As a follow up to my last post, yesterday, a fascinating article was published in the American Enterprise Institute’s journal, The American. Author Apoorva Shah emphasizes that an accord between India and Pakistan was just a “signature away” from transforming dreams of peace between the nuclear-armed states into reality.
Excerpts from the article:
According to an interview in the Indian newspaper with former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, India and Pakistan in 2007 were days away from reaching a comprehensive accord on their territorial dispute over Kashmir, the axis of the countries’ six-decade-long rivalry and casus belli of three wars between the two nations
The accord was slated to be signed during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Islamabad in February and March of 2007, but before the trip ever occurred, a country-wide lawyers’ protest in Pakistan had turned into a broader opposition campaign against General Musharraf. The rest of the year would be one of the most tumultuous in Pakistan’s history, marked by the siege of the Red Mosque in July, the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in October and her subsequent assassination in December, and the return of popular leader Nawaz Sharif from exile in September. By August of the following year, public opposition had peaked, and Musharraf was forced to resign his post as president, ending his decade-long tenure as leader of Pakistan. After Musharraf’s ouster, it appears that the deal had lost much of its momentum.
It is a sign of hope because, despite the outward appearance of discord between the countries, internally, leaders on both sides have—at least at some point in recent memory—wanted to move forward on a resolution. As Pakistan continues its domestic offensive against terrorists and India pursues closer economic engagement with its northern neighbor, wanting change may be the best sign that change is on the way.
Perhaps sustainable peace between India and Pakistan may not be such a lofty, long-term goal after all? If this deal was close to success just three years ago — albeit three especially chaotic years within Pakistan itself as well as in regards to Pakistan-India relations — then there are glimmers of hope that trust building efforts and behind-the-scenes talks could engender the environment necessary to set the stage for the long-awaited signatures. Would this mean the end to any and all disputes between India and Pakistan? Hardly. But such an accord would be absolutely integral toward regional security, undercutting the most substantial source of enmity between the two states, and would also pave the way for a more stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
As always, however, there are moving pieces in this game. Just as was apparently the case in 2007, a number of factors could derail a potential agreement even when it was about to be signed. But I think what gives me the most hope is, as Shah underscores, the vast majority of key stake holders on both sides — even the Pakistan Military — were on board and wanted the deal to happen.