India must maintain relationship of respect with Pakistan: ex-NSA

Despite maintaining frosty relationships for the majority of their existence, punctuated by three wars and numerous stop-start peace processes, the nuclear-tipped hostile neighbours India and Pakistan must establish linkages for trade to flow in the region.
This was stated by speakers on the second day of a regional conference on “Connectivity and Geo-Economics in South Asia”. The conference was organised by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank.
Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua, who had earlier this week resigned from the National Security Advisor (NSA) host seat after spending nearly three years in the role, reminded that India must maintain a relationship of respect with its eastern neighbour.
New Delhi and Islamabad have seen their relationship deteriorate in recent months particularly over cross-border firing across the Line of Control in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. The region has erupted as a flashpoint after Indian forces killed separatist leader Burhan Wani in July 2016, sparking an indigenous uprising in the valley.
Lt Gen Janjua, though, argued that economy and security were two sides of the same coin with one having a causative relationship with the other.
Noting that stability in South Asia is often a pre-requisite for its connectivity, it is only through connectivity that economic growth that stability can be brought about, he argued.
The outgoing NSA also reminded New Delhi that its burgeoning economy needed access to the rich markets of Europe via Central Asia. Pakistan, he said, was the only country which could provide India with the access it truly desired.
Janjua also pointed out the predicament with the multibillion-dollar bilateral project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He said that without involving India in the project, free trade in the region was quite difficult.
Participants of the conference explored how to achieve connectivity in a region that is beset with old rivalries and instabilities. Some argued that the habit of thinking everything in terms of geopolitics has to change and that the lens of geo-economics should be donned if the region wants to draw maximum benefit from economic initiatives.
Others asked if China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to which countries like Pakistan have already signed, can help achieve that connectivity.
Lt Gen Janjua said Pakistan has a central role in the emerging geo-economic order of South Asia, as it can help connect the countries economically.
Even India cannot trade with this part of the world without Pakistan on board, he said.
Indian scholar Sudheendhra Kulkarni, though, wondered if Pakistan’s vision of connectivity projects only westwards, suggesting that the eastern side should also be included more clearly.
As to Pakistan’s relations with India, the former NSA Gen. Janjua hinted that the bitterness of the past should be overcome.
As NSA, Lt Gen Janjua recalled, he had interacted with his Indian counterpart in “very good spirit”. He added that during their meeting, they “did not try to win arguments against each other.”
Meanwhile, Kulkarni shared that he had come to know that Pakistani and Indian diplomats have deliberated on almost all issues between the two countries, in quite a detail.
Those deliberations now await implementation, he urged
Another Indian scholar, Shanthie D’Souza, said that for connecting the region, small confidence-building steps were required.
One participant noted that the people’s narrative has to be different than the state’s narrative; another called for promoting religious tourism and medical tourism. It was also suggested that the academia of the two countries should also be connected with each other in a bid to bring the people of the two countries — who share many similarities — closer together.