The getting together of the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan after a hiatus of 14 years at the Wagah-Attari border on December 24, 2013 perhaps marks the phase of new beginnings if not old endings. The meeting was decided at the political level between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during their meeting in New York earlier in September 2013. The agenda of both the leaders is to defuse tensions in the region. Upholding the agenda, the DGMOs of the two neighbouring countries at the conclusion of the meeting issued a joint communiqué whereby both India and Pakistan agreed to re-energise the exiting mechanisms to maintain the ceasefire on the LoC.
The India-Pakistan DGMOs meeting is a significant development in the relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours. It has the potential to create a congenial ambience amidst strained bilateral relations. The positive environment is expected to lay the foundation for a conducive environment wherein contentious issues that pose enormous anxiety to both India and Pakistan can be debated and discussed. The two neighbours’ DGMOs meeting also indicate Pakistan’s willingness to bring in peace in India-Pakistan relations. Following the political affirmation, the Pakistani Army was prepared to hold the DGMO meeting with its Indian counterpart. This indicates a precipitated eagerness on the part of Pakistan to take the peace process forward. Under Pakistan’s present army chief General Raheel Sharif, there is an expectation for a new window of opportunity for better bilateral relations. A fresh understanding is taking shape that only improved perception between the two nuclear neighbours and not misconstrued strategic and tactical military designs will facilitate better relations between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed for lasting peace with India, reiterating an effort he made in 1999. Post- his election victory he has laid down a “roadmap…for improvement of relations between Pakistan and India.” Obviously a cardinal feature of this roadmap would be to initiate and engage in constructive dialogue with India. The DGMOs meeting, which is expected to normalize the situation on the LoC, has been hailed from other corners of the Pakistani establishment too. Welcoming the India-Pakistan DGMOs meeting, Pakistan’s Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said ‘steps are taken to move forward.’ The Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz also stated that Pakistan wants peace with India and efforts are being made to normalize relations. With the Pakistani political and military establishment on the same plane on India policy, there is enormous expectation that finally a constructive roadmap is available for establishing normalcy in India-Pakistan bilateral ties. Amelioration in India-Pakistan bilateral ties would not only facilitate peace but would prove to be a potentially effective strategy to neutralize cross-border terrorism. Pakistan must realize that any support to militant groups would not only spell threats to their internal security but also propagate adversarial relations with India and the rest of the international community. Strengthening bilateral cross-border relations with India along the LoC is an effective strategy to neutralize the militant groups.
The Pakistani fervor for peace must be adequately recognized in a mature enough manner within India. It is in the prime interest of New Delhi to “re-energise” bilateral relations with Pakistan. Like the DGMOs of the two estranged nations, the political establishments of India and Pakistan must realize that enormous trust is reposed in the leaders by the people of the respective countries to steer their nations towards peace and prosperity.
Understandably, this is not going to be an easy process. India-Pakistan relations in the past are replete with several painful memories to make any peace initiation between the nations a challenging task. India will also have to be mindful of constraints like the Kashmir issue, Sir Creek imbroglio, etc. while dealing with Pakistan. Despite the constraints involved, India must act maturely by soft peddling on issues that are important to New Delhi. India must emphasize better trade and commerce with Pakistan. Energy sector constitutes a potential sector of cooperation between India and Pakistan. According to Dr R. K. Pachauri, Chairperson of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and director of the Energy Resource Institute of New Delhi, “the share of energy usage out of total usage in China and India will decline by 2025, and on the other hand, the share of energy usage in South Asia will increase.” Besides, given the problems associated with global warming, it is in the best interests of both India and Pakistan to invest in clean energy projects that will ensure economic growth and pollution free environment. India has reportedly expressed its readiness to cooperate with the Punjab government to set up power plants based on alternative sources. Reportedly a memorandum of understanding is on the cards for electricity trade between India and Pakistan. Reports indicate that India has offered to supply 500 megawatts, which could be implemented within a year by laying a transmission line. Cooperation in the energy sector will enable Pakistan to tackle an acute shortage of energy that has hit its economic growth.
India has implemented a relaxed visa regime that facilitates the creation of a shared constituency for peace in Pakistan and India. This commendable step is expected to increase people-to-people contact and harmonize relations between the two countries. However, there has to be “more of a give” policy from India. Indian public opinion needs to undergo a groundbreaking change on the Pakistani issue. The political establishment has to undertake the responsibility to communicate to its populace that Pakistanis are not all “terrorists” or “AQ Khans.” History has divided us but the future must not destroy us. This perception must be mutually reciprocated from the Pakistani political establishment and populace as well. Pakistan’s gestures towards peace can boost the Indian government’s ability to influence the domestic sentiments of its populace. Above all, the media in India and the Army in Pakistan must refrain from picking loopholes in the government policies and fuel national agenda.
The political leaders of India and Pakistan must recognize that there is no other alternative to dialogue. There is a necessity to be open to talks. Only this approach can give an incremental push forward in India-Pakistan relations towards peace and normalcy.