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Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?
Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Ouster: Tests at Home and Away
Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Ouster: Tests at Home and Away
Report 224 / Asia

Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?

Their recent dialogue process provides the best chance yet for bilateral peace and regional stability, but Pakistan and India must still overcome serious mistrust among hardliners in their security elites.

Executive Summary

In March 2011, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government resumed the composite dialogue with India, with the rapid pace of its economic liberalisation program demonstrating political will to normalise bilateral relations. The November 2011 decision to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by the end of 2012 is not merely an economic concession but also a significant political gesture. Departing from Pakistan’s traditional position, the democratic government no longer insists on linking normalisation of relations with resolution of the Kashmir dispute. India no longer insists on making such normalisation conditional on demonstrable Pakistani efforts to rein in India-oriented jihadi groups, particularly the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and hence suspension of the composite dialogue. The two countries need to build on what they have achieved, notably in promising economic areas, to overcome still serious suspicion among hardliners in their security elites and sustain a process that is the best chance they have had for bilateral peace and regional stability.

Within Pakistan, the normalisation process enjoys broad political support, including from the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz, PML-N), the largest opposition party. Viewing liberalised trade with India as in Pakistan’s economic interest, the PML-N also believes that broader economic ties would provide a more conducive environment to address longstanding disputes like Kashmir.

Liberalised trade, stronger commercial links and deeper bilateral economic investment would strengthen moderate forces in Pakistan’s government, political parties, business community and civil society. Yet, an effective integration of the two economies would only be possible if Pakistani and Indian traders, business representatives and average citizens could travel more freely across borders. For this, the stringent visa regime must be relaxed, including by significantly reducing processing times, granting multiple-entry visas, eliminating police reporting requirements and removing limits on cities authorised and the obligation for entry and exit from the same point.

However, Pakistan’s ability to broaden engagement with India and move beyond Kashmir depends on a sustained democratic transition, with elected leaders gaining control over foreign and security policy from the military. Pakistan must also counter anti-India oriented, military-backed extremist groups. These include the LeT – banned after the 2011 attacks on the Indian parliament but re-emerging as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD) – as well as the Jaish-e-Mo­hammad and similarly aligned outfits. A powerful military, deeply hostile towards India, still supports such groups and backs the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC, Defa-e-Pakistan Council), a new alliance of jihadi outfits and radical Islamic and other parties aligned with the military that seeks to derail the dialogue process.

Within India, with suspicions of Pakistani intentions still high, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has limited political support for talks that do not prioritise the terrorist threat. Another Mumbai-style attack by a Pakistan-based jihadi group would make such a dialogue untenable. It could also provoke a military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Meanwhile New Delhi’s heavy-handed suppression of dissent and large military footprint in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) alienates Kashmiris, undermines Pakistani constituencies for peace and emboldens jihadi groups and hardliners in the military and civil bureaucracies.

There are numerous other impediments. Water disputes, for example, could place the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) of 1960, which has successfully regulated the distribution of a precious resource between the two countries for over five decades, under greater strain. India, with its larger population and mushrooming energy requirements, uses much more of the shared waters, and its domestic needs are rising, while Pakistan depends increasingly on them for its agriculture. With India constructing several dams in the Indus River Basin, the Pakistani military and jihadi groups now identify water disputes as a core issue, along with Kashmir, that must be resolved if relations are to be normalised.

Islamabad/Brussels, 3 May 2012

Podcast / Asia

Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Ouster: Tests at Home and Away

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Crisis Group trustee and leading South Asia expert Ahmed Rashid talk about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster, and the domestic and foreign policy challenges facing his successor, Shahbaz Sharif. 

On 10 April, Pakistani legislators passed a no-confidence vote that ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government. The vote capped weeks of political turbulence, as a coalition of rival parties accused Khan’s government of chronic mismanagement amidst an intense economic crisis fuelled by soaring inflation. Khan has not gone quietly. Parliamentarians from his party walked out of the National Assembly in protest at the vote and thousands of furious supporters have taken to the streets. Khan accuses his successor Shahbaz Sharif of abetting a foreign conspiracy aimed at toppling him. 

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined from Lahore by acclaimed author, journalist and Crisis Group trustee Ahmed Rashid to talk about Pakistan’s political crisis, what it might mean for the country's stability and challenges for the Sharif government. They discuss Khan’s response to his ouster and how disruptive a force his movement might be in the months ahead. They look at his apparent fall from grace with the chiefs of Pakistan’s powerful military. They discuss the dilemmas facing Sharif, particularly, reviving a floundering economy, navigating relations with the military and containing rising Islamist militancy, all the while managing coalition politics. They also talk about the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on a difficult foreign policy agenda: repairing relations with Western capitals, keeping China on board and managing what appeared to be warming ties to Moscow, alongside the traditionally bitter rivalry with India and complicated relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Pakistan country page and make sure to read our recent Q&A, “Imran Khan’s Fall: Political and Security Implications for Pakistan” , and our report, “Pakistan’s Hard Policy Choices in Afghanistan”.

Contributors

Executive Vice President
atwoodr
Ahmed Rashid
Board Member, Author and Foreign Policy Journalist