India & Pakistan: Changing the Narratives

Publication date:
Gareth Price

Policy Research Papers

January 2012

In November 2011, hope that relations between India and Pakistan could be "normalised" were rekindled with Pakistan's announcement that it would grant India Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status. A more positive narrative, predicated on better economic ties, has started to emerge, despite outstanding differences on a range of issues. This paper explores the extent to which a changed narrative might work to expedite progress to resolve these differences, and how this might impact upon stability within Afghanistan.

Disputes between India and Pakistan are multi-layered. At the higher-end lies a question over the very nature of the two states, epitomised by the status of Muslim-majority Kashmir. Since Independence, both countries have argued over whether Kashmir should form part of Pakistan, the homeland for South Asia's Muslims, or secular India, which now has a greater Muslim population than Pakistan. At the other end of the spectrum lie a host of smaller disputes, some of which are also hangovers from the partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947. While solutions to some of these are in reach, solutions are not implemented because of over-arching distrust.

This distrust causes massive opportunity costs, not least the absence of significant economic ties. India's economic growth and Pakistan's economic weakness appear to be creating a shared sense that greater links would be mutually-beneficial, and could work to improve the bilateral relationship. At the same time, in recent years, the prevailing view within Delhi regarding Pakistan has shifted towards a realisation of the dangers India faces from an unstable Pakistan.