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On ‘Pax Vobiscum’

Pakistan wants respite from war-like situation with neighbouring India. Islamabad, instead, wants to ensure peace in South Asia by resolving outstanding issues with New Delhi. Offering Peace Talks to India, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif (b. September 23, 1951), the Prime Minister of Pakistan, recently said that he was ready to hold “serious and sincere” talks on the Kashmir issue with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

Kashmir, often called the Heaven on Earth, has been the root cause of conflict between the two South Asian nations for the past 75 years (since the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947). Pakistan and India engaged in clashes many times over the rights of this piece of land. Thousands of Army, Air Force and Navy personnel lost their lives in those clashes. In an interview with a Dubai-based Arabic news channel in the third week of January 2023, Prime Minister Sharif said: “We have had three wars with India, and they have only brought more misery, poverty and unemployment to the people. We have learnt our lesson, and we want to live in peace with India, provided we are able to resolve our genuine problems.

The Pakistani premier stressed: “My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Modi is that let’s sit down on the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning points, like Kashmir. It is up to us to live peacefully and make progress or quarrel with each other and waste time and resources.

It may be noted that Pakistan has been facing a severe financial crisis for the last one year. The crisis has also triggered a terrible food crisis. Foreign Policy experts are of the opinion that the financial crisis might have prompted Prime Minister Sharif to offer Peace Talks to India. That is why he expressed serious concern over poverty and unemployment in Pakistan while talking to the Dubai-based news channel. As the Pakistani Economy is facing the worst crisis ever in history, the leaders of the country are apprehensive of the fact that they might end up becoming the next Sri Lanka in Asia.

When asked whether it is really possible for the two countries to resolve decades-old issues, Prime Minister Sharif replied: “India is our neighbouring country, we are neighbours. Let’s be very blunt, even if we are not neighbours by choice, we are there for ever and it is up to us for us to live peacefully and make progress or quarrel with each other and waste time and resources. That is up to us.” He added: “Both the countries have engineers, doctors, and skilled labourers. We want to utilise these assets for prosperity and to bring peace to the region so that both nations can grow.

Meanwhile, India is not giving much importance to Pak Prime Minister Sharif’s proposal. Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, has said that India always wanted normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. However, the pre-condition exists should be an atmosphere free from terror and violence for such ties. A couple of days after Sharif’s remarks about maintaining “good relations” with India, Bagchi told the local media in New Delhi: “We have seen the comment by the (Pakistani) Prime Minister. We have also seen, after that, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) made certain remarks. We reiterate our position that we always desire normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan, but there should be a conducive atmosphere which should not include terror, hostility or violence.

Bagchi further said that Prime Minister Sharif’s proposal was not unconditional, as the latter mentioned that talks would only be possible, if India agreed to abrogate Article 370 (of the Indian Constitution) from Kashmir. According to the spokesperson, India knows very well that the Pakistani politicians, fundamentalists, Army and ISI will never agree to improve relations with India. Naturally, it is not possible for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to give importance to the offer made by the Pakistani PM. New Delhi also believes that Islamabad has not learnt any lessons from the three wars, else Pakistan would not have helped the Taliban return to Power in Afghanistan in 2021.

Interestingly, a recent survey has found that a majority of Indians view the US and Russia as most friendly nations, and Pakistan and China as least friendly.

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