South Asia is one of the least integrated regions of the world. A region with almost 2 billion people and yet there is less regional integration than Europe, the Americas, or Southeast Asia. South Asia has long had a regional organization – South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) – but SAARC has remained a moribund forum primarily because of the inability of India and Pakistan to have better relations with each other.
While Pakistani civilian leaders have repeatedly attempted to build ties with India, the Pakistani establishment has done its best to prevent this from happening. For the Pakistani deep state an antagonistic relationship with India as necessary to ensure access to the massive funds and resources that lie at the security establishment’s disposal.
However, a peaceful South Asia is in everyone’s interest. In both countries millions of people continue to live in poverty. Both countries are and will suffer from the vagaries of climate change.
As an editorial in Dawn noted, “Without sacrificing our core concerns, such as Kashmir and the treatment of Muslims in India, the elected leadership, supported by the military, should signal that it is ready to talk peace if India is interested. A quarter of the world’s population will benefit immensely from reduced animosity, and greater connectivity.”