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Pakistan and India: Better Relations?

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India and Pakistan have always had very complex relations. In recent years, a lot has been said about leaving behind enmities and forging a new way towards peace and cooperation. Gallup Pakistan has tried to monitor the people’s opinion on these developments.
In the beginning of the year 2006, the people were questioned about the changes in Pakistan-India relations over the past few years. In reply, 49% of the people asserted that these relations had improved, 6% felt that they had worsened, 30% were of the view that there had been no change and 15 % said that they did not know. Given the improved relations between the countries, 22% of the people felt that it would now be easy to resolve the Kashmir issue, 30% believed that it would still be very difficult and 47% said that there had been no change as far as the Kashmir issue was concerned.
These attitudes remained embedded in the people’s minds even when the two countries summoned their ambassadors back later that same year. 44% also felt confident that there is no chance of a war between the two countries in spite of this unfortunate event, 38% believed that there was some possibility and only 16% considered such a situation to be likely.
A lot of people were also in favor of establishment of other, new links between the two countries in 2006. In fact, 73% of them favored the starting of a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. 52% were of the opinion that such a bus service with benefit both countries, 13% thought that it would be more beneficial for India and 14% believed that it would be more advantageous for Pakistan.
While relations between the two countries had improved, they still stood at a precarious and uncertain point. Only 8% of the people questioned in 2006 claimed that they liked the Indian people and 10% stated that they liked the Indian government. The situation also seemed very flaky during President Bush’s visit to India and Pakistan and the establishment of very close relations between India and the United States. 35% thought that this visit would not be beneficial for Pakistan and 30% were of the opinion that the close ties between India and the US would deteriorate Pakistan-India relations.
Extensive surveys were conducted again in 2007 and things seemed to have taken a positive turn. 70% of the people supported the establishment of trade links with India as compared to only 29% who were against it. Similarly, 82% of the people thought that the two countries should cooperate regarding sports, 65% favored cooperation in education, 58% felt that they should work together as far as films or media were concerned and 68% were in favor of collaboration in tourism. 56% were of the view that the two countries should work together in agriculture and 60% supported cooperation in the fields of science and technology.
In 2007, 41% of the people were of the opinion that relations between the two countries had taken a positive turn over the past few years, 7% felt that they had deteriorated and 51% believed that there had been no change. 46% considered an armed conflict between the two to be highly unlikely, 45% thought that there was a very slight chance and only 8% considered it to be very likely. 48% attributed this improvement in relations to factors such as the bus service between the two countries.
The uncertainty, however, remained there. 78% of those questioned in 2007 strongly felt that the Kashmir issue must be resolved before peace can be established in the region. 41% also believed that they would not see a resolution to the dispute in their lifetime. 40% of the people considered India to be an enemy and 40% labeled it as an opponent. Only 17% considered India to be Pakistan’s friend.
The situation worsened after the bombings on the Samjhota Express, the bus service which runs from Lahore to India. 35% of the people held India responsible for this incident and 20% blamed it on the railway administration. 21% also indicated the involvement of foreign agencies. 20% of them thought that the Indian government’s attitude towards the victims and passengers had been bad, 11% said that it had been very bad and 37% rated it as average. 16% considered the Indian government’s attitude as good and only 3% felt that it was very good. 39% also believed that India’s government was not at all resolute about investigating the incident, 12% thought that it was very serious and 46% were of the view that it was somewhat serious. 30% of those questioned felt that this incident would deteriorate the relations between the two countries, 54% were of the opinion that there would be no change and 14% thought that there would be an improvement.
One cannot deny the positive change that has occurred in the region, thanks to the better relations that the two countries now enjoy and the establishment of economic and cultural links between them. At the same time, however, it is clear that this improvement is very frail and even a seemingly insignificant event can have far-reaching implications. The two countries will have to strive much harder if they wish to protect this favorable change and continue it in the years to come.
These surveys and polls were conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of Gallup International, on a sample of over 1100 respondents in urban areas of all four provinces of Pakistan. This sample was statistically selected across all ages, income groups and educational levels. The error for a sample of this kind is estimated to be +/- 5% at a 95% confidence level.

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