The year 20201 began on an unexpectedly positive note between Indo-Pak relations with a ceasefire agreement in February. But, the hopes soon vanished. So, what will 2022 bring for the two nations?
People were hopeful that the ceasefire agreement was made even though there had been no formal dialogues. Still, there is hope that the new year of 2022 shall bring some opportunities for constructive and formal discussions. Some pessimists argue that there is no hope for a positive attitude towards India by Pakistan.
There are also suggestions made that India and Pakistan should celebrate their 75th year of Independence and partition together to establish peaceful relations in the future. But, cynics say that these ideal thoughts are too good to be true because the hostility between India and Pakistan is far from getting better.
We again come to the question: will the relations of Pakistan and India change for the better in 2022?
At present, several regional and global events have a vital impact on frozen Indo-Pak relations. Six years ago in this last week of December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a sudden and unplanned visit to Pakistan. He landed in Lahore on the special invitation of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The occasion was special because it was PM Nawaz Sharif’s birthday and an important family wedding. It was the perfect backdrop for constructive talks for the relationship between both countries. The event was a big international development and the event set expectations for positive Indo-Pak relations in the Future.
Soon, the two leaders again met at Ufa, Russia, on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July 2015. Both leaders made attempts to initiate constructive and healthy India-Pakistan relations. Before that, Former PM Nawaz Sharif had visited Delhi and attended the swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.
Despite that both the leaders shared one aspect in common. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Pakistan Nawaz Sharif both were elected in their respective countries with a big mandate. They were eager to establish good bilateral relations for a better future that would create history. However, soon things turned upside down.
After the Lahore visit, a major terror attack took place in India’s Pathankot on New Year eve of 2016. The Indian PM invited the Pakistan intelligence officers to join the Indian intelligence officers for investigation of the matter. But, the Pakistani counterparts did not display much enthusiasm in pursuing terrorists supported by Pakistan itself.
A few years later, the big Uri attack on Indian Army brigade headquarters was made in 2016. India answered the attack with a surgical strike by the Indian Army in Pakistan’s Terror camps. The event strained the relations of both the countries and India became more hostile to PM Nawaz Sharif. In return, he called out to rethink the support of Pakistan towards terrorists and re-establish good relations with neighbouring countries. He was often called out as ‘Modi ka Yaar’ but then he was ousted from power in 2017.
If we look back, whenever India and Pakistan have tried to establish good relation, the attempt has been met with Terrorist attacks in India that further strained the relationship. The attempts were made by PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he went to Pakistan and started a bus service between the two countries. But, it was met with the Kargil war in 1999. Then, the efforts by PM Modi were met by URI attacks.
The issues of cross-border terrorism, conversion, and attacks on minorities with infiltration attempts on borders have been the priority issues for India. Whereas, Kashmir has been the top issue for Pakistan. India has also pointed out the possession of POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) by Pakistan as illegal.
In 2018, Imran Khan became the new PM of Pakistan. He was a popular figure in the Asian subcontinent from his days in cricket, and he claimed that he knows India better than others. He expressed his confidence in establishing good relations with PM Modi if he was reelected in 2019. Still, he seemed to have less knowledge about the history and ties of the relation between both the nations.
But, February 2019 was marked with the severe Pulwama Attack. This time India reacted more strongly with Balakot Airstrike. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reelected with a bigger mandate this time. The stronger BJP and NDA government made constitutional changes for J & K scrapping Article 370 that provides Special status to the state. This irked the Pakistani government, and it expressed its outrage with an international campaign to make Diplomatic pressure on India for reversing the change. There was no result of this policy and this strained the relationship of PM Imran Khan with PM Narendra Modi.
India surprised the world in February 2021 with a ceasefire agreement renewing the 2003 ceasefire that was more breached in recent years. It was formalized by the Director-General of Military Operations in the two army headquarters.
The increasing military confrontation between India and China is a good enough reason to stabilize Indo-Pak relations. But, India’s relations with Pakistan shall be about Islamabad addressing Delhi’s core concerns on cross-border terrorism.
Islamabad itself is considering a rethinking over its case with Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The Army chief Highlighted the need for Pakistan to stay away from geopolitics to geoeconomics that will revitalize the nation’s economic development. He further said that it is important for India and Pakistan to bury their past and look ahead. He insisted on the need for India to establish a conducive environment in Kashmir for successful engagement.
After the Taliban Takeover, Pakistan was one of the ardent supporters of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Whereas, India has always stressed Democracy and democratic government in Afghanistan. India has still not expressed its support to the Taliban Government. Pakistan also denied the use of its Airspace for the newly started Srinagar-Sharjah flight by GoFirst (earlier GoAir) in November. There is still discussion for the clearance of Pakistan to use Airspace because there are 11 international air routes from Pakistan. It means in the case of Airspace closure, flights have to take a bigger route, one-stop schedule, higher fuel consumption, and higher flight costs. There are losses to both nations.
Initially, the Pakistan Airspace was closed for all Indian flights. However, the Pakistani Authorities permitted PM Modi’s flight to overfly its territory as he headed to Europe to attend the G20 and COP26 summits.
For Pakistan, Kashmir is the top issue, and it also eyes on opening the commercial ties between the two nations. Pakistan has expressed the intention to import sugar and cotton from India. But, this decision of the Commerce Ministry was reversed by Prime Minister Imran Khan by declaring that “Pakistan can’t trade with India when Kashmir is bleeding”.
Although there are dialogues at the back channels, Islamabad is still adamant about formal preconditions that include the demand to reverse the constitutional changes in Kashmir. There is no surety whether the Pakistani authorities can get an internal consensus to make terms of engagement with Indian authorities.
However, the New Year comes with new hopes. The second term of Army chief General Bajwa ends in November amidst increasing civil-military differences. The tenure of Pakistan PM is up to 2023. But, it is difficult for him to continue through 2022 due to multiple crises affecting Pakistan and his government’s growing unpopularity. There are some speculations on the return of former PM Nawaz Sharif from Exile. He can step up the political confrontation with the Imran Khan government.
The PM-Modi-led government has a complete majority and there are no threats to Stability in India. Still, there are reservations to engaging in conversations with Pakistan owing to the ideology of the Pakistani government. In any situation, if Pakistan wants to have talks with India, it will have to lift the preconditions for engagement with India. If this happens then the Indian government should be ready to talk about this year’s ceasefire agreement.
From all points of view, the Indo-Pak relations shall be mixed and confusing in 2022. In between, there are gradual structural modifications in both the countries internally and externally that can impact the bilateral relationship between the countries. This can alter the traditional terms of Indo-Pak relations.