While India and Pakistan agree it is important to maintain peace in the region, tensions continue to simmer over the February Kashmir clash.
Although the Imran Khan government officially allowed Indian Prime Minister Modi's special aircraft to use Pakistani air space, Modi decided not to fly over Pakistan on his way to the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek where he was to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.
Earlier, the two countries signalled their willingness to lift air space restrictions imposed in the aftermath of the Indian Air Force's Balakot airstrike on 26 February which was launched in response to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM or "Army of Muhammad") terrorist group's attack in Pulwama.
#Information: Temporary restrictions on all air routes in the Indian airspace, imposed by the Indian Air Force on 27 Feb 19, have been removed.— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) 31 мая 2019 г.
Additionally, India ruled out a meeting between Modi and Khan at the SCO. For its part, China is urging the Modi government to start negotiations with the Pakistani leadership. The Chinese daily Global Times insisted that India's cooperation with Islamabad is "indispensable to fight against terrorism if New Delhi wants to promote a global convention".
According to Amrita Dhillon, the founding editor of a New Delhi-based magazine, The Kootneeti, neither China nor any other SCO member can mediate the India-Pakistani controversy, with the exception of Russia.
Sputnik: In early June, Pakistan signalled its readiness to lift the air ban along its eastern border with India in response to a decision by India to remove restrictions on air routes in Indian airspace. On 1 June, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced three JeM activists to 5 years in prison. Later, on 5 June, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood was spotted in New Delhi. Do the latest developments signal the beginning of a de-escalation of the India-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir?
Amrita Dhillon: Sentencing three JeM activist is indeed a good step towards the de-escalation by the Pakistani side, however, Masood Azhar, the chief culprit for carrying out attacks in India is still roaming free despite being labelled as a Global Terrorist by the UN. Since Modi has resumed his office after re-election, the valley within two weeks, witnessed, more than 10 clashes in between the militants and security forces, including one with the JeM militants based in South Kashmir.
Looking into this we can only say that Imran Khan seeks table-discussion with the Indian side to avoid any further military actions by India. However, New Delhi's stand is clear, i.e. Terror and Talks can't go together.
Talking about the airspace ban, Pakistan has allowed PM Modi's air convoy pass through the Pakistani airspace, which was indeed a good gesture by the Pakistani side. However, it would've been more appealing if they had allowed other [Indian] officials and journalists to fly through it. As using Pakistani airspace to Kyrgystan reduces the travel time to 3 hours instead of long 20 hours.
Sputnik: Could we expect any contact between Indian and Pakistani officials during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek on 13-14 June? Could the conflict be settled within the SCO framework and what external players may play the role of "brokers" and "guarantors" in this case, in your opinion?
Amrita Dhillon: As said by New Delhi in a statement, there will be no meeting between the prime ministers in the SCO Summit. There are no signals by New Delhi yet for any meetings between even officials of two countries. Talking of external players within the SCO framework who may play the role of broker or guarantor includes China, Russia, and of course the host country Kyrgyzstan, who holds a very neutral perspective for both of the countries.
However, looking at the level of trust New Delhi puts in Russia it is likely Russia may play the role of mediator, after all, PM Modi's policy much stressed on the neighbourhood and extended neighbourhood ally like Russia.
Outside the framework, the US too can play a major role, as it already has directed Pakistan to take sustained and irreversible steps that shut down their operations and cross border infiltration.
Sputnik: What forces and external powers are interested in fuelling hostilities between India and Pakistan? What are their major goals?
Amrita Dhillon: In my view, the weapon manufacturers are the biggest beneficiaries of the hostilities between the two countries. If we look at the figures, the defence budget of both countries exceeds the annual UN budget.
Few disputes are without any certain goals, the external fuelling is just to engage both the countries into a state of hostility, which will distract them from the development and gain the maximum out of both their consumer-based economy.
Sputnik: How does Delhi see the role of Moscow in India-Pakistani relations? Historically, the USSR supported both powers until the late 1970s, when Pakistan teamed up with the US to confront Moscow in Afghanistan. Does Delhi regard Russia as a potential mediator in the recent India-Pakistani conflict given Moscow's ties with China, Islamabad's biggest Asian ally?
Amrita Dhillon: Talking about the SCO, Moscow can be seen as a potential mediator within the framework, as New Delhi's ties with Moscow are not only based on the defence relations, by at the individual level connections inspired by cultural ties, unlike China or any other members of the SCO.
New Delhi always had high regards for the Russia and Russians, and considers them among few of their all-weather allies. Russia may have closer ties with Beijing, but its connections [with India] are deep-rooted. Russia and India both are [fighting against] terrorism which makes them close and natural allies.
The meeting with President Putin was excellent. We had wide-ranging discussions on ways to further boost the India-Russia strategic relationship.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 13 июня 2019 г.
We look forward to increased trade and people-to-people linkages with Russia. @KremlinRussia_E pic.twitter.com/shj4hEbtht
New Delhi believes that a strong relationship with Russia would act as a deterrent against any possible Chinese threat. However, there is a concern of China holding the upper hand in Sino-Russian relationship, assuming that it is not already that, and persuading Russia to focus on selling arms and weapons platforms to Pakistan, thus pushing for an isolation of India in Asia.
Given its policy of "strategic autonomy", India is very reluctant to become overly dependent on the US for its military supplies. Russia is part of India's extended neighbourhood, and its relations are independent of any external threats.
Amrita Dhillon is the Founding Editor of The Kootneeti, a New Delhi-based publication on international relations and diplomacy.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker and the contributor do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.