Will India-Pakistan tensions rise in the run up to 2019 elections?
There is a need to arrest the steep deterioration in India-Pakistan ties. It’s playing out everywhere, on the Line of Control, in the media, and recently, in the context of the visit of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family.
We need to take cognisance of where the malaise is, instead of trying to pass value judgements, like is being done in India on Pakistan’s humanitarian gesture to grant a meeting with Jadhav to his mother and wife. The Indian media’s furious reaction is completely uncalled for. The event is being perceived in a light that wasn’t intended.
This was a special gesture made by Pakistan. Both ladies were enabled to meet Jadhav in the Foreign Ministry and not behind bars in a prison. They were extended due courtesies. The visit and its dynamics were coordinated with the Indian side. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has subsequently spoken in a manner that wasn’t warranted.
There are two issues here: one is the media and the other is the official message. India and Pakistan certainly need better communication at the official level. Let’s not score propaganda points through the media. It is childish and smacks of immaturity, I mean the media rhetoric. There is no problem that cannot be resolved. There is a communication gap that must be bridged.
Here are other sharp perspectives on the question:
It would have been better if these matters had been adequately worked out in advance on the level of the Indian and Pakistan High Commissions. We could have avoided the accusations that have followed. A sincere gesture on the part of Pakistan has either been misunderstood or is being deliberately distorted — that is most unfortunate.
As to electoral politics, elections cannot be an excuse to allow relations to slide. The institutional connect between Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and India’s Ministry of External Affairs should endure, and not be a subject of domestic political expediencies.
The election in each country, state or general, will happen. It is a mistake to play the Pakistan card for electoral purposes. By indulging in rhetoric for political purposes, Indian political parties reduce their space for working with Pakistan, even if they win.
I have deep respect for ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was sincere about improving the India-Pakistan relationship. The process seemed to be attaining maturity. But since the change of government in India, it has fallen apart.
Pakistan-India issues have become a media show for gaining TRPs for television channels. This needs to change. We need to create more space in each other’s capitals for better dialogue and communication.
Salman Bashir is a Pakistani diplomat who served as the former high commissioner to India.