NEWS Peace with Pakistan is not just a bilateral matter, but is essential for India to transform South Asia.
- In late February this year the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan gave the statement that they agree to strictly observe all agreements between the two countries.
- This later coincided with a statement made by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Colombo that “our only dispute is Kashmir and it can only be resolved through dialogue.”
- Also, this was later strongly endorsed by Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Bajwa.
- All this shows that there is a growing, but unstated, realisation that neither country can wrest parts of Kashmir that each controls from the other.
- Rather, it is best to focus on resolving issues that blight the entire subcontinent — poverty, malnutrition and an unconscionable neglect of the young.
- It is a realisation that the India-Pakistan animosity hurts regionalism and South Asian growth.
INDIA- PAK RIVALRY: AN IMPEDIMENT TO REGION’S GROWTH
- While the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has facilitated limited collaborations among its members, it has remained a victim of India-Pakistan rivalry in the region.
- Pakistan has been blocking trade and connectivity and people-to-people ties, which hurt the regional growth.
- The repeated boycotting of the SAARC summits is an indication of the impairment of the organization.
- As a result, South Asia with slightly over 1.9 billion, has a GDP (PPP) of $12 trillion, while the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with nearly 700 million, has a GDP (PPP) of around $9 trillion and a per capita income which, at $14,000 (PPP).
POTENTIAL OF THE BILATERAL RELATION BETWEEN THE TWO
- A fair peace between India and Pakistan is not just good for the two states but for all the nations constituting the SAARC.
- Reports such as the World Bank publication titled ‘A Glass Half Full’ and others from the Asian Development Bank and the European Union conclude that there is explosive value to be derived from South Asian economic integration.
- Also, an economically transformed and integrated South Asian region could advantageously link up with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and even join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, as a much valued partner.
INDIA’ ROLE IN THE GROWTH
- The shares of India in the total land area, population, and real GDP of South Asia in 2016 are 62%, 75%, and 83%, respectively.
- While there are two other big countries in South Asia are Pakistan and Bangladesh, with shares of only 7.6% and 5.6%, respectively in the regional GDP.
- Hence, given its size and heft, only India can take the lead in transforming a grossly under-performing region like South Asia.
- But for that to happen, India needs to view peace with Pakistan not as a bilateral matter, to be arrived at leisurely, but as essential and urgent, viewing it as a chance to dramatically transform South Asia for the better.
- Given that the two countries have agreed to maintain a ceasefire, it is time for India to seize the moment and become more South Asia-concerned and much less Pakistan-obsessed.