Discussion Held On Indo-Pak Relations In Kashmir Backdrop

Discussion Held On Indo-Pak Relations In Kashmir Backdrop

7 March 2012
Daily Times


Islamabad: The Institute of Strategic Studies organised a public talk under its Islamabad Debate Series 2012, titled ‘Pakistan’s Political and Economic Imperatives require it to pursue a path towards normalisation of relations with India, even if an acceptable Kashmir settlement remains elusive for the Foreseeable future’. Former foreign secretary Najmuddin A Shaikh spoke in favour of the proposition, and former ambassador Asif Ezdi spoke against the motion. The director general of Institute of Strategic Studies welcomed the distinguished speakers and highlighted the importance of the proposition. Najmuddin A Sheikh opened the house by highlighting the importance of Kashmir as a fundamental factor in Indo-Pakistan relations, his argument inclined more towards focusing on the genuine problems that Pakistan is overwhelmed with, most crucially the lack of economic development in the country. He believed that it was vital to move the country out of the horrifying poverty levels for which non-tariff trade with India was partly the solution, along with fostering regional cooperation to promote overland trade. This would generate huge sums of money in the shape of revenue for Pakistan, create millions of jobs and increase Pakistan’s share in international trade. Moreover, Sheikh discussed the essential issue on which Pakistan and India had to negotiate was the nuclear issue owing to its sensitive nature and capacity to inflict enormous damage if used against each other. Terrorism is an issue that afflicted both India and Pakistan, hence required a collaborative effort to arrive at a lasting solution and thereby attain stability in the region, he added. While presenting his ideas, Asif Ezdi said that the policy of linking the normalisation of relations with a satisfactory settlement of Kashmir enjoyed national consensus for more than 50 years, and was broken by former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf. This was not the result of a national debate or of any “political and economic imperatives” but of what Musharraf saw as the “imperatives” of his own domestic political ambitions. He said that since Musharraf’s ouster from power, his policies on Kashmir had been continued by the current government. The decision to grant MFN status to India was the latest act in a gradual retreat from Pakistan’s policy of treating Kashmir as the core issue. He further said that it was also significant that the decision to normalise trade relations with India had been accompanied by reports of moves to resume the back-channel dialogue on Kashmir started by Musharaf to pursue his “four-point plan” for a Kashmir settlement. He strongly disagreed with the argument that the people of Kashmir were tired of waging a freedom struggle as alienation of the Kashmiri people with Indian rule remained deep and the urge for freedom had not been diminished. Ezdi also disagreed with the arguments that the burden of defence expenditure on Pakistan was unbearable and that Pakistan would benefit from economic engagement with India, as according to him Pakistan’s defence expenditure had to be assessed not in isolation but in the light of the security threats the country faces. Threat from India had not vanished, he pointed out. The benefits of sidelining Kashmir, Ezdi argued, were extremely dubious. India gave Pakistan MFN status in 1996. Despite this, Pakistan’s exports to India remained stuck at a level of about $200 million to $350 million during the last five years.