India Policy: Beyond the Ceasefire
Director - Research, Research Society of International Law
The potential for any substantive movement on the Indo-Pak front seems limited for 2023. Pakistan remains mired in political and economic challenges that overshadow and distract from any substantive chance of progress in this area. In any case, despite the passage of three years, there is still little clarity in Pakistan on what ‘progress’ with India would look like in a post Art. 370 scenario.
Furthermore, there does not seem to be any urgency on the part of the Indian Government to engage with Pakistan. India’s holding pattern may be a result of several factors including the Modi Government’s failure to alter the J&K political and economic landscape in its favour; its running out of time and constitutional space afforded to it by the Indian Supreme Court’s dilatory approach to taking up petitions on the legality of the abrogation of Article 370; its now seemingly chronic troubles on the Line of Actual Control with China; the high political cost at home associated with engaging with Pakistan, or simply a perception that Pakistan has little of value to offer through engagement.
A positive of the past year is the continued adherence to the ceasefire at the Line of Control and consequent stability in the adjoining areas on both sides. Barring any unforeseen events, there is reason to hope that the ceasefire will hold in 2023. The ceasefire may also prove to be a potential avenue of engagement if the two countries can muster enough will to shift the understanding to a sounder, more formal footing.
In Pakistan, the past three years have helped coalesce opinion around Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) attaining provisional provincial status. An important negotiation process looking at the potential constitutional and legal dispensation needed to effect such a change has taken shape. This process is critical to the future of this continued union and any attempts at rushing it would be ill-advised. This momentum should not wane in 2023, especially in light of concerns regarding a departure from Pakistan’s traditionally held position on Jammu & Kashmir. While the provisional status to GB is unlikely to have a major impact on Pakistan’s long held position, there is a need to enhance public consensus building efforts here.
Current political dynamics, however, suggest that any constitutional developments on this front will have to wait till after the National Elections in 2023 and it is likely that 2024 will be the year we welcome a new province.