No Dialogue between India and Pakistan during SCO is a Missed Opportunity

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to hold bilateral meetings with China and Russia during his recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, India must engage Pakistan.

Being one of the most complex problems of the 21st century, the global terror crisis demands a collaborative approach towards finding solutions. In 2017, my thought piece for DNA highlighted how the global war on terror has been short on synergy. Therefore, a multi-stakeholder approach towards counter-terrorism is needed now, more than ever.

Earlier this year, we witnessed first-hand India’s tough stand on terrorism under Modi’s leadership. In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, the subsequent Balakot airstrikes of February concluded with wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman becoming the face of the tensions between two nations and their lack of common ground concerning the cause.

Fighting terror with terror has become a vicious cycle in today’s world. From Iraqi Freedom to Balakot, the idea of ‘war’ on terror instead of peace is a juxtaposition in itself and may not be the most appropriate answer to the global phenomenon. Especially in the context of the rising clash of civilization and religion-induced crimes.

The recent Anantnag attack in South Kashmir further solidifies this idea. In the wake of which, PM Narendra Modi left the country to attend the SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan where he will also be holding bilateral discussions alongside with Russia and China.  

Both India and Pakistan became members of the SCO in 2017. As leaders met ahead of the summit in Kyrgyz’s capital Bishkek, it is believed that Mr Narendra Modi and his counterpart, Imran Khan did not exchange even a single word till now. However, if they manage to do so, it will be a step forward in the right direction for both nations to collectively address the issue of terrorism and explore opportunities and solutions to the continued cross border rigidities dividing them.

What is required more than ever, is for India to separate talks and actions, and send a clear message to its immediate neighbour and past brother, Pakistan. For the past 5 years, India has maintained to not indulge in dialogue till Pakistan takes strong action against its own homegrown terror monsters.

We have seen efforts being made by Mr Imran Khan to get Modi’s attention by addressing direct letters to him.  India, under Modi’s second term, must address the fact that his counterpart has been trying to reach out to him and create the opportunity for dialogue. Creating the opportunity for such dialogue and conversations is step one.

It is no secret that in the 21st century, no nation has been spared from the horrendous causalities that terrorism renders. In the recent past, we have seen different narratives being built against different acts of terrorism. Distinguished leaders have reacted differently to the way their citizens have suffered at the hands of these terror groups.

Jacinda Arden’s strong stance on terrorism and her immediate action for improving gun laws in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shooting is a testament to the way she handled the situation, which also garnered her global praise. She even showed up donning a headscarf for a meeting with the Muslim community in New Zealand, thus showing solidarity and compassion. On the other hand, Sri Lanka’s leadership banned face veils under an emergency law post the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Through these two extremes of supporting and suppressing the minorities all over the world, India and Pakistan must find a commonplace on this spectrum and engage each other. What the leaders must understand now is that terror cannot be dealt with terror alone. The US-Taliban talks in Doha are the biggest example of this. Getting the once dreaded terror group as a stakeholder in negotiations and a participant in decision making is a hopeful and positive move in the age of raging war against every attack.

Moreover, leaders must not forget how delayed justice is more terrifying than terror attacks themselves. For instance, we are witnessing how the 9/11 survivors and families of victims are still struggling to access the compensation fund as promised 18 years ago. Also, the Bilkis’ story of delayed justice has become a testament of how justice comes slow and delayed in most cases, especially in the cases of religion-based violence in India.

Furthermore, in the age of rising insecurities and turbulence between Hindu and Muslim communities pan India and in times of rising hate crimes and conflicts, India and Pakistan must unite to counter this problem as one. Before the SCO ends, Modi and Imran must break the ice and send a positive message to their people. PM Modi’s meeting with Pakistan’s counterpart, Imran Khan will not only be a good indication but a progressive step towards dealing with the complex problem of Terrorism.

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