Pak-India Relations in 21st Century – The way forward

‘Composite dialogues’, is the right direction to make effective headway that will eventually ensure peace and stability in the region and will also pave the way for the early resolution of unresolved conflicts.

No two countries in the world have so much in common like India and Pakistan and yet so poles apart. A physicist might put it as ‘like poles repel each other’. But a political scientist will compare it with the mending of fences between France and Germany’ two arch rivals in the past. In reality, if there are differences of such a magnitude which have led both the countries to fight three wars and caused the nuclearization of the subcontinent then obviously there must be solid reasons for it.

A bird’s eye view of the history of both the countries, crisscrossed with conflicts and reconciliations, will highlight those factors that led to the present state of affairs. The pattern and trajectory of mutual relationship have shown that they owe their origin to the tumultuous chaos of the partition and little was done to focus on the commonalities than to highlight and magnify the differences. This provided a good culture medium for the breeding and growth of extremism in both the countries.

The geographical disputes ‘mainly Kashmir and water sharing issues’ are at the heart of the problem. There are many possible solutions to these problems that are also practical and should be acceptable to all the stakeholders but the question is that are they acceptable? And is there any will on both sides of the divide to make courageous decisions?. For instance, the solution of Kashmir problem can be found in the form of shared sovereignty like France and Spain found vis-à-vis Andorra or complete autonomy as was found in case of territory of Trieste (Italy) or a mix of these two extremes. Mir Waez Umar Farooq, in a statement, once said that almost 36 possible solutions to the Kashmir problem are on the table. Similarly in case of water sharing issues, the world has found different ways to share the international rivers so that each stakeholder should get its equitable share.

But sadly in case of Pakistan and India, disputes coupled with low priority attached to their peaceful solution have led both sides to assume stilted positions. This further ensures that the real solution to those problems eludes the wisdom of indolent leadership of both the countries which has proved itself to be short-sighted and timid. The leaders have displayed the tendency to cave in when the time comes to take a courageous leap. The ear-jammed and ritual istic bureaucracy never wants a change in the status quo and the egoistic warlords, who are genetically designed to see things in the perspective of winning and losing will never let it happen unless an initiative is taken from the top as per the genuine desires of the citizens of both the countries.

A theoretical perspective

Viewing this relationship in the light of two major schools of thought ‘Realist and Neo-realist and Idealist and neo-idealist’ of International politics offers interesting explanations and may help in predicting the future. Realist policy prescriptions involve preparations for war, perpetual vigilance, persistent involvement and intervention, preparedness with arms, preserving the balance of power (BoP) and preventing arms races to ensure that the BoP must not be shifted in other’s favour. In this context, all the conflicts and the lack of will to solve them make sense because both sides are weary of conceding ground to each other and thus are inclined maintain the status quo’ ‘no war no peace’ after trying ‘war and peace’.

This thought after nuclearizing the subcontinent, has given way to dangerous strategies. The Cold Start Doctrine (CSD), devised by Indian Military, amply exposes its thinking that a quick, decisive and surprise attack on vital and strategic installations of Pakistan ‘a nuclear rival’ is still possible. For those who are not aware of Indian CS Doctrine, let me add that it was devised after the Kargil episode and the main element of this strategy is to reduce the operational time of the military by deploying it closer to international borders and keep it ready for quick mobilization. The concept was first tested in 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israel conflicts. In present settings, Indian army adopted it as its official doctrine to make sense out of war that can be fought within the nuclear threshold of Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan has maintained an ambiguous and intolerant nuclear threshold as a deterrence which means any such misadventure by India might escalate the events to a nuclear Armageddon.

Henry Kissinger once said, ‘there can be no war without Egypt and there can be no peace without Syria’ there can be no peace and stability in Afghanistan without Pakistan and without Pakistan’s cooperation, India cannot go global.
Moreover, influenced by thinking of this school, both the countries are spending heavily on their defense and are maintaining huge armies at the expense of ignoring the deplorable plight of their citizens’ one fourth of world’s population. The failure of this school to provide a sanguine future to the citizens of both the countries has promoted and strengthened the alternate argument that favours establishing trade relations, opening up of markets for each other, promoting interdependence and allowing people to people contact.

The idealist school argues that ‘evil’ institutions tempt humans to behave selfishly and give disarmament as a solution to ensure peace. In its continuation, Neo-Liberals focus on the anarchic structure of international system (since there is no supreme authority above sovereign states) but believe that interdependence through trade etc. can ensure peace and stability in the world. Moreover, it also specifies a role to the Non-States such as Multinational corporations (MNCs) in binding the states together. The unification of Europe, expansion of regional trade and the emergence of Free Trade Areas (FTAs) can be cited as successful examples in favour of this school.

In the context of India-Pakistan relations, so far both the countries were playing in the hands of powerful hawks and realists and thus the basic problem i.e. peaceful mutual coexistence remained elusive. Now the new regional and global dynamics have started to insinuate, if not dictate, choices to both the countries. The matrix appears to be complex but is quite simple. India is gaining importance through sustained economic progress and its political system ‘the largest democracy in the world’ is the feather in its crown. Moreover, the emerging geo-political realities’ approaching end game in Afghanistan war theatre and US policy of China’s containment’ necessitate a greater role to be played by India. On the other hand, Pakistan’s stability and the potential role it can play cannot be ignored either. As Henry Kissinger once said, ‘there can be no war without Egypt and there can be no peace without Syria’ there can be no peace and stability in Afghanistan without Pakistan and without Pakistan’s cooperation, India cannot go global. Moreover, a stable and prosperous Pakistan can stem the tide of extremism and terrorism that is being spread from its western borders.

Hence, it is necessary that both the countries should realign their objectives and ensure that most of their strategic objectives, if not all, should complement each other. In this regard the peace process started in 1999 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Mr Vajpayee and the Composite Dialogue that was started in 2004 by the former President Gen. Musharraf with Mr Vajpayee is the right direction to make effective headway that will eventually ensure peace and stability in the region and will also pave the way for the early resolution of these unresolved conflicts. Under composite dialogues, following issues were identified: Peace and Security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachin, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage, Terrorism and Drug Trafficking etc. Though no concrete solution of any of these issues has been found but if allowed to continue, this approach, slowly but surely, will achieve an acceptable solution of these disputes ‘a solution which will not be based on winning or losing but mutual peaceful coexistence and jointly sharing in the benefits of economic growth and prosperity.

The way forward

In a nutshell, without being unreasonably optimistic or unrealistic, it can be stated that establishing trade relations and mutually investing political and social capital will enormously benefit both the countries. It will result in evolution of a future that population of both the countries, currently reeling under inflation, unemployment and poverty, which it rightly deserves, is awaiting so badly.
Lastly, let me point out an interesting psychological phenomenon that is prevalent in the thinking pattern of both the countries. Take an example of a cricket match between India and Pakistan. Even if you field an inexperienced and relatively young Pakistani team against India, it will perform or at least will exert to its last stretch of endurance and willpower. It is because there is a psychological impression among us: if India can do it, we can also do it. So this perhaps explain why India failed to dominate us despite being 3 times bigger in every aspect or why Pakistan successfully became a nuclear power despite having little resources commensurate with its ambition (keep in mind that Iran is still struggling despite being rich in oil and gas) or how Pakistan managed to survive the aftermath of partition when it started its journey from a naught and in the face of hostile neighbor! Hence, if India is democratically strong and is economically progressing, Pakistan will surely follow the suit and the day is not far when the region will match the progress made in other parts of the world.
By: Waleed Farooq

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