By Yasmeen Ali
Since the creation of Pakistan, in 1947, India and Pakistan have followed a rocky path so far as relationship between both countries are concerned. Whereas, there is a group that would like to see the hatchet buried and both the countries move forward towards a more friendly footing, the fact remains that the present is nothing if not a continuation of the past. The future is nothing if not a continuation of the present.
There can be no doubt that both the countries can mutually benefit from economic co operation .However, political considerations have traditionally restricted trade with India. There are many issues that have worked towards creating a trust deficit between both countries. The core issue of course, is Kashmir. This has led to creation of other issues which have led to further relationship complications.
Kashmir is the origin point for many rivers and tributaries of the Indus River basin. They include Jhelum and Chenab which primarily flow into Pakistan while other branches – the Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej irrigate northern India. Pakistan has been apprehensive that in a dire need, India (under whose portion of Kashmir lies the origins and passage of the said rivers) would use its strategic advantage and withhold the flow and thus choke the agrarian economy of Pakistan. The Boundary Award of 1947 meant that the headwaters of Pakistani irrigation systems were in Indian Territory. The Indus Waters Treaty signed in 1960 addressed this issue. However, recently, we saw India in violation of this treaty, with India building dams on Jhelum, Chenab and Indus. Bringing up the question in a video interview, Secretary Clinton(March 23, 2010), whether the United States would be expected to play a more active and a more robust diplomacy between India and Pakistan on the issue of water, Secretary Clinton stated that what they can do is to help Pakistan make better use of the water than before. This included capturing more rainwater, how to use less of it to produce more crops.
My question is: Who will call to book India for violating the Indus Water Treaty 1960 with India building 62 water storage dams on Chenab only?
Will the Foreign Secretaries in Islamabad be discussing this? Both Rao and Bashir have been tasked by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani to find ways to bridge the trust deficit and prepare the ground for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers on July 15.Rao underlines that the core concern of terrorism was high on her list of priorities. What about Pakistan’s list of priorities?
In an interview with Joe Klien of Time magazine in October 2008 Barack Obama expressed his intention to try to work with India and Pakistan to resolve this crisis in a serious way. In July 2009 US Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake, Jr. stated categorically that United States had no plans of appointing any special envoy to settle the long standing dispute of Kashmir between India and Pakistan calling it an issue which needs to be sorted out bilaterally by the two neighboring states. Can this be interpreted as endorsing India’s position? Dawn Newspaper, thinks it does(US to sign $20 billion Defence Accords with India: 2009-07-17).
That there exists a trust deficit between the two neighboring countries, there is no doubt. But there has to be a will to solve these issues. Simple lip service leads nowhere. In an atmosphere of back stabbing, the project like Aman Ki Asha has failed to make a headway. This was predictable. With one side refusing to address or even acknowledge a core issue, what peace is possible? How can a country go forward confident of the sincerity of the other? Aman Ki Asha can use lyrics by Gulzar, but it has not succeeded in making place in the hearts of the Pakistanis.
India’s increased interference in Afghanistan has not sat well with Pakistan.Pakistan is wary of the number of Indian missions in Afghanistan . It is widely believed, that these are used to spread unrest within Pakistan’s borders.
Issues must be addressed if the two countries are to work together for the mutual benefit of the region. Issues cannot be wished away. Issues cannot be brushed under the carpet . We cannot behave like the proverbial ostrich and bury our cumulative heads in sand while the doves of Aman Ki Asha sing …..what? Gulzar’s lyrics?
Yasmeen Ali is teaching in Beacon House National University, Lahore. She owns and manages her own blogs.