The National Security Policy (NSP) is all set to be launched on Friday by Prime Minister Imran Khan, following its approval by the federal cabinet in December 2021. Its ‘citizen-centric’ approach has put economic security at the crux of its goals, which is in line with the government’s policy shift from geostrategic to geo-economics. And with this comes the rare possibility of a thaw in arch rivals India and Pakistan’s ties. During a background briefing session recently held on the NSP, an official said: “We are not seeking hostility with India for the next 100 years. The new policy seeks peace with immediate neighbours.”
Islamabad in the recent past too has made significant efforts to engage with New Delhi, especially during PM Khan’s tenure who has on occasions extended an olive branch to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in an attempt to maintain peaceful ties. The Foreign Office also left the door open for Indian Premier Narendra Modi to join the next South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad virtually. However, Modi’s hostility towards this country and his party’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric, and most importantly, the BJP’s lack of willingness to reverse its August 2019 decision that revoked occupied Kashmir’s special status have marred the ties between the two countries. It was after all this decision that resulted in Pakistan downgrading diplomatic ties and suspending bilateral trade with India.
While the solution to the Kashmir dispute is paramount, it is also in Islamabad’s interest to work towards engaging with New Delhi. For one, though there is little dependence of Pakistan’s exports on the Indian market, in 2018 this country made $383 million from India through exports. The World Bank estimates of Indo-Pak potential trade also stands at a whopping $37 billion against the actual $2.3 billion previously being made. Secondly, the changing regional dynamics with the Afghanistan takeover by the Taliban can also benefit from cordial Indo-Pak relations. Brewing tensions on border areas amid a looming humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country is going to do no one favours. Lastly, any sign of resumption in the stalled ties between the two estranged neighbours will open the channel for dialogue on the longstanding Kashmir issue.
Outstanding issues between India and Pakistan can only come to a logical conclusion with a cordial working relationship. It is hoped that the NSP with its central theme of economic diplomacy will devise ways to approach this sensitive issue pragmatically.