SCO can help India, Pakistan improve ties

By Long Xingchun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/28 19:43:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Peace Mission 2018 is being held in Chebarkul, Russia, from August 24 to 29. India and Pakistan, which became full members of the SCO in 2017, respectively sent 200 and 110 soldiers to the counter-terrorism drill. India and Pakistan have fought wars and their troops frequently exchange fire at the Kashmir border. It's the first time that the two countries are in the same camp in a military drill. The two countries will strengthen cooperation with other SCO countries to together fight terrorism and extremism.

The SCO is helping improve India-Pakistan relations. When the two countries joined the organization, many people worried that their conflicts will come in the way of the organization's development. It's not groundless to think so. The rivalry has often seen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit postponed or even cancelled over differences.

Different from the SAARC, the SCO is led by China and Russia - two major world powers. Besides, it's urgent for all SCO countries to crack down on terrorism and extremism, and the India-Pakistan conflict can hardly prove to be a hurdle. The two countries won't hinder the SCO, and instead the organization in turn will help improve relations between them.

Current Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has created an opportunity for the country to improve relations with India. Over seven decades, the two countries have paid a high price for their conflict but haven't been able to resolve it. Since they both possess nuclear weapons, it's impossible for them to resolve disputes through war. They can either resolve the border dispute in a pragmatic manner or shelve it for later generations to deal with.

When Imran, also the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won the general election in July, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately congratulated him. During a phone conversation, they expressed their shared vision to bring peace, security and prosperity in the Indian subcontinent, in order to make it free of terror and violence, and to focus on development. In his first press conference after declaring victory in the election, Imran also said that "we have to solve Kashmir issue by sitting across the table." It's the first time that the PTI has come to power, and it has no historical burden of India-Pakistan relations. Imran is likely to change Pakistan and its relations with India.

Improvement in India-Pakistan relations can help reduce terror attacks in the two countries. Imran is facing the challenges of improving Pakistan's security and economy. As Pakistan's slow economic development is largely caused by the grim security conditions, improving security is a prerequisite for economic development.

Terrorist attacks are also frequent in India, most of which come from or are supported by Pakistan-based terrorist groups. India and Pakistan have been accusing each other of supporting terrorists on their land. The SCO is a new platform for counter-terrorism talks between the two countries and will help improve mutual trust.

Improvement in India-Pakistan relations will also benefit Afghanistan by bringing more stability to the strife-torn country. Pakistan wants to use Afghanistan for strategic depth, and India wants to use it to restrain Pakistan. Pakistan used to support the Taliban, and India supports Afghanistan's current government. If India and Pakistan reach a consensus on the Afghan issue, it will promote peace talks in the country.

It has been proved that stability in Afghanistan cannot be realized by the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but needs the support of its main neighboring countries including India, Pakistan, China and Russia. Afghanistan can achieve peace and stability especially when the SCO plays its role. The neighboring countries will be safe only if Afghanistan is stable. Thus, India and Pakistan should play a constructive role in the SCO.

China supports the improvement of India-Pakistan relations. India has regarded China-Pakistan friendship as an obstacle to its ties with China, believing that Beijing is using Islamabad to restrain India. New Delhi also sees China's support to Pakistan's military and economy as a threat, and it strongly opposes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In fact, China always stays neutral on India-Pakistan disputes, hoping that the two countries can resolve their problems peacefully. If India and Pakistan were not hostile to each other, the China-Pakistan friendship would not have irked India. Thus, better India-Pakistan relations can help improve Sino-Indian ties. And a normal China-India-Pakistan relationship will promote China's economic cooperation with South Asia so that the CPEC may be upgraded to China-South Asia economic corridor. China and India will be more confident in the "two plus one" format in South Asia.

The author is a research fellow at The Charhar Institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University.


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