jump to navigation

Zardari-Singh dialogue: future implications April 14, 2012

Posted by auriolweigold in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, India, Pakistan , trackback

Sergei Desilva-Ranasinghe

This post first appeared on Future Directions International on 11 April 2012.


In the first visit by a Pakistani President to India in seven years, President Asif Ali Zardari met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Sunday, 8 April to examine potential to reduce tensions and enhance frayed ties. In doing so, the twoleaders emphasised their respective desire to normalise bilateral ties, which has the prospect of heralding a new and perhaps radically different era in the years ahead.


Since 2004, India and Pakistan have held a series of high-level meetings with the aim of diminishing regional tensions. Despite the failings of the previous September 2008 meeting between President Zardari and PM Singh, where negotiations were suspended two months later after Pakistan-based Islamist militants were implicated in terrorist attacks against India.

Yet, in spite of these ongoing setbacks that have characterised inter-state relations, both countries have continued to pursue negotiations. Pakistan’s willingness to engage India by consolidating trading ties is seen by some commentators as a “paradigm shift” in the nation’s policy, which has also received the endorsement of the Pakistani military. Similarly, India has also chosen to continue negotiations in the face of continued extremist provocations and is equally open to enhancing economic co-operation and two-trade.

As such, both leaders have heavily emphasised increased business-to-business and people-to-people exchanges by lifting existing restrictions on bilateral investment and trade. Later this week, the Business Standard reported that Pakistani Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim is scheduled to visit New Delhi to launch new trade initiatives. India has pledged to reduce tariffs on several goods and allowing more Pakistani goods to enter the Indian market.

The willingness by both countries to continue to engage is acknowledgement of the fact that India and Pakistan urgently need to cooperate in a range of issues that are seen to be detrimental to their national stability and long-term strategic interests. There remain concerns over water-sharing rights, prevalence of cross-border Islamist terrorism; tensions over the Siachen Glacier located in the disputed Kashmir region and the land and maritime border around Sir Creek,which runs into the Arabian Sea through the Rann of Kutchmarshlands and situated between Pakistan’s Sindh Province and India’s Gujarat. The area is also said to contain large untapped oil and gas reserves, which has further complicated the issue.

But for dialogue to succeed, both countries need to harmonise their conflicting strategic interests and also find means and ways to engage in dialogue without serious domestic political fallout. In this context, it would appear that trade is recognised as the best mechanism to augur better relations. Although trade relations between India and Pakistan are small, they have shown signs of growth over the last decade. In 2000, two-way trade was an estimated US$500 million, and by 2008, it was reportedly over US$2 billion.

Indeed, the likely benefits of normalising relations appear to be substantial. As suggested by a report published by the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, the two-way trade flows under optimum conditions have the potential to reach as high as US$40 billion annually. Similarly, the normalisation of relations also has the potential to benefit both countries from the standpoint of energy initiatives, such as the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline projects, which remain shelved until further notice.

Evidently, these negotiations are small but practical measures towards alleviating tensions and engendering cooperation. The fact that President Zardari has extended an invitation to PM Singh to visit Pakistan later this year, which has been accepted, suggests that relations between India and Pakistan are in an era of change which, if handled shrewdly, could have a stabilising affect on the region’s future.


1. Khwaja Aftab Shah - April 23, 2012

Thank you very much for your concern of my comments in your esteemed news paper. Could you imagin how important a Qalandar in Muslim society and that could be seen in Pakistan where shrine of Shahbaz Qalandar in Sind provice of Pakistan is very well maintained and protected. As compare to that the shrine of Hazrat BU Ali Shah Qalandar in Panipat, India is tatally ignored and neglected. My late father and one of the member of Custodian family of the shrine has complained many times to the government of India. I appreciate once again of your sympathetic concern of my complaint. Thanking you, KHWAJA AFTAB SHAH, Orlando, Florida, USA

Dear Reader ,
Your comment on the article ”At Ajmer dargah, Asif Ali Zardari finds ‘spiritual happiness’” is now displayed on timesofindia.com.
”Economic growth in India has always been appreciated but the country has no extra money for their minority Muslims’ holy shrines. President zardari of a neighbouring country Pakistan has paid one million for the improvement of the holy shrine. I would like to request to President Zardari to take care of an other shrine of Hazrat Bu Ali Shah Qalandar in Panipat for its improvement. Khwaja Aftab Shah, a member of the Custodian family of the holy shrine of Bu Ali Shah Qalandar, Flroda, USA ”

To reply to this comment , or see the whole conversation , click here
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and keep up the good work!
Team TOI