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'Significant headway due to thaw in India-Pakistan relations'

Monday September 10, 2012 12:36:47 PM, IANS

Islamabad: Significant headway has been made in the past two years due to the thaw in the India-Pakistan relations, a leading Pakistani daily said Monday.

"Ever since India re-engaged in dialogue over two years ago, significant headway has been made on various issues - principally trade and investment," Moeed Yusuf, South Asia adviser at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, wrote in the Dawn.

Even though it was "entirely premature" to talk about normalisation of India-Pakistan ties, "there are certain variables which make the present as good a time as ever to make this happen", he said.

Islamabad's growing internal weakness and limited diplomatic options - courtesy largely the soured relations with the US - implied that it was "fairly desperate" to cool off on the eastern front.

Pakistan has thus "come around" to India's longstanding demand of moving along on economic ties while other issues are dealt with at their own pace, the writer said.

"This is different from the early Composite Dialogue days when Pakistan's economy was doing fairly well and in an odd way, Musharraf's team believed it was India that had realised after the 2001-02 crisis that it had no option but to find a middle ground on Kashmir."

The discussion at that time focussed more on Kashmir, he said.

Pakistan now seems to be "seeking a genuine re-pivot of its foreign policy priorities".

The past three years have seen a "visible effort" to intensify regional diplomacy and reach out to India, Iran, the Central Asian republics and even Russia.

"While none of this can substitute the importance of a healthy Pakistan-US relationship, it does imply that the move to open up to India is grounded in a deeper shift in orientation," the opinion piece said.

The energy crisis has also been a major factor.

"Pakistan and India will continue to face acute energy shortages and neither can make do without bilateral cooperation on this front," the writer said.

There has also been a lot of chatter about regional connectivity in South Asia and the potential for Pakistan as a transit state - included of course, transit to and from India.

The writer also said New Delhi has been "very careful not to say anything on Kashmir" that would allow detractors in Pakistan to blame the government for giving up on the issue.

"As for India, it is sitting pretty in a lot of ways and thus the compulsions are not nearly as strong."

The earlier cliches that India realises it can't reach the global stage till it resolves its disputes with Pakistan, that India wants to help Pakistan stabilise, or that India hurts due to Pakistan-linked terrorism and thus has no option but to engage, have been missing, he said.

"The real pull for Indian involvement is simple -- after years, the dice has rolled unequivocally in India's favour. Economic ties are leading the way and New Delhi has believed all along that if trade ties expand, issues like Kashmir will find the back burner sooner or later."





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