The Big Picture- SAARC Indus talks / India-Pakistan ties
India has accepted Pakistan’s invitation to attend the next Permanent Indus Commission meeting that will be held in Lahore in March. The development comes after Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in September 2016 had declared that blood and water cannot flow together referring to the Indus Water Treaty. The decision was made after World Bank officials played mediator between India and Pakistan.
If India has decided to participate in the Commission meeting after boycotting the previous SAARC Summit, it shows that India is interested in improving relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan is important for India’s geo-economic interest due to various projects of India going on in Central Asian and Gulf countries. It has been well understood by India as well as international community that terrorism cannot be countered without Pakistan’s support. India did not object on the matter of appointment of Secretary General for SAARC.
The resumption of peace talks between India and Pakistan which has remained suspended since 2013 is nowhere being seen yet. It has also been said that India agreeing to attend the Indus water commissioners’ talks in no way means the recommencement of bilateral dialogue. India had indicated a suspension of the water commissioners’ talks after a terrorist attack in Uri in September 2016 which killed 19 soldiers. Indus Water Treaty is no longer a bilateral issue. Now, China is also emerging as a third party indirectly because it is much more interested in Pakistan.
However, the test of Pakistan’s sincerity would come in the summer when infiltration of militants into Kashmir is at its peak. India is also currently evaluating the balance between the civilian government and the military under the new Pakistan Army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, and Pakistan’s actions on terrorism.
India’s ultimate goal is to have normal relations with all its neighbours and if this is accomplished, it would be a great success for India’s foreign policy. The decision follows several other moves between India and Pakistan in the last few days that indicates a softening of positions on some other issues such as:
- Marked reduction in LoC firing,
- The regular annual exchange of nuclear lists
- The release of prisoners by both countries,
- India being part of the consensus to elect the Pakistani nominee as the SAARC Secretary-General.
It would be a little early for now to expect that any of these events consolidate a thaw in relations between the two countries but they do reaffirm the high stakes which are there India-Pakistan relations.