Can Ban Ki Moon's Pakistan Visit Help Quell Pakistan-India Tensions?

Ban Ki-Moon arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday morning in an unscheduled visit. The news of his arrival was kept secret until he landed in Pakistan due to security reasons. Although media sources are citing numerous reasons for his visit, the timing of the visit is essentially related to the recent rapid buildup of tensions between Pakistan and India. It is important that the international community realizes the threat Pakistan and India pose to each other and to regional peace. Ban Ki-Moon's visit is an extremely important initiative and undoubtedly meant to help mediate and reduce tensions between the neighbors. The personal involvement of a high-profile dignitary such as Moon can help subdue the current Indian-Pakistani standoff. An individual of his standing can gain access to Pakistan's top decision-making brass, get their attention, and urge them to deescalate tensions in a timely and peaceful manner. A change in rhetoric and a pacification of the situation can be expected over the next few days.

Pakistan and India have been at each other's throats yet again. Both sides have accused each other of violations of the Line of Control in Kashmir. The Pakistani government accused the Indian army of killing a civilian in cross-border firing. Earlier, the Indian army accused the Pakistani forces of killing five Indian soldiers. In addition, Indian Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh ordered troops to be aggressive and retaliate as needed against Pakistani forces on his visit to Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan is also considering closing its High Commission in Delhi amid fierce public protests and dangers of an attack on its diplomatic staff.

Numerous media sources are citing various reasons for Ban Ki-Moon's impromptu visit including his review of the relief efforts being carried out by the government to deal with the recent floods due to the monsoon season. Ban Ki-Moon is also scheduled to address university students in Islamabad. However, the main reason that got the UN General Secretary to come all the way to Pakistan is to help reduce tensions between the two neighbors-Pakistan and India before the situation deteriorates any further.

Ban Ki-Moon's effort to address the current quagmire so promptly is an extremely commendable act. As beneficial as improved bilateral relations seem to be, the armed forces and intelligence agencies on both sides are deeply suspicious and oppose any reconciliation efforts initiated by civilian governments. The mediation of a high profile dignitary such as Moon can go a long way to quell the current bilateral animosity between Pakistan and India. He has also already held meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Pervez Kiyani, and Sharif's chief adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz. 

It is encouraging to see the urgency that Moon has displayed regarding the current rift in Indo-Pak relations. Pakistan and India have fought three full-fledged wars (1947, 1965, and 1971) since they gained independence from British colonial rule back in 1947. Both countries are armed with nuclear weapons. The international community as a whole needs to, and to a certain extent already does, acknowledge the threat two nuclear armed neighbors with at least one major outstanding border dispute and numerous other contentious issue pose to each other.

Moon's visit in this respect is an extremely important one. Over the next few days it will become evident as to how much Moon's efforts pay off in fixing the current Indo-Pak tensions. Nevertheless, it is safe to predict that his presence will definitely help both countries to tone down their hostile actions and rhetoric against each other that is currently underway.

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Shahab Ahmad

Undergraduate Political Science student at LUMS, Pakistan. Interested in anything and everything related to foreign policy and international relations.

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