At present, there is a lot of pressure from Western governments on Pakistan and India to improve bilateral relations, start trade, ease visa regimes, etc. This is supposed to help Pakistan’s army focus on the western border in the near to medium future. Most of Pakistan’s non-military governments have favored amicable relations with India. Benazir Bhutto met Rajiv Gandhi, Nawaz Sharif hosted Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The pressure to stay away always came from the army, which has not helped Pakistan.
Discussions alone will not sustain good relations. As trade opens, we will see opposition and anger from trade groups hurting from India’s non-tariff barriers. I feel everything is being done in a hurry, and the economic and hence social fallout for ordinary workers has not really been considered. Going from being mortal enemies to best friends in a few months is not very organic. Perhaps there should have been a time of just being ordinary neighbors to help transition to being friends.
Nawaz Sharif improved Pakistan-India relations a great deal. He even managed to get a Bharatiya Janata Party prime minister to come to Lahore and deliver an address at the Minar-e-Pakistan during his tenure. He would have moved forward had Kargil not happened. This is not to say that he would have certainly abolished the visa regime, but relations between the two countries did improve during his tenure.
(Ayesha Haroon Associate Fellow, Asia Society, Editor, The News International)