Editor's note: Cheng Xizhong, Visiting Professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law，Senior Fellow of the Charhar Institute, former Defense Attache in South Asian countries.
Recently, after years of highly intense confrontations, it seems that the relations between India and Pakistan, the two rivals in the South Asian subcontinent, are showing some positive signs of improvement. If the relations can really be improved, it will be a good development and conducive to the peace and stability in South Asia, which is good news for the people of the region.
On February 25, India and Pakistan reached a cease-fire agreement. Both sides agreed to strictly observe all bilateral agreements and understandings, and cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC) with effect from the midnight of February 24/25. Both sides reiterated that existing mechanisms of hotline contact and border flag meetings would be utilized to resolve any unforeseen situation or misunderstanding.
On March 20, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan a speedy recovery after the latter tested positive for Covid-19.
On March 22, the Pakistani delegation entered India via Atari-Wagah Border to attend the two-day 116th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission in New Delhi, the capital of India. The meeting, which is an annual affair between the two countries, is being held after two years.
On March 23, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a letter to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan to extend greetings to the people of the country on the occasion of Pakistan Day. In the letter, Narendra Modi expressed that India desires "cordial relations" with Pakistan in a terror-free environment.
On March 30, "Heart of Asia" conference will be held in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe and after several years, both Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers will be seen under one roof. Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi are likely to hold a bilateral meeting.
In addition, both India and Pakistan have recently sent positive signals for the improvement of bilateral relations. While speaking at the Islamabad security dialogue, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said, "We feel it is time to bury the past and move forward".
Earlier, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Shringla also desired neighbourly ties with Pakistan. He said India desires good neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to addressing issues bilaterally and peacefully.
Looking at the relations between India and Pakistan in history, there have been three wars between the two countries. Since Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, although there have been many times of high tensions, even cases where war was on the verge of breaking, and there have been frequent exchanges of fire along LoC and other sectors, the situation has not been out of control in the past 50 years.
An important reason why the overall peaceful situation has been maintained for 50 years is that India and Pakistan are no longer the countries they were 50 years ago. The two countries are gradually maturing, and the leaders of the two countries have a strong capability to control the situation.
In recent decades, the US war in Afghanistan has led to the spread of terrorism in South Asia and frequent terrorist attacks in India and Pakistan, which has added more complicated factors to the relations between the two countries. As a result, the relationship between the two countries has basically formed a vicious circle of tension caused by terrorist attacks, gradual improvement, and then further strained relations due to fresh terrorist attacks.
Since taking office in August 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been committed to improving relations with India and has made unremitting efforts to this end. Therefore, it can be said that India's positive response shows that Pakistan's diplomatic efforts are producing good results.
However, whether Indo-Pakistan relations will be improved in the days to come mainly depends on the sincerity of India. Here, there are two key issues.
First, the Kashmir dispute is the core issue of Indo-Pakistan relations. Pakistan has long been supporting the Kashmiri people's struggle for national self-determination morally, politically and diplomatically. This concerns Pakistan's core interests. India must create a favorable environment for the resumption of dialogue and respect the Kashmiri people's right to national self-determination and stop its military crackdown in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
Second, terrorism is a common threat to both India and Pakistan, as well as to all countries in the region. Over the years, India and Pakistan have accused each other on this issue, which is the most important reason for the drastic fluctuations in Indo-Pakistan relations. The only way to eliminate terrorism is to establish cooperation mechanisms between the two countries and work together to combat terrorism. Any attempt to use the "proxy war" to undermine the other party's social stability and economic development will not only hurt the other party, but also itself. This has been proved repeatedly by history.
Source:China Economic Net, 2021-03-26