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Slim chances of thaw in Pak-India ties

Experts do not foresee immediate detente between nuclear rivals

Pakistani and Indian political observers do not foresee any immediate easing of heightened hostilities between the two nuclear neighbours despite a recent regime change in Islamabad.

The already fraught relations between the two countries further plummeted in August 2019, when New Delhi stripped Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) of its longstanding semi-autonomous status.

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The controversial move instantly prompted Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic ties and halt trade with New Delhi.

Ever since the two neighbours have not missed an opportunity to denounce each other at international and regional forums.

A February 2021 treaty that brought an end to nearly daily clashes along the Line of Control (LoC) has been the “sole” positive development in terms of relations.

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The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), whose President Shehbaz Sharif was elected prime minister last week following a successful no-confidence motion against his predecessor Imran Khan, has long advocated improving relations with Pakistan’s neighbours, including India.

Nonetheless, Yashwant Sinha, a former Indian minister for external affairs, reckoned that Pakistan-India relations are not dependent on personalities.

“Frankly, I don’t see any change (following the change of prime minister). The relationship between India and Pakistan has rarely depended upon personalities,” Sanha, who served as New Delhi’s top diplomat from 2002 to 2004, told Anadolu Agency.

It, he added, has been a country-to-country relationship so that even changes in regime in “this or that country” have not been able to bring temperatures down.

Sharing a similar view, Maria Sultan, an Islamabad-based defence and security analyst, observed that in the given circumstances there are “very slim” chances for a thaw in tensions between the two sides, “no matter who is in power.”

“There will be no immediate resumption of talks until the Kashmir dispute is brought within the framework,” Sultan, who heads an Islamabad-based think tank South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, told Anadolu Agency.

She further said New Delhi’s August 2019 move regarding IIOJK played a “definitive” role in streamlining Pakistan’s position on talks with India that “no future talks are possible without reversal of 2019 act”.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, an Islamabad-based foreign policy expert, says he foresees a “dual approach” by Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister to tackle the current state of relations with India, especially in the context of New Delhi’s August 2019 move.

“Shehbaz Sharif is expected to take a more resolute approach to tackle this grave challenge,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Holding New Delhi’s Kashmir move responsible for further damaging already strained bilateral ties, he said, “Since then (August 2019), India’s nationalist regime has been reshaping the demography and identity of Jammu and Kashmir, which is not acceptable to Pakistan.”

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