Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visited India to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conference. Although he briefly met his Indian counterpart, S. Jaishankar, on the sidelines of the meeting, the two diplomats did not engage in any formal discussions and they never held a meeting.
Some experts described it as a “missed opportunity” for Pakistan to improve relations with India, but others claimed that Pakistan’s Bhutto-Zardari could not do more, even if it wanted to.
“Bhutto-Zardari came to India with his hands tied behind his back, in terms of diplomatic space for any initiatives on the bilateral front. Pakistan’s domestic politics will not allow him to achieve even what a substantive way,” Ajay Bisaria, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, told DW.
What happened in Pakistan?
Pakistan’s political crisis only worsened in the days after the SCO summit. On May 9, paramilitary forces arrested former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad, sparking violent unrest across the country. Many people were killed as Khan’s supporters took to the streets to protest against Pakistan’s current government and military.
Khan was eventually acquitted by the country’s top court. Pakistan is still reeling from the consequences.
The army condemned the violence and promised to try the perpetrators in military courts. If this happens, Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party could face a political ban.
The Muslim-majority country has been in a state of political turmoil since Khan was removed from parliament in a no-confidence vote in April. The incumbent Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition government, led by Prime Minster Shehbaz Sharif, is facing a worsening economic crisis and is struggling to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund to avoid a default. possible default.
There is no strong player in Pakistan today
Across the border, the Indian government is watching the events unfolding in Pakistan, seemingly without much fear.
“The current crisis in Pakistan, in my view, reaffirms the policy direction set by the Indian government – a studied indifference, or low-grade defiance,” Amit Julka, a professor of International Relations at Ashoka University in New Delhi, said. DW.
And yet, the crisis has left New Delhi without a partner, a trusted stakeholder within the Pakistani government.
“The civilian government [in Pakistan] has lost legitimacy due to economic problems, and the military stands discredited and somewhat confused about its own direction,” said Julka.
Stuti Bhatnagar, a research fellow at the Australian National University, said that although the domestic crisis in Pakistan is alarming, it is unlikely that it will have an impact on the relationship between India and Pakistan.
He pointed out that relations between the two neighboring countries have been steadily declining for the past few years, “with few opportunities for dialogue and lack of any political consensus to continue dialogue, especially with India.” “
Relations between the two South Asian rivals have been strained since the two countries gained independence from British rule in 1947, and a 2019 terrorist attack on Indian troops in Kashmir added to the tension. . Both countries claim the disputed region of Kashmir in its entirety but each rules only parts of it.
New Delhi, which accuses Islamabad of supporting Islamists and separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir, blamed the 2019 attack on Pakistan.
In the same year, New Delhi revoked the special constitutional status enjoyed by the part of Kashmir it controls, further angering Islamabad.
Despite these thorny issues, analysts say the Pakistani foreign minister’s decision to visit India in May is a positive development. Bhutto-Zardari himself is cautious about the implications of his trip, as his political rival Khan’s party has already accused him of compromising the “Kashmir cause.”
“Given the situation in Pakistan, the expectations from the visit of Bhutto-Zardari to India were badly misplaced, and this was amply demonstrated by the events that followed,” Sharat Sabharwal, a former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, told the DW.
India’s security concerns
New Delhi continues to accuse Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in the region, a claim that Islamabad has vehemently denied.
While Bhutto-Zardari expressed the security situation in Kashmir in a conversation with the Indian media during his visit to Goa, his Indian counterpart Jaishankar repeated the claim.
Bhatnagar said Narendra Modi’s policies “will defy any political or diplomatic concession to Pakistan.”
“Pakistan’s instability further feeds this discourse and raises India’s security concerns,” he said.
“The current political and economic turmoil in Pakistan will give impetus to Indian hardliners who continue to blame Pakistan’s political instability and the overwhelmingly dominant role of Pakistan’s military in advancing acts of terrorism against India. ,” he added.
Indian diplomat Sabharwal believes that India should wait for matters to be resolved in Pakistan and go through its own election cycle in 2024 before real progress can be made.
“Then, there may be opportunities to strengthen the relationship by restoring diplomatic relations at the high level of the commissioner and resuming trade.”
Analyst Julka says India and Pakistan need a new regional framework and a political vision beyond narrow nationalism to improve relations.
However, given the ruling Hindu nationalist party’s use of foreign policy for domestic legitimacy, India is likely to continue its poor posture to show strength and stability against an unstable neighbor. , he added.
Edited by: Darko Janjevic