Overcoming India’s Pakistan Problem
India is growing exponentially since the opening up of it’s economy in 1991 in all spheres despite the “Disunity in Diversity” tag in its internal affairs. It is no doubt the third largest economy in Asia vying for a global role. The tenuous relations with it’s neighbours are strangulating India’s great leap forward – especially India’s relations with Pakistan and to an extent with China. This trilateral equation largely becomes bilateral as China and Pakistan collude on all issues displaying an “all weather adversity tested” relationship when dealing with India, especially in the arena of geopolitics and foreign relations. There thus is a regional ball and a chain preventing India’s leap into the world arena.
The relations with Pakistan have especially mired Indian Policy makers in a regional mindset. The separation at birth was painful but what followed thereafter through four wars and innumerable standoffs has cast a relationship of mutual distrust and enmity the likes of which have no parallels in todays world. All the bilateral rifts barring the Middle East crisis have been resolved through dialogues and treaties for the betterment of the nations involved. The greatest of enemies are working together in a seamless manner be they America and Japan, America and Vietnam, the united Germanies or the US Russia relations. What then are the reasons as to why there is no ray of hope in these two South Asians coming together for the benefit of their starved, poor and underpriveledged populations.
First off, both having born to the same parents have acute problems of thriving on land disputes – a distinct characteristic of the region, where property rights override blood relations. From 1948 till now Pakistan has staked claims to Kashmir, Siachen and Aksai Chin against Indian counter claims. The war of 1971 failed to convert the Cease Fire Line into an international boundary because of shortsightedness of political stroke military masters of both sides. Both the countries are paying in blood and resources to fuel this animosity over this legacy. While various initiatives have been taken to resolve this through all possible channels except an international intervention – they have all been frustrated by the Triumvirate in Pakistan and the hawks in India. Kashmir remains central to Pakistan’s “Land Dream” – a revenge it seeks for the partition’s miscalculation and the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. This territorial dispute thus remains at the heart of all Indo Pakistan relations.
Second, the “military- mullah- militant” formula for governance chosen by Pakistan has its foundation and raison d etre in an overbearing anti India stance to hold the country together. Take away this rhetoric and Pakistan has no unifying factor. An impoverished country growing at two percent boasting of a nuclear arsenal and a conventional capability matching India are a result of this mindset. The first argument is being implemented through the birth of the “Land of the Pure” attempting to lead the Islamic states of the world. Pakistan throgh this identity crisis thought of leading the Islamic world against the Indian menace. This plan however has finally fallen prey to its own devices and today Pakistan faces the threat of Balkanisation at the hands that it fed all along.
Third issue is Pakistan’s nuclearisation to counter India. This has reduced the probability of an allout war but has not ensured peace either. Nuclear deterrence in the subcontinent means little when both the nations are doctrinally ready to go to war following an “Incident”. If anything it has made the triumvirate more confident of flirting dangerously with India on security related issues.
The 2000 CIA “Global Trends” report, looking ahead to 2015, suggested that “Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of political and economic mismanagement. . . . Nascent democratic reforms will produce little change . . . . and domestic decline would benefit Islamic political activists, who may significantly increase their role in national politics and alter the makeup and cohesion of the military. . . . In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the central government’s control probably will be reduced to the Punjabi heartland and the economic hub of Karachi.” Are we witnessing this phenomenon taking shape?
On India’s part desspite a range of peace initiatives, “all is not well”.
As per Stephen P Cohen, “India is both part of the problem and part of the solution, but I know that if it does not act in a positive and creative fashion its hopes of becoming a comprehensively great power cannot be achieved. There may be some gratification in seeing your major enemy and rival go up in flames, but not if your house catches fire.” He further argues that India needs to engage in introspection about the full range of military power that it wields. India is certainly Asia’s third great state, but its strategic weight and its military power have been misjudged. There are no more than a handful of political and administrative officials who really understand the use of force and the instruments of military power. It sometimes behaves like a timid state for good reason—yet it wants its neighbours to be in awe of its power. No big state will ever be beloved by its smaller neighbors, but India has failed to capitalize, especially in the case of Pakistan, on its real assets—these are its great cultural and economic power, not its army or its nuclear weapons.
The problem Stephen has not underscored is that without a dialogue with a military which rules without governing, “Aman Ki Asha” is a distant dream.The current environment presents a dismal probability of this prophecy coming true.
Sumit Ganguly in a futuristic article argues the pros and cons of whether a stable and secure Pakistan would be in India’s interest and plays out various scenarios and their likely fallout. He sums up optimistically that if Pakistan shuns the path of obduracy there is a possibility of better relations between the two states. A must read.
“If through an extremely felicitous set of domestic circumstances—or through considerable external assistance—a legitimately elected regime actually succeeds in transforming its political order, starts to consolidate democracy and so manages to institute a wholly new pattern of civil-military relations, it may well be in India’s interest to ensure this state is both secure and prosperous. India could then discuss possible ways of resolving the Kashmir dispute while allowing greater access to its own burgeoning market as it moves toward normal diplomatic relations. In the end, the question of whether or not a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s national interest is too simplistic. Instead, the key issue is the likely internal dimensions and features of such a state. A failure to address the question of the domestic political makeup of such a state, which will in turn ultimately affect its external orientation, would offer a very poor guide to policymakers in India.”
The contours of current Indo Pakistan relations are proving to be larger than life impediments to allow India to free itself from the strangulations of a disturbed equation checking its trajectory for growth in the regional and global arena. The problems are complex but if we change mindsets from both sides of the fence – some headway is possible. Else, it will be business as usual and friends like China would only be too happy to see India bleed in their race towards a regional or global status. Until India resolves the paradox called Pakistan there is no hope of India managing to live in a Periphery of Peace.