Search for Normalization in Pakistan-India Relations Under the Shadow of Rising Tension

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Pakistan and India are two important countries in South Asia, standing out to be as nuclear power. There are serious disputes between the two sides over the Kashmir issue. From time to time, allegations of a renewed hot conflict between the two states, which have fought wars in the past, come to the fore. However, it should be noted that there is no significant dispute between Islamabad and New Delhi except for the Kashmir issue. Therefore, if a roadmap is developed on this issue or if the parties manage to compartmentalize their differences and focus on opportunities for cooperation, a new chapter could be opened in terms of regional security, stability, cooperation, and prosperity. In fact, there have been several recent events that show that there is a growing will to do so, but that the process is not without its challenges.

As it is known, India is currently a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD). Therefore, it occupies a special place in the United States (US) competition with China. Washington, pursuing a containment strategy against China, is trying to use the problems between New Delhi-Beijing, in line with its own interests and positioning India as a key actor in the “Free and Open Indian Pacific Strategy.” This is an advantageous alliance relationship for New Delhi in terms of India’s vision of becoming a regional and global power.

On the other hand, Pakistan, as an actor focusing on developing and deepening its relations with China on the one hand and restoring its relations with the West, particularly the US, in addition, especially after Shahbaz Sharif became Prime Minister, has been conducting multifaceted and multidimensional diplomacy, considering the balances between the centers of power. In this sense, Pakistan’s priority is not to enter unilateral dependency relations with any state.

Another reason for the Islamabad administration to adopt a multilateral foreign policy approach is the desire to prevent the country from becoming isolated and to create an environment that will increase the welfare and security of the Pakistani people by developing win-win relations through regional and global cooperation.

Undoubtedly, regional stabilization and cooperation are of great importance for Pakistan’s security and prosperity. In fact, the same is also true for India. For this reason, there are some messages that normalization efforts will increase the relations between the parties. Moreover, it can be stated that the international conjuncture is highly favorable for such a normalization, especially in the US dimension. As a matter of fact, on December 20, 2022, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price made the following statement confirming this situation:[1]

“We do not want to see a duel between India and Pakistan because we have partnerships with both countries. We would like to see a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan. We think it is for the benefit of Pakistan and India.”

At this point, it can be said that Price’s statements are of great importance as they come after the escalation of tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on December 16, 2022. After the meeting in which the parties used harsh expressions against each other, the Washington administration sent a clear message to the parties that it was in favour of them acting together. This is because the US believes that the conflict between the two countries is bringing Pakistan closer to China and wants to prevent the China-Pakistan axis.

However, it should be emphasized that even during the tensions at the relevant session of the UNSC, India expressed its support for normalization in the subtext. To elaborate on the situation, it is worth recalling that during the debate, despite the mutual accusations between Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Indian Foreign Minister said in his speech the following:[2]

“Today we focused on the urgency of reforming multilateralism. Naturally, we will have our views. There is a convergence underway, at least this cannot be postponed any longer.”

Moreover, the will for dialogue exists not only in India but also in Pakistan. Because just two days before the meeting, Zardari made a similar statement. In fact, on December 14, 2022, Zardari stated that they believe that they can develop peaceful relations with India and that the young populations of both countries want to establish peaceful relations with each other.[3] On January 2, 2023, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry announced that it had shared the list of its nuclear facilities with the Indian Embassy in Islamabad, in keeping with past agreements.[4]

As a result, both countries are aware of the need for dialogue despite their critical approach towards each other due to structural problems. In other words, both sides are in favor of keeping the door to dialogue open, despite the harsh accusations they levelled against each other in the UNSC due to their mutual prejudices on regional security and terrorism. This is the reality of the region. Especially considering the Afghan issue, it can be argued that dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi will contribute to cooperation and peace not only in the two countries but also in the region. Therefore, it can be stated that the parties are preparing for a process that can be defined as “Taj Mahal 2.0” through their subtextual sentences, even if they do not explicitly express it, and that the US also wants such a process. In this environment, it is possible to predict that the actors will prefer to compartmentalize the contentious issues.

[1] “What US Said On Pak Minister Bilawal Bhutto’s Comments Against PM Modi”, NDTV,, (Date of Accession: 02.01.2023).

[2] “‘Hosting Osama Bin Laden, Attacking Parliament’: India’s Strong Reply After Pakistan Raises Kashmir Issue at UN”, Business Today,, (Date of Accession: 02.01.2023).

[3] “Pakistan Believes in Peaceful Ties with India: Bilawal Bhutto”, Dunya News,, (Date of Accession: 02.01.2023).

[4] “وزارت خارجه پاکستان فهرستی از تاسیسات هسته‌ای این کشور را در اختیار هند قرار داد”, Afintl,, (Date of Accession: 02.01.2023).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.