New Delhi, August 13: Former Pakistan Ambassador to India Abdul Basit said on Friday he is not hopeful about the improvement in India-Pakistan relationship currently and the two countries can move forward only when they develop the courage to take difficult decisions.
“I am not very hopeful, under the given circumstances, about this relationship. We may have — one year down the road — some process in place but unless there is some desire to move forward decisively, there is simply no room for any improvement in relationship,” he stated.
“We have seen our hostility reflect also in Afghanistan,” Basit said during a webinar titled ‘India-Pakistan: Is there a way forward?’, which was organised by think tank Global Counter Terrorism Council (GCTC).
“How ironic it is that in Doha, Qatar is forced to arrange two separate meetings where India and Pakistan are present. It has come to this pass that our two countries cannot sit in a meeting — where both the countries are present — related to Afghanistan,” Basit mentioned.
India had on Thursday joined a regional conclave hosted by Qatar in Doha to discuss ways to contain the escalating situation in Afghanistan in the backdrop of the Taliban’s continued offensive across the country.
Basit said that as India and the US are fostering their strategic partnership, Pakistan, obviously, has a strategic partnership with China.
“That is negatively affecting Pakistan-India dynamics as well,” he added.
Calling the current situation “demoralising”, Basit said South Asia would remain hostage to Pakistan-India hostility.
“We will not be able to take advantage of the opportunities unleashed by globalisation. It is so unfortunate that intra-regional trade continues to be under 5 per cent,” he stated.
Basit said he has come to the conclusion that no matter which approach is adopted at the end of the day, Pakistan-India relations will continue to be hostage to mutual hostility unless and until “we found solutions to our core problems — and there I must mention the Jammu and Kashmir dispute”.
He said some people do not agree with him and they still believe perhaps the best way forward is to take baby steps, and try to have a congenial environment through confidence-building measures, people-to-people contacts, cultural relations, economic relations, etc.
“But our experience tells us we have tried all these things in the past and nothing has really worked, so much so that we tried confidence-building measures related to Kashmir in 2005-2007. Even those confidence-building measures have unravelled over time,” he mentioned.
He said there is no appetite left in Pakistan to really “engage with India for talks for the sake of talks” particularly after the steps taken by India on August 5, 2019, in relation to Jammu and Kashmir.
The Narendra Modi government had on August 5, 2019 revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the erstwhile state into Union territories.
“Though there have been some back channel interactions, and we saw as a result of that, there was recommitment to the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC). But…we are again searching for possibilities.” Basit mentioned.
Following talks between the Directors-General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan over a hotline, a joint statement was issued on February 25, 2021, in which the two countries agreed to the strict observance of all agreements, understandings and ceasefire along the LoC and all other sectors with effect from the February 24-25 midnight, 2021.
There is no doubt that diplomacy is the art of the possible, he said.
“But unless there is a mutual desire, political will and the two sides must have courage to take decisive difficult decisions, I do not see as to how the two countries can move forward,” he noted. (PTI)