For the first time in decades there is hope for real change in the India-Pakistan relationship. Long plagued by a history of four wars, tension over Kashmir and a game of nuclear brinksmanship, the relationship did not seem to have anywhere good to go. However, Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, and India’s Foreign Minister, SM Krishna, have opened up the door to improving the relationship between the two nations. The fact that this is possible is attributable to the fact that the generation beginning to lead both countries does not look at India-Pakistan relations through the prism of many wars, as they were too young to have that history burned into their worldview — but this is what gives these meetings hope.
What this hopefully means is that the younger generation in Pakistan, and India can move past the stalemate of the past and at least recognize the common interests of the two nations. Just as Russia and the United States recognized the need to “reset” relations, the youth of India and Pakistan see the wisdom of moving on in their oft-strained relationship.
The meeting was particularly significant as it occurred within the wake of three synchronized explosions that killed dozens and wounded more than 100 in Mumbai. Some suspected the attack to be linked to Pakistani terrorist groups, but the investigation is ongoing.
Let us also not forget that the original meeting scheduled between the two nations had been postponed for more than two years after an attack by Pakistani terrorists, on the financial capital, Mumbai, killed more than 160 people.
In spite of the checkered past, the gesture has given both countries a unique opportunity to move past problems and do something constructive. Both ministers should be praised for their efforts. Indeed, Hina Rabbani Khar, the first female Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, drew some criticism by meeting with Kashmir separatists before meeting with Indian leaders. But she also won over many in India with her sense of fashion.
Neither Khar’s sense of fashion, nor her controversial meeting with Kashmir separatists should take away from the potential of this meeting. India is a very young country with over 50% of the population below 25 and now it is beginning to see that generation in politics with the coming age of Rahul Gandhi and other leaders.
This meeting needs to be followed up with actions that will strengthen ties between the two nations in areas where they share common interests. Chief amongst these should be commerce and cultural exchange.
Some may think that it is now solely up to Ministers Krishna and Khar to see this through. But, I encourage the people of India to bring their ideas to the table and push for new initiatives that will improve the lives of people in both countries.
In so doing, the new generation can provide new ways to help their nation and hopefully see a new era in relations between the two. The tension between Pakistan and India has lurked as the potential black swan in all of India’s major foreign and domestic policy decisions. Imagine the potential if one year’s worth of resources dedicated to keeping the peace with Pakistan were dedicated education or rural development. Now imagine the potential if a generation’s worth were applied to the same effort.