In response to the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pakistani politician Shehbaz Sharif expressed his belief that an India-Pakistan peace may also be possible.
Sharif, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and formerly Punjab chief minister, expressed his hope that India and Pakistan could find peace through a summit like the one held by the US and North Korea.
Just a few hours after the historic US-North Korea summit, Sharif tweeted that he would like to see a similar India-Pakistan summit. While many have brushed off the idea that there is great similarity between US-North Korea hostilities and India-Pakistan conflict, Sharif drew a connection between the two:
“Singapore Summit between USA & North Korea should set a good precedent for Pakistan & India to follow. Ever since the start of Korean War, the two nations have been at odds with one another; both threatening to use military force with their nuclear arsenals facing each other.
He also expressed his hope that India and Pakistan can hold a summit to resolve the Kashmir conflict. He referred to India as occupying Kashmir, which, of course, Indians would disagree with:
“If the United States and North Korea can return from the brink of a nuclear flashpoint, there is no reason why Pakistan and India cannot do the same, beginning with a dialogue on Kashmir whose heroic people have resisted and rejected Indian occupation.
He also drew attention to the need for peace in Pakistan’s neighbor, Afghanistan, while underscoring the need for dialogue over Kashmir:
“It’s time for comprehensive peace talks in our region. International community must focus on the peace process in Afghanistan. Dialogue b/w Pakistan & India over Kashmir should also resume, so that the long-festering Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with UN resolutions.”
Although Sharif has called for an Afghan-led peace process, he has also recently promised to make peace in Afghanistan a top priority should the PML-N return to power following the general election on July 25.
US-North Korea hostilities began near the end of World War II, when the Korean peninsula was split in half. The northern part, fell under the Soviet sphere of influence, while the came under UN-US backed control.
The partition of North and South Korea was an artificial construct imposed by outside forces. Both halves of the peninsula share a common history, language, and culture.
The same cannot be said for India and Pakistan. After the evacuation of British colonial rule, the Indian subcontinent divided, mainly along religious lines. Although four major world religions were born in India, Hinduism is by far the majority religion; 80% of the population identifies as Hindu. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s population is almost entirely Muslim.
These religious divides have sown the seeds for conflict in the region. This religious conflict is rooted in the history of the Indian subcontinent, which saw a violent and bloody Muslim conquest between the 12th and 16th centuries.
Although this may seem like ancient history, the Muslim conquest is often enshrined in local Hindu religious traditions, while many Indian historians are known to point towards the Muslim conquest as the root cause of the hostilities between the two countries. The Muslim conquest is even sometimes used as justification for violent riots.
Today’s conflict between India and Pakistan lies in Kashmir, an area claimed by both countries. While the population of Kashmir is largely Muslim, the area is split between regions administered by India, Pakistan, and China. India and Pakistan both hold that the other is illegally occupying territory that is rightfully theirs.
The border between Indian and Pakistani administered regions of Kashmir is referred to as the Line of Control (LoC). The LoC is a highly militarized border with often leads to outbreaks of violence and skirmishes which sometimes leave civilians dead. India also claims that Pakistan supports militants and terrorists in Kashmir who then launch attacks in India.
Making matters more tense, India and Pakistan are both among the few nuclear powers in the world.
Viewing India as the enemy has been a part of political discourse since Pakistan became an independent state in 1947. Because of this, hostilities towards India have been embedded in Pakistani national identity since the birth of the nation. Anti-Indian sentiment has also been picked up and amplified by some religious groups, which Indians blame for terror attacks in Kashmir and India.
In India, anti-Pakistan sentiment is also a salient part of political discourse because Pakistan is viewed as a major security threat. Politicians calling for India-Pakistan peace could risk losing the support of their base.
Some have wondered whether there can be a true Us-North Korea peace when North Koreans have consumed so much anti-American propaganda. While anti-American sentiment has been cultivated in North Korea pretty much since its founding, as Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un has a firm control over the propaganda broadcasted by the North Korean media.
Although a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict and de-escalation of tensions between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, seems impossible, many point out that just a few months ago a US-North Korea summit also seemed unthinkable.
Could the SCO Bring India-Pakistan Peace?
After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain shook hands at the SCO summit in Qingdao, China on Sunday, both China and Russia has proposed that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could help to foster an India-Pakistan peace. Both India and Pakistan are member states of the SCO.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in an interview:
“We know that there are unresolved historical conflicts existing between Pakistan and India. But I think after their joining the SCO, maybe we can provide a better platform and opportunities for the building of relations between them.”
He went on to say:
“I feel the SCO a great vehicle for bettering the two nations’ relations. As a result it will better safeguard the peace and stability of the region although their relations have seen their ups and downs.”
After the meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was optimistic that “all countries of the region will use this platform for in-depth work in a multilateral format and resolve their differences.”