WASHINGTON: The Pakistani military leadership is reaching out to India because it believes that the way to peace and prosperity is through military cooperation with India, says a new think-tank report.

“Attempts to open a dialogue come against a background of almost weekly exchanges of fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir,” notes the UK-based Royal Unites Services Institute (RUSI), in a report on renewed efforts to reduce tensions between the two neighbours. “Will New Delhi reciprocate?” asks the report, which was released in London this week.

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The report notes that “in a historic first last month,” Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa invited Sanjay Vishwasrao, the Indian military attaché, and his team to the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad. The move indicates that “ties between the two foes are warming up,” it adds, noting that Gen Bajwa followed this two weeks later by saying that the Pakistan military wanted peace and dialogue with India.

The two countries will also take part in joint military drills in Russia in September, with Chinese participation. Such developments mark a change in attitudes that started when Gen Bajwa became the army chief in November 2016, the report adds.

During a visit to Britain last year, Gen Bajwa addressed a gathering at RUSI and announced that the Pakistan army was “now no more insecure and feels confident of its future” and that he “welcomes Indian participation in Pakistan’s flagship infrastructure project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”.

The report points out that both India and Pakistan have tried to forge relationships before as well. In the 1980s, Gen Ziaul Haq, and then Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, became close. Then, retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and Atal Bihari Vajpayee also came close at a 2002 summit in Agra to resolving the Kashmir conflict despite a year-long tense situation on the border. “Approaches by Pakistani generals have been welcomed by some in India, because they are seen to be able to deliver on peace,” RUSI reports.

The report notes that recent military operations in Fata have brought security and stability on the western border, encouraging the Pakistan Army to approach India with the understanding that it will help Pakistan’s upward economic trajectory and allow regional trade flourish. “Gen Hayat’s plan could come to fruition this year,” the report adds.

The report also notes that so far, India has rejected Pakistan’s offer of a transit trade dialogue on Afghan-Indian commerce. “But with a sustained approach by Pakistani officers to India, it could only be a matter of time before Delhi agrees to at least talk to Islamabad,” the report concludes.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2018