Reflections on India-Pakistan Relations: A Diplomat’s Perspective

More than two decades ago, during my tenure as a middle-level officer at the Ministry of External Affairs, I found myself engaged in a candid exchange with a Pakistani diplomat. In a moment of bluntness, I expressed a sentiment that has lingered in my mind ever since: “Tum sabki ghulami karne ko tayyar ho lakin hamse dosti karne ko nahi” (You are willing to be a slave to everyone but remain unwilling to develop any friendship with us).

As I reflect on that exchange, I am struck by its relevance in today’s context, particularly as Pakistan grapples with repairing its dysfunctional economy under the leadership of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Despite efforts to garner support from alliance partners and the military, the reality remains that Pakistan’s economy cannot be fixed without a fundamental shift in its approach towards India.

The Pakistani political class, and likely the military as well, understand deep down that cooperative and good neighborly ties with India are essential for economic stability and growth. However, there is little indication that the Pakistani establishment is willing to change course on India, thereby hindering efforts to achieve ambitious economic goals, such as joining the G20 by 2030.

While external assistance from China and other donors may offer temporary relief, sustainable economic development hinges on fostering a conducive environment for regional cooperation and peace. Without addressing underlying tensions with India, Pakistan’s economic potential will remain unrealized, and its aspirations for global prominence will remain out of reach.

In light of Pakistan’s present economic crisis, it is imperative to analyze and address the root causes. While short-term measures may provide temporary respite, long-term solutions necessitate a shift towards fostering stability and cooperation in the region.

As a former diplomat, I remain hopeful that dialogue and diplomacy can pave the way for constructive engagement between India and Pakistan. Only through mutual respect, understanding, and a genuine commitment to peace can the longstanding animosity between the two nations be overcome, unlocking the potential for shared prosperity and progress in the region.


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