Muscat: As nuclear rivals Pakistan and India seek to bury their differences in the upcoming ‘comprehensive’ peace talks, expatriates of both nations, including the disputed Kashmir are upbeat over the fresh peace overtures.
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a surprise halt in Pakistan to meet his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif.
This was the first time an Indian Prime Minister visited Pakistan in more than a decade.
Modi’s surprise trip came after both countries announced resumption of suspended dialogue over all issues plaguing their relations—particularly the Kashmir dispute—over the past six decades.
“It’s a big breakthrough after a long time,” said Javaid Iqbal Chaudhary, former chairman of Pakistan Schools in Oman. “Nawaz Sharif and former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had in the past tried to solve all the issues. I am sure there is a realisation this time as well that the past wars didn’t lead to anything. This time around I see a will on both sides to address all disputes.”
Oman enjoys strong bilateral relations with both India and Pakistan. The South Asian giants have a huge number of expats living in the Sultanate, including about 215,909 Pakistanis and 659,576 Indians.
Both the nations have fought four wars since their independence from Britain in August 1947, including a limited war on the heights of Kargil in Kashmir.
Chaudhary said he is hopeful that the fresh efforts of both countries to settle disputes will “bear fruit,” which will help both nations address their internal problems of poverty, underdevelopment and water scarcity.
“There was a time when European nations slaughtered each other. Look where are they now? I think India and Pakistan need to show maturity now. They can use (their) huge defence budgets for the welfare of people,” he said.
Kashmiris in Oman are also keenly observing the situation back home.
“I'm optimistic and as it is said even the journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step. So unless we start, we are going to be at same place,” said Adil Hamid Wani, who works in a consumer foods company in the Sultanate.
He said the Indian Prime Minister had initiated confidence building measures “proven by his recent surprise visit to Lahore” and that he hoped that steps would be taken by both countries to demilitarise the region.
“Also, Kashmiris should be given an opportunity to express themselves as per resolutions adopted by the United Nations and signed by both nations six decades ago,” he added.
Indian expatriates, such as A R Srinivasan, who has been in Oman for the past three decades, expressed hope that something concrete would come out in the meetings of the officials from both sides.
“I’m sincerely hoping that something good will come out of the peace talks. Modi’s visit to Pakistan was heroic,” he noted.
“During my stay here in Oman for almost three decades, I have always felt that the nationals of the two countries have had a very cordial relationship and have lived like brothers and sisters. This means we can live together as good neighbours too. Both countries have huge resources. If combined, we could become a bigger force in the world,” Srinivasan added.