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OpinionsMaryam has set the right tone for improving India-Pak relations

Maryam has set the right tone for improving India-Pak relations



By Tirthankar Mitra

Post a tumultuous election in Pakistan, a diplomatic overture from this western neighbour towards was being awaited. And now that it has come, even though from an unlikely quarter, it is welcome.

For even though it is not from the Pak foreign minister, the source of its issuance is certainly the power behind the throne. An olive branch was extended towards India when Maryam Nawaz, chief minister of spoke to about 3000 Sikh pilgrims at Kartarpur Sahib recently.

As she invoked the cultural and linguistic commonalities on both sides of the border that exists between India and Pakistan, the message ought to have travelled far beyond the ears of the men and women who had gathered at a place of worship they had heard much about. Indeed it was more for the knowledge and information of the mandarins of the Ministry of external affairs in New Delhi..

For it emanated right from the lips of Maryam Nawaz. She is not only the chief minister of Punjab, but also the heir apparent of three time Pakistan prime minister, and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief Nawaz Sharif.

The Punjab chief minister speaking of friendship with India, religious tolerance and celebrating Eid, Holi and Baisakhi together is a leader of substance. Her pedigree apart, she heads Pakistan's largest province and much of this country's political, cultural and military elite is Punjabi.

So Maryam is ideally suited to speak for her country. Hard economic and geo-political realities which Pakistan faces lies behind her words. She has made her appeal at a most opportune moment for Pakistan. Rawalpindi and Islamabad are faced with increasingly restive borders with Afghanistan and Iran. The Pak army too is looking for stability in the eastern front. A less than belligerent India will be only too welcome by the force which calls the shots in Pakistan.

In this backdrop, Maryam's words should be marked. In fact, her appeal should not be dismissed as emotional outpourings. A look at the stumbling blocks in the bilateral ties reveals abrogation of Article 370, has been Pakistan's source of objection on the Kashmir issue. It will get India nowhere by shouting from the rooftops that the “abrogation” is an internal matter and Pakistan has no to discuss about it.

It was part and parcel of Pakistan's foreign policy to raise read tangle in the Kashmir issue. Even if it has got it nowhere except some rabble rousing, come elections. The present government has not acquired enough traction to dissociate from it. President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the Army (not quite on this order) have voiced similar sentiments on Kashmir.

Terrorism for India and Kashmir for Pakistan remain both sides' core concerns. Some quiet back channel diplomacy is the need of the hour. It may restore trade relations, perhaps a low-hanging diplomatic fruit but a break through all the same. An example may be cited that way back in 2014, Pakistan showed interest in importing power from India. It came in the wake of the then Pakistan prime minister's visit. the previous year. Of late, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar said “Pakistan businessmen want trade with India”.

The nay sayers with long memories may point out that the power deal was scuppered by the Pak army though GAIL was receptive to the idea of supplying gas across Wagha border . A rejoinder may be issued stating that back channel diplomacy has led to 2021 cease fire along the Line of Control which has mostly held.

More than 75 years have gone by after Punjab was divided in 1947. Despite Partition and ears being fought between two countries, many on both sides of the border continue to feel the bond. Common culture and identity constitute Punjabiyat. India is going through its parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, no stone should be left unturned to lay the ground to move the needle forward thereafter. (IPA Service)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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