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When India was growing economically, Pakistan was reeling from one crisis after another

by Kamran Yousaf

After Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s retirement, several stories about key developments that took place during his 6-year term have surfaced. One revelation that was really fascinating was how Gen Bajwa pushed for rapprochement with India during his second term as an Army Chief. Senior journalist Javed Chaudhry, who recently met Gen Bajwa, disclosed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to travel to Pakistan in April 2021 as part of efforts to open a new chapter of friendly relationship between the two nuclear armed neighbours.

The visit was organised following a series of backchannel discussions between then-DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. These efforts resulted in the renewal of a ceasefire agreement between the two countries along the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir area in February 2021. The announcement was unexpected given that neither country had held formal talks. After many years, both sides released simultaneous comments in Islamabad and New Delhi. The development ran counter to the two countries’ relationship, especially when India unilaterally abolished the disputed Kashmir region’s special status in August 2019. Pakistan reacted by downgrading diplomatic ties and suspending bilateral trade with India. However, as part of a confidence-building strategy,

But, first, consider whether the idea was in Pakistan’s best interests. Without a question, Pakistan’s position on Kashmir has eroded significantly over the years as a result of our own mistakes. There was a period when India officially recognised that Kashmir is a disputed area that requires a final resolution. India does not even recognise this in public. When Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee made a historic visit to Lahore in 1998, after the two countries went nuclear, Pakistan might have negotiated a far better deal on Kashmir. Vajpayee agreed to settle the lingering conflict. The two countries had agreed to hold a joint dialogue, but then Kargil happened. Even after the military

Indeed, the peace process from 2004 to 2007 was regarded as the most optimistic for settling the Kashmir conflict. The two governments even exchanged non-papers outlining a strategy for resolving the continuing issue. In 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was scheduled to visit Pakistan to seal deals on Siachen and Sir Creek. However, Musharraf’s decision to fire then-Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry sparked a lawyers’ uprising that resulted in the military ruler’s demise. The November 2008 Mumbai attacks ended any hope of a reconciliation between the two countries. Following that, the two countries attempted to restart the peace process, but India had already entered into a strategic alliance with the US, and its growing economic weight meant that

Let us not forget that when India was developing economically, Pakistan was experiencing crisis after crisis. Because of this, Gen Bajwa believed that a thaw with India was required in order to focus on reviving the economy. It may sound controversial, even traitorous, to some, but Pakistan will have to halt conversations on Kashmir for the time being in order to first clean up its own house.

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