India is optimistic about the future of its relationshipwith Pakistan as 14 years ago it was under Nawaz Sharif’s rule both Pakistanand India had initiated the process of normalizing ties. This expectation isnot entirely idealistic, but the government should approach Pakistan cautiouslyas Sharif’s ability to strengthen ties with India will depend on hisrelationship with the military, which still makes decisions for Pakistan’sforeign policy
India is optimistic about the future of its relationshipwith Pakistan as 14 years ago it was under Nawaz Sharif's rule both Pakistanand India had initiated the process of normalizing ties. This expectation isnot entirely idealistic, but the government should approach Pakistan cautiouslyas Sharif's ability to strengthen ties with India will depend on hisrelationship with the military, which still makes decisions for Pakistan'sforeign policy.
When it comes to Pakistan, three issues concern India -Kashmir, support to terror groups that perpetrate terrorism against India andthe management of its offensive nuclear capabilities. Until now, all thesethree issues are beyond the control of the civilian government and the militaryhas no intentions of giving up its interests where India is concerned.
General Kayani has blatantly stated that the ISI is an‘India- Centric' institution. This is a sticky point for India as a successfuldemocratic transition does not mean an end to the military's role in securityand foreign affairs no matter how pro-Indian the civilian leader may be.
In fact, it was during Nawaz Sharif's term as Prime Ministerfourteen years ago that while on one hand the civilian government initiated theprocess of normalizing ties with India, the Pakistani military positioned itstroops along the LoC resulting in the Kargil War. There was a tit for tatnuclear test during his tenure.
More recently, the role of the ISI in the Mumbai terrorattacks is undeniable. Therefore, India must invest strongly in its diplomaticties with the civilian government, which would decrease the importance,credited to the ISI.
Going to war will not favour either country as Pakistan isan ailing economy incapable of taking care of the added war costs as it willfurther cripple the economy and India would not make any move to destabilizethe status quo in the region.
But unless the new government in Pakistan does notredistribute power in such a manner that establishes its own supremacyincapable of being challenged, India will have a reason to worry. Sharif couldprove to be the right man for the job as having experienced a military couphimself, he will be unwilling to let the military maintain any primacy inforeign affairs, even if it is to avoid another coup.
However, although described as a moderate in the mediacircle, he has been accused of being soft on the Pakistan Taliban and jihadistmovement. He has not spoken out against the attacks made on the Shiacommunities either and cashed in on the anti-US rhetoric during his electioncampaign.
India's main concern is the containment of the terroristgroups working against India under the shadow of the Pakistan military and wellwithin the knowledge of the civilian government. It is also concerned aboutPakistan's nuclear capabilities getting into wrong hands.
While in 2002, the US persuaded General Musharraf to enterinto a ceasefire with India and stop the funding of the jihadist groups,Pakistan in turn faced escalating violence and terrorist attacks from withinthe country.
Pakistan has consistently shown its unwillingness to stopterror activities against India, whether under the military rule or the rule ofthe civilian government. Nawaz Sharif's soft stand toward the terrorists couldbe a point of contention, directly threatening the conducive atmosphere. Themilitary also might get aggressive with India, in an effort to attract theJihadists back into their control.
India therefore, should not hope for any major breakthroughas far as bringing the perpetrators of terror to justice is concerned. Historyis evident that no Pakistani leader has ever done that. Hence, India, alongwith US and other like minded countries must maintain pressure on the civiliangovernment to act strongly against terrorist activities emanating from withinits boundaries.
Following the withdrawal of the US and NATO troops fromAfghanistan early next year, while the US will require Pakistan's help for apeaceful departure, something which Nawaz Sharif has complied to, India willhave an increasing role to play in maintaining peace in Afghanistan.
This could bring Pakistan and India face to face in theregion as their interests will clash. Already the anti- US rhetoric is strongin Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif has expressed his concerns against drone strikesby the US.
But once US leaves the region, the blame may fall on India,and pro-Pakistani elements will make India a direct target. India must have along term vision to secure its interests in the region for which it must keepdiplomatic channels open with Pakistan at all costs.
What the Indian government can look forward to without muchworry is the increase in economic and trade ties with Pakistan. Sharif favoursliberal economic policies and he sees the revival of the country's economy inincreasing trade with its neighbours, particularly India and China.
His pro-business outlook will ensure that the military doesnot interfere in economic ties with India. However, China may pose a problemsince its interests may get jeopardized with the economic thaw between Indiaand Pakistan.