Monday, 14 Dec, 2009
This is so notwithstanding the urgent need for rapprochement between the two countries and however attractive an ideal it may seem in the long run.
Indeed such cooperation is unachievable and it will be counterproductive to the interests of the people of both countries under present conditions. The suggestion, if implemented, could engulf the subcontinent in a perennial civil war, which its partition in 1947 — for all its faults — was aimed to prevent and to a great extent succeeded in doing, despite the horrific bloodletting that occurred in its immediate aftermath.
The logic of military supremacy to solve problems of social and economic imbalance and ethnic strife that underlie the phenomenon of terrorism is seriously flawed. Evidence lies in the ignominious US experience in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The rationale for joint action against terrorism by the Indian and Pakistani armies would seem to rest on two assumptions. First, that the Pakistani army is now a reformed entity which has distanced itself from and cleansed itself of ‘non-state’ actors and proved its professional credentials during the anti-Taliban operations in Swat and Waziristan in the last six months. The jury is still out on this proposition, both in India and the US.
The second assumption is that the two countries now face a common existentialist threat. The two military machines have very different psychological, social and political orientations and aspirations, having been shaped by the history of their respective country. In the shaping of India’s history the Indian military has had a minimal role while the Pakistani military has had an overwhelming role in its country’s history. This is an incongruity which would inevitably impinge on any cooperative venture.
Recent developments in Pakistan are clearly indicative of the military reasserting its role in the political sphere. Such a development is hardly propitious for the kind of cooperation being espoused and unlikely to inspire much confidence in our neighbour whom our military has always treated as enemy number one.
Although a repetition of the Mumbai attack remains a serious concern, the more worrisome insurgencies rearing their heads in India are mainly indigenous and economic in origin and in which the Pakistan Army would be of little help, even if India were to solicit it.
There is no doubt, however, that India is the elephant in the room with regard to the war on terrorism, and without bringing it on board, South Asia and its neighbouring regions will remain in a state of suspended political instability.
The continued stalemate over Kashmir is the legacy of the botched process of partition that has festered for decades, with both sides hardening their respective stance, at least in public. It is unlikely that external pressure, especially from the US, as is being hoped by the Pakistani media and political circles, will bring the two sides closer.
The trust deficit between the two sides at present is just too wide to be bridged.
The fear of extremist militancy, instead of bridging this gulf, provokes perverse reactions on both sides. Pakistan, fearful of India reneging on any accord on Kashmir, reassures the militants that they won’t be abandoned. India, unwilling to trust the Pakistani security establishment to dismantle what it terms a terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan’s heartland, puts more pressure on the diplomatic front to paint Pakistan as a failed state.
It is only by raising the stakes and converting this to a high-payoff, welfare-oriented, people-centred cooperative venture where winners are willing to make trade-offs that this unending game can find a virtuous closure.
There is no doubt that India-Pakistan relations are inextricably linked to the fight against militancy and neither of the two countries will be safe from its ever-widening dragnet. Unfortunately, the discourse of terrorism and its putative antidote — modernisation — has been defined almost exclusively in terms of the world’s outrage against 9/11 and the appetite of global corporations for profit.
In both India and Pakistan the state has done little in areas affected by insurgencies to combat poverty over the last 60 years — a kind of terrorism not visible on the radar screens of those who operate drones and other lethal weapons. If anything, the latter has resulted in the exacerbation of poverty through forced evictions of settled populations and resettling them in temporary IDP camps and by the poor and weak becoming the prime, if unintended, targets.
As an Indian columnist remarked: ‘Many Indians still live with a sense of permanent crisis, [in] a world out of joint, where violence can be contained but never fully prevented, and where human action quickly reveals its tragic limits’. He could have been writing about Pakistan.
Instead of cooperating at the military level to combat the terrorist menace, which has arisen largely because of lack of attention by successive governments to education, social development and regional balance, Pakistan needs to learn from India’s successful democratic experiment, while avoiding its obvious defects of exclusion and marginalisation.
India needs to scale down its global and militarist ambitions and pay more attention to those who have been left out of the development loop. Indian and Pakistani leaders need to sit together to reduce their military expenditures, which would help both reduce their dependence on foreigners and remove the unnecessary irritants that have spoiled their relations. They need to cross the Rubicon of hatred and demonisation and recapture the dream of Hindus and Muslims living together in harmony in both countries.
Historians of both nations seem to agree that the present state of their relationship was not the vision of their founding fathers, Gandhi and Jinnah.