ISLAMABAD: Renowned British historian, Professor Ian Talbot, urged the Government of Pakistan to explore its relations with the EU for facilitating a dialogue with India on Kashmir.
He was speaking at a webinar organized by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) here on Wednesday.
Prof Talbot cautioned, however, that any external actor could only facilitate a dialogue process for which there was a will on both sides. He spoke about the greater possibility of a role for the EU in Kashmir in the context of Brexit. He was of the view that the EU could no longer pass on the responsibility related to issues like Kashmir to Great Britain and British external influence had diminished since Brexit.
The author of A History of Modern South Asia and Pakistan: A New History regretted that the immense potential of South Asia was held hostage to India-Pakistan rivalry. He called Kashmir the core issue and flashpoint in the relations between India and Pakistan and, therefore, called for its resolution. He also termed it multidimensional and multi-layered and, thus, difficult to resolve.
Prof Talbot urged greater involvement of Kashmiris in any dialogue process on the future of Kashmir and alleviation of their plight to help in easing some of the fixed stances on the Indian and Pakistani sides. “Any resolution has to be acceptable to the Kashmiris,” he said. However, he expressed his concern over the lack of trust and political will in the two capitals to move past the status quo on Kashmir.
Prof Talbot was of the view that the volatility in India-Pakistan relations had increased since the coming into power of the more belligerent BJP government in India and some other developments in the region like the uncertainty arising out of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Indo-Chinese border tensions, and the Indo-US partnership for containment of China. He urged the Government of Pakistan to take the initiative in resolving outstanding disputes with India, especially Kashmir. He called for what he called ‘ring fencing’ of the Kashmir dispute.
Commenting on the 5 August 2019 actions of the Indian government on Kashmir, Prof Talbot thought that India had created an untenable situation for itself as well as the people of Kashmir with those changes. He called for creating conditions for India and Pakistan to work together on common challenges such as climate change, pandemic response, etc. “There has got to be opportunities for working together to get past the longstanding divides,” he added.
Dr Shaheen Akhtar of the National Defence University also agreed with Prof Talbot on the need for India and Pakistan to work together on common challenges but regretted the obstinacy of the Indian government coming in the way of normalization of relations between the two countries.
Dr Salma Malik of Quaid-i-Azam University also highlighted the common challenges faced by all countries of South Asia and underscored the importance of including the people of Kashmir in all conversations about Kashmir. “Kashmir is the lynchpin to the entire peace paradigm in South Asia,” she said. She maintained that ideals like a people-centric approach and low-hanging fruits had become hostage to the hardliners on both sides. She termed India since the coming into power of Prime Minister Modi as very different from India before that and expressed her concerns about the lasting impact of the BJP rule on the Indian state and society. “Constituencies of hatred have gotten really deeply entrenched in India now,” she said.
President IRS Ambassador Nadeem Riyaz regretted the stalemate in the India-Pakistan relations, especially after the revocation of the special status of Kashmir under the Indian Constitution on 5 August 2019. He reiterated that Pakistan desired cordial relations with all its neighbouring countries, including India. He regretted, however, that the political will to resolve disputes with Pakistan was lacking on the Indian side.