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EDITORIAL: The Pakistan government has expressed serious concerns about the safety and security of the Pakistani cricketers and has refused issuance of NOC to the team to travel to India to participate in the 2023 Cricket World Cup.

It is scheduled to be hosted by India during October and November this year. And India too has expressed concerns about its team’s visit to Pakistan for the Asia Cup which Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) plans to hold in September.

That cricket is a sport that is immensely popular in both the countries is a fact. These refusals on the part of two governments have, therefore, come as a big surprise and disappointment to millions of people on both sides of the shared border.

No doubt the Kashmir dispute has been a recurrent source of conflict. But the situation or bilateral relationship between these two neighbors has become more complicated due to rise of populism in India and new geopolitical alignments. and thereby a source of deep mistrust that continues to forestall normalization of ties. But that is not the case everywhere.

If the China-brokered rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a signal for peace returning to the Persian Gulf region where perceptional and actual hostility between Alam-e-Arab and Alam-e-Ajam is embedded in history over the centuries, the sub-continental powers too need to reconsider and refashion their hostile posturing.

Also, let them see their hostile relationship in the context of India’s border with China, which is unmarked but not a source of wider conflict as seems to be the case with Pakistan and India.

No two countries are absolutely coincidental on their bilateral relationship. But they do manage their positions through talks and friendly interventions. Seventy-five years on, Pakistan and India need to reassess their relationship; they must try building positivity by relegating negativity.

They should revive connectivity that at times had come together on issues like waters of River Indus and ceasefire on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

For that the leadership on both sides of the border need to develop a national consensus in support of peace process.

Given that Pakistan is going to have its new government later this year and India next year, in the meanwhile, however, the task to improve quantum of connectivity lies with back-channel diplomacy, enhanced bilateral trade, improved affordability of visits and media in both the countries.

In fact, of late, the United States appears to be keen to see that these two nuclear powers talk and decide to coexist in peace by resolving their long-standing disputes.

Suggesting that Pakistan-India diplomacy is already at works the State Department spokesman told media the other day that “we are willing to support that process in any way that they deem appropriate.

What we support is constructive dialogue, meaningful diplomacy between India and Pakistan in the first instance to resolve longstanding conflicts”.

Given that both Pakistan and India are nuclear-weapon states and both have the second strike capabilities, they would never like to fight a nuclear war – a situation wrongly described by the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the wake of the Balakot episode. The nuclear capability has a built-in deterrence.

Not that the two countries have always been dagger-drawn enemies; there have been spells of bilateral peace. The then prime minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, appeared at Minar-i-Pakistan and said that the dispute in Kashmir is a question of ‘insaniat’.

It is also important to recall that during President Musharraf’s times the governments in the two countries had come quite close to resolving the Kashmir dispute.

Unfortunately, however, there is not much on ground at this point in time to build on for a peaceful coexistence; yet everything is not lost – as was the case with Saudi Arabia-Iran bilateral relationship.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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