Pakistan’s new government is about to face its first important challenge. By this we don’t mean the ongoing my-rally-is-bigger-than-yours spectacle that is still playing out.
To Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi we would like to offer a few words of caution: try not to take your eye off the ball despite rally sizes. Nawaz has gone. And it is better if he doesn’t come back. We don’t mean to kick a man when he is down — or in this case when he is down below in the safety of his container. But we do mean to remind those who are supposed to be running the show that something vital is happening next month. And it has nothing to do with one-upmanship yet everything to do with cooperation and mutual respect.
India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold another round of talks on the Indus Water Treaty, as follow-on from the Washington moot earlier this month. Much hinges on this. Especially given that the tremendously positive feedback from the World Bank host, which is a signatory to the treaty. Indeed the latter was said to have gone as far as to term the prevailing environment as being one of “goodwill and cooperation”. It is all the more notable considering how one international expert has gone on record as saying that, in the past, it was not unheard of for both sides to not even acknowledge each other with a formal greeting. Also not uncommon, according to the same expert was to have the India and Pakistan delegations leave after reading out their respective official briefings.
This is a hugely welcome development.
It demonstrates statesmanship from both parties. That is, a recognition that amidst all the threats and posturing — natural resources are, in fact, more precious in many ways than this or that chunk of land. No facetiousness intended. Moreover it is a crucial litmus test for Pakistan’s new regime. On the plus side, we at least now have a fully paid up pukka Foreign Minister. Which can be just the ticket when negotiating any sort of bilateral issue. We will, however, have to wait and see if the recent divvying up of certain ministries will have any weight to bear. In the meanwhile we implore PM Abbasi not to mess this up. For while he and the usual suspects may or may not join Nawaz in going come this time next year — our shared water resources with India are here to stay. *
Published in Daily Times, August 11th 2017.