Big Armies, Poor Peo­ple

India and Pak­istan need to fo­cus on build­ing bridges by ex­pand­ing mu­tual trade and tourism, stop us­ing sub­ver­sive tac­tics to un­der­mine each other’s se­cu­rity and en­gage in di­a­logue.

Southasia - - CONTENTS -

Ever since Pak­istan came into be­ing in 1947 it has been locked in a con­flict with India over the

By Lt. Gen. (R) Talat Ma­sood dis­puted ter­ri­tory of Jammu & Kash­mir (J&K). The two coun­tries have fought three wars two specif­i­cally on J&K and one re­lated to the se­ces­sion of East Pak­istan. In ad­di­tion, they have en­gaged in se­ri­ous con­fronta­tions and

skir­mishes that could have es­ca­lated into full-fledged wars had it not been for for­eign per­sua­sion or pres­sures. They have also failed to en­gage in any sus­tained com­pre­hen­sive mean­ing­ful di­a­logue in re­cent years.

The two coun­tries are now at a stage where India in­sists that it would talk to Pak­istan only on ter­ror­ism and Pak­istan re­sponds by in­sist­ing that its high­est pri­or­ity is en­gag­ing with India on Kash­mir but is will­ing to talk on other sub­jects in­clud­ing ter­ror­ism. This has re­sulted in a lock jam since 2014, not re­al­iz­ing that meet­ing is fun­da­men­tal for set­ting the tone and di­rec­tion for fu­ture en­gage­ment. Modi’s pol­icy of adopt­ing a tough and a bel­liger­ent at­ti­tude to brow­beat Pak­istan in sub­mis­sion has not worked in the past and will not suc­ceed in the fu­ture. Se­ri­ous en­gage­ment would only be pos­si­ble if there are pol­icy and at­ti­tu­di­nal changes in lead­ers of both coun­tries.

With ten­sions on the rise, the LoC re­mained highly vo­latile for nearly six months re­sult­ing in heavy ca­su­al­ties on both sides. How­ever, since the new COAS as­sumed of­fice, the LoC has been rel­a­tively peace­ful. It is also a co­in­ci­dence that Gen­eral Bipin Rawat, the new army chief has re­cently as­sumed command in India. Per­haps Modi’s gov­ern­ment is as­sess­ing the im­pact of the change in command and con­vey­ing a mes­sage. It would surely be in the in­ter­est of both coun­tries that the LoC and work­ing bound­ary re­mains quiet. The very aim of re­nam­ing the erst­while Cease Fire Line, as Line of Con­trol was the ex­pec­ta­tion that it would be peace­ful and act as a rec­og­nized bound­ary un­til a fi­nal set­tle­ment of J&K takes place.

A more fun­da­men­tal ques­tion is what has this high state of ten­sion be­tween India and Pak­istan achieved? Modi’s pol­icy of brow­beat­ing Pak­istan into some form of sub­mis­sion was a non-starter. He has pur­sued this pol­icy pri­mar­ily to de­flect at­ten­tion from the un­rest and up­ris­ing in Kash­mir. Be­sides, Modi feels that by demon­strat­ing a tough stance against Pak­istan, it will boost the party’s im­age be­fore elec­tions in Ut­tar Pradesh, which is the largest state in India with a pop­u­la­tion equiv­a­lent to that of Pak­istan. With ten­sions run­ning high, the chances of mov­ing to­ward some form of un­der­stand­ing on Kash­mir or other is­sues has be­come even more hard­ened and re­mote. Hafiz Saeed, Ma­sood Azhar and other mil­i­tant lead­ers get greater promi­nence and it be­comes more dif­fi­cult for the gov­ern­ment to rein them in. But de­spite th­ese con­tra­dic­tions, it is in Pak­istan’s vi­tal in­ter­est to con­trol th­ese groups. Sim­i­larly, the pres­ence of Afghan re­lated mil­i­tants like Haqqani net­work are an anath­ema to the In­di­ans and the Western coun­tries. It is time we took a hard look at tol­er­at­ing them, as it serves no useful pur­pose in sid­ing with th­ese forces.

What is some­times lost sight of is that an­i­mos­ity be­tween India and Pak­istan has af­fected their in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion and in some ways in­creased de­pen­dence on ma­jor pow­ers. This is even more applicable to Pak­istan as it is rel­a­tively a smaller power and has a tainted im­age.

India’s highly hos­tile pos­ture to­ward the CPEC and its con­stant ef­forts to sabotage it by em­ploy­ing RAW agents has fur­ther vi­ti­ated the at­mos­phere. If New Delhi is un­der any false pre­ten­sions that this would pre­vent im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­ject, it is sadly mis­taken. In fact, it gives rea­son for greater re­solve to ex­e­cute the pro­ject and brings Pak­istan and China closer. More im­por­tantly, China-Pak­istan co­op­er­a­tion should not pre­vent India and Pak­istan to de­velop func­tional and mu­tu­ally help­ful re­la­tions. Pak­istan has been a vic­tim of pur­su­ing the zero sum game that has cost it heav­ily in the past. It would be to its great ad­van­tage to broaden the op­tions.

The United States has been cul­ti­vat­ing a strong strate­gic part­ner­ship with India with the pri­mary pur­pose of coun­ter­ing China. Whereas, it is not cer­tain if India would go to the ex­tent of chal­leng­ing China as it has thriv­ing eco­nomic and com­mer­cial in­ter­ests tied up with it. With such clear ex­am­ples of how coun­tries max­i­mize their op­tions even un­der chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances, there is no rea­son why India and Pak­istan should not en­gage in trade, tourism and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. In this way, nei­ther coun­try would be giv­ing in on their prin­ci­pled stand or po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion on ma­jor is­sues. And at least they would re­main en­gaged and min­i­mize po­lit­i­cal ac­cu­sa­tions and di­a­tribe. But which side will have the courage to sug­gest such a move where pa­tri­o­tism is mea­sured by the ha­tred and venom one pours against the other. The sug­ges­tion be­ing made by some that Pak­istan and China should get even closer and form an al­liance to op­pose US-India part­ner­ship. This is Cold War logic and it would be highly un­wise to adopt it. Know­ing that the Chi­nese pur­sue a prag­matic ap­proach to in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, it will also not be ac­cept­able to them.

More­over, we tend to over­look that China‘s me­te­oric rise in the last few decades is largely at­trib­ut­able to its phe­nom­e­nal eco­nomic progress and po­lit­i­cal co­he­sion. The US and Chi­nese economies over the years have be­come in­ter­de­pen­dent and China’s bi­lat­eral trade with India cur­rently is $65 bil­lion and is likely to keep grow­ing. De­spite dif­fer­ences over strate­gic is­sues with India, China pur­sues the pol­icy of peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and re­mains en­gaged with it, hop­ing “their rise can be mu­tu­ally sup­port­ive”. Sim­i­larly, India and Pak­istan should fo­cus on build­ing bridges by ex­pand­ing mu­tual trade and tourism, stop us­ing sub­ver­sive tac­tics to un­der­mine each other’s se­cu­rity and en­gage in di­a­logue. Once a cer­tain level of con­fi­dence and sta­bil­ity in re­la­tions is achieved, they could start talk­ing se­ri­ously about Kash­mir and other ma­jor is­sues. We have to re­mind our­selves that both coun­tries field the world’s largest and highly pro­fes­sional stand­ing armies and are nu­clear pow­ers but are also amongst the poor­est. They con­tinue to ex­pand their mil­i­tary ar­se­nals and are less con­cerned about the well be­ing of their teem­ing poor mil­lions. How long will this con­tinue?

An­i­mos­ity be­tween India and Pak­istan has af­fected their in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion and in some ways in­creased de­pen­dence on ma­jor pow­ers.

The writer is a re­tired Lieu­tenant Gen­eral and for­mer Sec­re­tary, De­fence Pro­duc­tion.

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