190814 imran khan
Image Credit: AFP

The dates of August 14 and August 15 hold tremendous significance in the socio-political history of the subcontinent as they mark the Independence Days of Pakistan and India, respectively, after the two nations cleaved apart 73 years ago on August 15, 1947.

Each year, as the two consecutive days come round, they bring in their wake a fresh reminder of the fractured history the two nations share. But this year’s reminder for the pursuit of amity is especially critical in view of the historic development on August 5, when India decided to scrap Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that had granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In retaliation, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India by expelling its high commissioner and suspending trade relations with New Delhi. India in turn has spelled out its share of warnings.

What India and Pakistan need to accept is that this volley of words will merely fossilise the status quo and this approach has ill-served them through the decades. Instead, what the two countries need to do is focus on their respective, and common, long-term prospects.

India and Pakistan are not just a sum of their bickering towards each other; they are both strong, independent nations, with dynamic people, history, culture and human resource treasuries that have a big role to play in not just galvanising their respective societies into greatness, but also join hands to keep the region stable, prosperous and visionary.

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Pakistan under the fresh leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan needs to steam ahead to actualise the goals he has outlined for a naya (new) Pakistan that will reduce inequality, marginalise poverty, invest in people and development and infuse the people with a 21st-century zeal. These goals are far nobler, laudatory and transformational in their intent and purpose, and most crucially, non-negotiable for its future.

At a time when Imran is keen on turning around the fortunes of Pakistan with painful economic measures, his attention has been hijacked by the Kashmir issue. As Pakistan’s prime minister he cannot afford to overlook India’s actions regarding the disputed territory. Imran is fully aware that his handling of Kashmir will perhaps define his premiership. He cannot be seen as backing down. Which is why he has vowed to raised the issue at every international platform.

What’s absolutely clear is that India and Pakistan have to settle the Kashmir dispute through mutual accord. Otherwise, tensions will continue to linger, much to the detriment of both the countries.