, a great civilization and a great democracy we need to take a pledge that it is Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha who guide us and not Hafiz Saeeds and Lakhvis. Three cheers for sanity and moderation that India represents in the comity of nations!