When Pakistan’s Gibraltar Operation against India failed in 1965, the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, vowed in frustration that “Pakistan would wage a war of a 1,000 years, a war of defence.” Stephen P Cohen, senior fellow at Brooking Institute, opined recently that “the Indo-Pakistan conflict, which includes Kashmir besides many other problems, will last for 100 years or even more.”
While putting a number to the years is really ignoring the gravity of the situation, this acrimony really doesn’t appear to be vanishing very soon. And interestingly, this is despite Kashmir going on the back burner in recent times. Discussion on the same between the two nations came to a standstill post the 26/11 attacks. Since then, the prime agenda for high level diplomatic interactions has been terrorism. In three diplomatic meetings between the foreign secretaries of both nations – in July 2009 on the sidelines of NAM meeting, then in September on the eve of the annual UN General Assembly session, and in February 2011 during the SAARC conference – the main agenda was terrorism, a speedy probe on 26/11, Rana, Headley, et al. The agenda remained the same when the Prime Ministers of both countries met in Pittsburg for the G20 summit. America’s successful ‘hunt Osama’ expedition in May followed by a series of terror strikes on Pakistani soil further enhanced the focus on terrorism.
So while Kashmir may remain important over the long term, given the fact that confidence building measures build anything but confidence, this is a good time for India to perhaps earn sincere brownie points by engaging Pakistan economically. A move to make Pakistan a richer nation would change the rules of the game and allow Kashmir to simply be a titular debate point and remain on the convenient backburner.