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From terror to trade: Eight reasons Pakistanis now want a peace process from Modi and Sharif

The carefully staged “surprise diplomacy” by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his warm reception by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif break a logjam in bilateral relations.

Modi’s short visit to Lahore on Dec. 25 was welcomed by almost all the mainstream political parties in Pakistan. That betrays a consensus within the political elites there, unlike in India where the opposition parties are playing politics over bilateral diplomacy. The truth is that it was Modi who took the initiative, even if driven by the need for good optics. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, for all his goodwill, could not take the decision to visit Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign policy, however, is not the sole domain of its civilian governments. They have to take the security establishment on board. No one knows this better than Sharif. Given this home truth, the diplomatic efforts are not likely to proceed without a nod from the powerful military. The key to this is largely related to Afghanistan.

In sync with the US and other Western powers as well as China, Pakistan is engaged in a tough effort to help facilitate a settlement between the Afghan Taliban and the Ashraf Ghani administration. The process has been far from smooth. It broke down many times. Infighting within the Afghan Taliban also impinges upon the peace efforts.


Hassan Rouhani: Iran’s New President Will Build Alliances With India and Afghanistan

Here is something I wrote for policymic


An unprecedented number of Iranians at home and abroad participated in the 11th presidential elections in the Islamic Republic. In a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran, voters overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered cleric who advocates greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world. Hassan Rouhani, 64, won a commanding 51% of the vote in the six-way race. This punishing of hardliners at the polls indicated that Iranians were looking to their next president to change the tone, if not the direction, of the nation. Mr. Rouhani used a key as his campaign symbol, and focused on issues important to the youth, including unemployment. His message was one of outreach, responsiveness, and inclusion. While Rouhani is considered a relative moderate and had the backing of Iranian reformists, the hardline supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains the ultimate authority on all state matters, including the nuclear program.

“Let’s end extremism,” Mr. Rouhani said during a campaign speech. “We have no other option than moderation.” During his campaign, Rouhani criticized the much-hated morality police who arrest women for not having proper head scarves and coats. He called for the lifting of restrictions on the Internet and hinted at freeing the political prisoners. Rouhani appears to be something of a post-Islamic revolution phenomenon. He is not too distant from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His own track record as head of Iran’s National Security Council and one-time nuclear negotiator means that he knows how to engage with the outside world. His victory also symbolizes the ascendancy of the reform movement that was so violently put down after the last presidential vote four years ago.


July 1st, 2013|India, Pakistan, Politics|0 Comments

Trade with India is a rational policy choice

China and Taiwan are sworn enemies. In 2009, the total volume of their trade was 110 billion dollars. India’s trade is expanding with China, and the current volume is nearly 60 billion dollars per annum. On the other hand, the total volume of formal trade between India and Pakistan is around a billion dollars. What […]