Current political conditions, economic needs and security aspirations of India and Pakistan seem conducive to consolidating the preliminary gains made in the peace process in recent years. With a shared economic agenda, the leaders of the two countries are in favour of further enhancing bilateral trade, investment and energy cooperation. Pakistan’s internal economic and security woes, socio-political transformations and regional compulsions have created an environment that remains broadly conducive to civilian assertion in domestic politics and a meaningful shift in India policy – even if this process certainly suffered a temporary setback amid political turmoil in late 2014. India’s national agenda under the current leadership is driven by the need to overcome the recent stagnation in economic growth and has therefore led to a policy that aims to harness the country’s regional standing and relationships, including with Pakistan. These promising trends create the context for further progress in economic and security relations between the two countries. As their economic interests in the region increasingly converge, India and Pakistan will need to build upon recent achievements in the peace process and find common ground on Afghanistan, e.g., by replacing a geo-political competition with geo-economic cooperation, which would likely propel economic gains through direct trade links with Central Asia and easy access to the region’s vast energy resources.
The challenges ahead for the civilian leaderships of the two countries are indeed arduous. Pakistan will need to reverse the rigid discourse on Islamic ideology, and exploit the rare convergence of civil-military interests over combating domestic terrorism, which would need to eventually extend to countering terrorism in all forms and manifestations. The regional and international players engaged with Pakistan, the United States and China in particular, can play a positive role in helping the country move in such a direction. Their role must also transcend beyond merely managing Indo-Pakistani crises after their occurrence and move to encouraging and pressuring the two countries to amicably resolve their long-pending differences over security issues, including cross-border terrorism and territorial disputes.
The primary responsibility to enable such a resolution, however, lies with the civilian regimes of India and Pakistan - to work out a conflict resolution and trust building mechanism that aims to build upon the critical tools to enable peace already at their disposal, including the comprehensive CBMs regime and nearly negotiated deals. The leaders of the two countries have to overcome domestic political constraints as well as persisting divergence in their respective peace agendas: As Pakistan continues to view formal trade relationship with India as a possible springboard for discussions on the bigger issues, such as territorial disputes like Kashmir. By contrast, India sees trade normalization as an end in itself, a stance rooted in New Delhi's view that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an inalienable and irrevocable part of India. New Delhi should hence demonstrate interest in resolving Kashmir and other territorial disputes with Pakistan. Pakistan has to overcome the ambivalence and alleged duality in its counter-terrorism approach.
Full text this article, originally titled as “Breaking the Equilibrium? New Leaders and Old Structures in the India-Pakistan Rivalry,” is available at www.tandfonline.com