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Pakistan’s crisis is India’s opportunity

Amid the crises, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed interest in 'serious and sincere talks' with India last week
Last Updated : 27 January 2023, 21:44 IST
Last Updated : 27 January 2023, 21:44 IST

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Pakistan’s multiple crises are worsening by the day. On the internal security front, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which pulled out of the ceasefire with the government late last year, has escalated attacks on civilians and security forces. The situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces is dire. Meanwhile, relations with the Taliban regime continue to fray; Afghanistan’s new rulers, once proteges of Pakistan’s ISI, are refusing to toe Pakistan’s line and have shown no inclination to rein in the TTP or oust it from its sanctuaries on Afghan soil.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani economy is in a state of free fall. Forex reserves are haemorrhaging; they dropped to a meagre $3.68 billion on January 20. Early this week, Pakistani cities reeled under a nationwide power outage, paralysing daily life and shutting down an already-sick economy. Although Pakistan has enough installed power generation capacity, it lacks resources to run its power plants as the sector is in deep debt.

Some of the power infrastructure was built as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but the projects did not come cheap. Consequently, even as CPEC has improved Pakistan’s infrastructure, it has run the country into debt such that it cannot even operate that infrastructure and benefit from it.

Amid the crises, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed interest in “serious and sincere talks” with India last week. Pounded by pressure on multiple fronts, Sharif is likely seeing wisdom in making peace with India. While India is irked by Sharif’s addition of the rider that Delhi would have to reverse its revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir for talks to begin, India must explore the possibility of formal talks seriously. Pakistan needs the talks desperately, but India too can gain from it, especially in the context of tensions with China.

India has reached out to other South Asian countries to bail them out of their economic crises. Pakistan needs such help, too, apart from calm on its border with India. Delhi could offer it such help as part of a larger strategy to settle the Kashmir dispute and establish peace between the two countries.

As loathsome as it may be to deal with a Pakistani establishment that has for long hosted and supported anti-India terrorist groups, letting our nuclear-armed neighbour go under and possibly into the hands of Islamist radicals is a worse prospect.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must consider this. When he made an unscheduled stopover in Lahore to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday in 2018 as a goodwill gesture, he signalled capacity to take risks and think out of the box. He can and should do that again, if Pakistan shows sincere intent.

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Published 27 January 2023, 17:46 IST

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