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Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir

Indo-Pak relations remain key to regional stability and progress

India

Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir

MNA Editorial Desk: India, we all must agree, is the most important and most powerful neighbour and ally of Bangladesh. Even before our inception in 1971, India had play some crucial roles in the liberation, restoration, development and progression of Bangladesh. Especially in South Asia, no country can ignore the importance of India and its economy not only due to its vastness and power but also for its significant development in terms of matching with the modern world. Hence, the government and its orientations are very important for the neighbouring countries as we are standing at less than a month of the next general election of India.

The 2019 Indian general election is scheduled to be held in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May 2019 to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha. The counting of votes will be conducted on 23 May, and on the same day the results will be declared. The whole world will eye on this election due to India’s prospect of becoming one of the major economies and powers in the upcoming years.

Despite these facts, there are still some unsettled issues having impact over the relationship of these two neighbours. Since Narendra Modi came into power as the Prime Minister of India in 2014, Bangladesh opted for soliciting few of these issues but unfortunately that did not happen though the friendship remained intact. We are eagerly eyeing for mutually benefitting relations between the two countries along with regional stability after the next general elections of India.

The BJP government which came into power in 2014 on promises of Uniform Civil Code, Article 377, Ram Mandir by fooling gullible Hindus, bring back black money from foreign banks equivalent to 15 lakhs per Indian, reducing inflation etc. has totally failed to keep its promises. Common people of India do not give importance to foreign acclamation or foreign acknowledgement or appreciation. Rather they care about what changes the current government has brought in their life.

Four and a half years later, what a common Indian people see is – rise in inflation, farmers still committing suicides, BJP government increasing religion based appeasement schemes, no change in electricity supplies for agriculture, increase in fuel prices and many things else which is harming the popularity of the current government. Moreover, the current clash between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issues has created severe disputes in the region and many are terming it as an election time stunt of the BJP government.

Often called one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, Kashmir has been at the root of two large-scale wars and one limited conflict between India and Pakistan since the August 1947 partition. Tensions between the countries escalated in the 1990s with a rise in militancy in the Indian-administered region. The two countries started a peace process in 2004 that explored options such as increasing trade and greater people-to-people contact across the disputed border but talks have been plagued by political crises in Pakistan and terrorist attacks in India.

There is little doubt that normalized relations between India and Pakistan, including a regionally acceptable settlement on Kashmir, would offer tremendous benefits to the South Asian economy. Indo-Pak tensions are especially dangerous because they bring two nuclear states toe-to-toe. Thus, the long-standing dispute over Kashmir is one part of a wider regional dynamics.

Indo-Pak relationship has been very crucial in the region’s stability. India with its huge economy, population and size is looking over the shoulders of so many countries of the developed world for quite a while as many considers it as the next superpower.

Though it has both pros and cons, this global positioning of India is making this region ever most important in the global politics. But to sustain this progression, stability in Indo-Pak relation is going to be vital especially due to the balance in the power of these two conflicting neighbors and Kashmir has always been the key to raising conflicts between the two nations.

Pakistan’s political right and Islamic elements take advantage of troubled India-Pakistan relations-especially the non-resolution of the Kashmir conflict. The Pakistan government finds it difficult to take a firm action against these trouble creating militant groups when India-Pakistan relations are marked by high-level hostility and India is publicly demanding action against these groups. Improved India-Pakistan relations and resolution of major disputes, including Kashmir, will make these militant groups irrelevant and increase the Pakistani government’s ability to restrain them. Any conflict between India and Pakistan sparked by the dispute could escalate into a catastrophic nuclear war.

For Kashmir, the conflict has been a great tragedy and a disaster in all respects – a large death toll; human rights abuses; displaced citizens; devastated economy; serious environmental damage; massive military build-up and severe psychological distress. The main features of the proposed solution, developed in consultation with the parties, is based on the establishment of truly self-governing entities on both sides of the present Line of Control; guarantees of human and civil rights for the culturally diverse populations and especially minorities and all parties commitment to demilitarization and the relinquishing of hostility.

India and Pakistan need to engage in composite bilateral talks on all important issues. Recurrent tensions over Kashmir will undercut any initiative to bring stability to South Asia as well as perpetuate the risk of a nuclear war. Tensions are running high between India and Pakistan following a suicide attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy last month, which killed 42 soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir. The suicide attack, the deadliest in 30 years of Kashmir conflict and claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad, escalated into a massive standoff between the two South Asian nuclear powers. On February 26, 12 days after the attack, Indian fighter jets bombed inside Pakistani territory, claiming to have hit a camp belonging to the armed group and eliminating many rebels or militants.

The worst part of this recent incident is apparently false claims from Indian side. Their claim of killing militants with air strikes could not be proven in front of the world. It was identified as a stunt statement from the Modi government which suddenly found a weapon to influence the results of the upcoming elections.

For last few months the current BJP government was in an uncomfortable position. Rahul Gandhi led Congress party has found new vigor on the face of several failures of the Modi government. Moreover, position of popular leaders like former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati and Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee is adding fuel to this discomfort along with Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into the national politics. Priyanka is being considered as one of the trump cards of possible Congress victory in the upcoming election.

Modi government apparently tried to utilize the escalated patriotism of the Indian citizens over the Pulwama attack. But truly they have failed again to draw any significant benefit from this incident. Rather Pakistan has acted maturely and showed friendly gestures by releasing the captured Indian jet pilot. Hence, possibly India will have a new and different government in May.

The whole sub-continent along with the world will have focus on the outcome of the upcoming Indian general election. Progression of this whole region gets highly influenced by the Indian economic and foreign relations policies. Bangladesh also has always acknowledged the contribution of India in this region’s overall progression.

But despite being ally and a great friend few critical issues between Bangladesh and India like Teesta barrage issue and visa-free transit issue was not settled till now. We must acknowledge the fact that India is one of the most important economic partners of Bangladesh and the Modi government has taken different initiatives to improve this relationship in the past few years but their muteness on some issues like; Rohingya crisis slightly questions the depth of friendship between these two countries.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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