An antithesis of ‘live and let live’ policy
Speaking to an audience at the School of International Service (SIS), American University Washington DC in 2013, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US, Mr Husain Haqqani, presented an interesting analogy of a divorced couple to delineate Pakistan-India bilateral relations. In the context this relationship, he said, “Just imagine a worst case of divorce in which there is no love lost between the two and to make matters worse, each gets an atomic bomb.” Thenceforth, he went on to articulate his viewpoint on the issue, which he has also presented in his book ‘Magnificent Delusions’.
Being one of the attendees at the event — as a Fulbright Scholar at SIS — I carefully listened to Mr Haqqani’s perspective and the supporting arguments he presented. It was difficult to adjudge as to whether he was the former ambassador of Pakistan or that of India! His narrative circumambulated the point that Pakistan had always, unfavourably and unjustifiably, seen herself at par with India and, due to this irrational comparison, search for security guarantees remained a predominant concern for Pakistan. Moreover, this ‘antagonistic’ attitude has strengthened the security establishment within the country and resultantly anti-Indian sentiments have become institutionalized. And, this institutionalization of hatred forced Pakistan to promote terrorism as an instrument of state policy. So on and so forth! However, Mr Haqqani gave a clean chit to India and the United States.
The purpose of this article is, however, not to delve into Mr Haqqani’s narrative but rather to take an overview of Pakistan-India relations especially in the context of Ajit Doval’s recent hate speech against Pakistan. This piece shall also evaluate the scope of cooperation between the two countries under the current governmental setups at New Delhi and Islamabad.
“India has to be prepared for a two-front war and build deterrence that ensures conflict is not an option for its adversaries. India has two neighbours, both nuclear powers (which) share a strategic relationship and a shared adversarial view of India. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) can bleed India but it cannot degrade a strong civilisational nation like us.” — Ajit Doval
Mr Ajit Doval, an ex-director of India’s powerful Intelligence Bureau (IB), was handpicked by Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi as his National Security Adviser — the 5th at the helm since 1998 when the National Security Council was established by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Doval’s selection clearly demonstrates the vision of Modi administration! the kind of relationship India is looking forward to establish with its neighbours, in general, and with Pakistan, in particular. Mr Doval is a hawk who firmly believes in machinations for which the intelligence community is known for. He is reputed to have infiltrated the Golden Temple in the 1980s posing as an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer, spent almost 7 years in Pakistan (at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad), turned in insurgent leaders in Mizoram and Kashmir, and negotiated the infamous release of hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 in Kandahar in 1999. His selection has disappointed all the peace-loving people on both sides of the border, especially those who think that if the European countries can gather under the umbrella of EU, then why the same experiment cannot be emulated in the Subcontinent?
History serves as a useful guide when it comes to commenting on the prospects of cooperation between both the countries. The problem of Pak-India hostile relations is an over-diagnosed one. Even a layman across any side of the divide can list the root causes.
This depicts the level of trust deficit between both the countries. But, it has not developed overnight; it is the result of centuries-old socio-political and economic disparity between the Hindus and the Muslims which has culminated into the formation of Two-Nation Theory, ergo division of the Indian Subcontinent into two separate dominions. Unfortunately, India did not accept the creation of Pakistan. This is why this ‘bilateral antagonism’ actually shifted from local to international plains. The unresolved conflicts of Kashmir and Sir Creek etc., have also added fuel to the already burning fire of hatred.
However, comprehending the complexities involved in this issue is not an easy task.
A large population had to migrate to the other side of the border when the partition plan of 1947 came into effect. In the riots that broke out in the Punjab region, between 200,000 and 500,000 people were killed. The UNHCR estimates suggest that approximately 14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were displaced during the partition — the largest mass migration in human history. In this context, it was not easy to forget the past altogether and to promote cooperation especially in the wake of hostile acts of India — ranging from India’s refusal to share the national assets to making impossible a fair distribution of water — that aroused fresh fears of subjugation among the Pakistanis. It was embedded in the minds of the Pakistanis that India is bent on strangulating Pakistan in order to undo its creation and to merge it to restore the pre-partition Hindustan.
If at that point Pakistan started looking for financial assistance and security guarantees, as blamed by Mr Haqqani, it was purely a rational — perhaps the only — choice. Moreover, indifference of the world community and the UN to the idea of stepping in for the resolution of Pak-India disputes spurred the anti-Indian sentiment among the Pakistanis. The Pakistani strategists took it upon themselves to seek resolution of these disputes, if need be, even by force. The manifestation of this realization was evident in the Run of Kutch skirmishes and thereafter the Operation Gibraltar that precipitated the war of 1965.
Unfortunately, the Pakistan’s leadership could not develop a model of good governance based on the glorious principles of Islam as was envisioned and promised by the founding fathers of Pakistan. This led the policymakers to laying a skewed focus on the external threats whereas the internal challenges were completely ignored. Resultantly, a large population of the East Pakistan got weary of the government and the process of the dismemberment of Pakistan got set into action. India exploited the differences and eventually the fall of Dhaka took place on the 16th of December 1971.
As this was not enough, India conducted its first nuclear tests in 1974 and, ironically, codenamed it ‘Smiling Buddha’. Pakistan, which at that time was dressing the wounds of the 1971 War and Dhaka debacle, felt existential threat.
In an interview with the Manchester Guardian in 1965, Pakistan’s former foreign minister and premier, Z. A. Bhutto, said that [if India built the bomb,] “we will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. We have no other choice”.
This, probably, was the beginning of an arms race in the South Asian region.
According to the WikiLeaks, “When Pakistan began its nuclear programme, India was already nearing completion of its first full-scale nuclear device.”
The year 1979 is of great significance for Pakistan in general, and for the whole region in particular. It was the year when Pakistan got an opportunity to revive its alliance with the US; this time to counter Communist spread. This cooperation also provided Pakistan with an opportunity to score an equalizer against India through acquiring nuclear capability by effectively deflecting the US attention and pressure to quit the pursuit. It was a great success, indeed!
After the fateful year of 1979, the region became the hub of Jihadists who were employed as an instrument of policy by the West. Pakistan’s cooperation was pivotal to act as a conduit to transfer men and material provided by the West to the Mujahideen. However, the horrible fallout of this cooperation in post-1988 epoch was not foreseen. Consequently, the Jihadist infrastructure, which was nurtured by the world community, gained a permanent foothold in Afghanistan and the regions near the Durand Line. In 1988, the US abandoned the region and its allies like Pakistan were left to deal with the aftermath on their own. To make situation even worse, sanctions (Glenn and Pressler amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961) were imposed on Pakistan for pursuing nukes.
In the chaotic aftermath of the US withdrawal, the regional powers found it convenient to use these mercenaries and non-state actors to serve their national and regional interests. Pakistan and India were also no exceptions. The mind-boggling success of these non-state actors against a superpower gave birth to the belief that they can bring down any country or system — be it the US or any other power. The rise of militant ideology all across the world was a direct manifestation of this belief. This further augmented the resistance movements in Chechnya and Kashmir.
The Indo-Pak relations were further destabilized due to both countries’ tacit support to the militants. India accused Pakistan of using non-state actors as a policy instrument whereas Pakistan blamed India for committing massive human rights violations in Kashmir. Moreover, the Indian hand in fomenting troubles in Balochistan was also an open secret. This confrontation had brewed the Kargil crisis where some Pakistan-backed Mujahideen captured the strategic heights in the Kargil sector. This event took place after the Lahore Declaration of 1999 whereby both countries got engaged in efforts aimed at a peaceful resolution of all disputes including the Kashmir problems. The Kargil crisis ignited fresh hostilities and strengthened the hardliners in India who argued that Pakistan would never miss any opportunity to stab in the back.
After 9/11, the world got sensitized to the lethality of these non-state actors and their potential to carry out terrorist strikes. Attack on the Indian parliament on 13th December 2001, Samjhota Express attacks and later Mumbai attacks of November 2008 and intermittent skirmishes on the LoC kept the tensions between both the countries high. Lashkar-e-Taiba was accused of being behind the Mumbai attacks whereas the investigations into Samjhota Express episode revealed the complicity of Indian security establishment in the carnage.
At present, both countries are locked into a conflict-ridden relationship. The general pattern is that whenever any serious attempt to normalize the bilateral relations is made, an event of terrorism takes place and the matters go back to square one again. Both countries are struck hard by the poverty syndrome. According to a World Bank report, around 24% or more than 300 million people in India live below $1.25 a day. Pakistan’s Millennium Development Goal Report 2013 suggests that the incidence of absolute poverty decreased from 22.3% in 2005-06 to 12.4% of population living below official poverty line in 2010-11 (these are official figures and a bias cannot be ruled out).
Ironically, instead of spending heavily in the field of public development sector in order to improve the Human Development Index and raise living standard of the masses, both the countries are spending heavily on their defence. India’s defence budget in 2013 was around US$ 48bn whereas that of Pakistan was US$ 8bn. Both the countries can curtail these expenditures and divert the savings towards the development sector to address poverty, improve literacy rate, eradicate unemployment and strengthen their health sectors. However, this needs a strong will on part of the political leadership of both countries. They need to come together and seek peaceful resolution of their differences through negotiations.
Unfortunately, the bilateral relationship is not moving in the direction that may bode well for the future of both the neighbours. India’s Modi Sarkar has been following a more muscular approach towards its neighbours, especially Pakistan. Frequent ceasefire violations at the LoC and the Working Boundary (WB) have become a norm since he assumed power. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony was a pragmatic decision as it exhibited Pakistan’s desire to build peace in the region. However, this was not reciprocated by Modi due to which Nawaz Sharif had to face immense criticism at home.
With Ajit Doval at the helm of NSC, India would focus more on strengthening its intelligence and security setups especially for Pakistan and China. Prospects of cooperation are dim but the scope of bilateral cooperation, however limited, cannot be ruled out. This can be gleaned from his statement delivered at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit held in November 2014 where he expressed optimism that India had been able to engage both countries and “economic inter-dependence” can prove to be a framework to build peace in South Asia.
It is imperative for the leadership of both states not to indulge in myopic egoism and mutual hatred but they should find ways to build mutual peace. Resumption of the Foreign Secretary level talks, that India stalled in August 2014 on flimsy grounds, would be a good and advisable starting point. From this platform, both the countries can share the progress achieved in addressing each other’s grievances and agree on initiating further CBMs.
“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt