Professor Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema
Dean, National Defence University, Faculty of Contemporary Studies, Pakistan
India Pakistan Relation: Positive Factors
While setting out to analyze whether or not the future relationships between India and Pakistan would demonstrate improvements or continue to remain hostages to past antagonistic approaches, it is imperative to identify both the positive factors likely to pave the way for desired future improvements and the impediments that have so far effectively slowed down the progress towards this end. The signs appear to be somewhat positive. However, one cannot afford to ignore the existence of accumulated distrust that has piled up during last sixty four years of independent existence. Among the positive trends include increasing realization that military approaches are unlikely to resolve issues, slow but decisive erosion of hostile attitudes, beginning of a peace process and the resumption of dialogue process, confidence building measures (CBMs), continuously increasing support among the general public, economic imperatives along with the advent of globalization and the role of SAARC. Similarly the adverse factors such as the haunts of distant and near past with Kashmir dispute as the major obstacle, periodic domestic developments, and different security perceptions would continue to take a heavy toll. This paper initially discusses the favorable factors that are facilitating the process of improvement in relationships followed by an analysis of impediments. In the final section it highlights whether or not there would be a thaw in relationships or further turmoil would be witnessed in future.
Positive Factors: While there are many factors that have and some are still contributing towards the desired normalization of relationships between India and Pakistan, the emergence and continuous realization that military approach is unlikely to pay the desired dividends in terms of resolving the issues and disputes appears to have gained deserving recognition and in consequence made substantive contributions. Not only the two sides have already fought three major and two minor wars but have also experienced innumerable minor armed clashes-mostly around the Line of Control. Reportedly India had deployed more than 700,000 soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir and Pakistan has also stationed an impressive number of troops on its side of the LOC. Despite the fact that the end of the Cold War has injected a fair amount of realism, the two sides still seems to be somewhat hesitant in withdrawing large amount of their forces from the border. India justifies the presence of large amount of its security force on the grounds of continuous unrest within Kashmir and the large scale of infiltration that had takes place in the past. However, it needs to be mentioned here that the volume of infiltration has been drastically reduced over the past decade-a fact that has been periodically acknowledged by many military and political leaders of 1ndia.
The increased realization that the military approach is not going to facilitate the resolutions of issues and dispute gave deserving boost to peace efforts eventually resulting into the initiation of a process that started the slow erosion of hostile attitudes. One manifestation of changed attitude was demonstrated at the time 12th SAARC summit. Although both countries were fully conscious of complex issues confronting both nations, yet they began to look forward towards having a common future. Following the successful 12th SAARC Summit a joint statement was signed by the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President which initiated the much desired peace process. Four factors seem to have contributed enormously towards the advent of peace process; the positive attitude of both leaders, active interest of the International Community, massive support for the process among the general public on both sides of the border, and the death of the Cold War and the consequent changed global situation in which the world witnessed the ascendancy of economic imperatives.
Despite having confronted periodic setbacks the process continued moving forward for almost four years and demonstrated progress-though it appeared too marginal in nature. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the process was that it had begun to erode the edifice of distrust. But then on November 2008 the Mumbai tragedy took place and the process was abruptly halted. For almost two years the dialogue between the two countries did not take place. The dialogue process between the two countries has only been recently resumed after the foreign secretaries meeting at Thimpu in February 2011. The two sides agreed to resume the dialogue on all issues.’ Indeed it is a good omen.
While the introduction of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to South Asia is not a new phenomenon, the advent of many more CBMs since 1971 enormously improved the atmosphere between the two countries. At the moment a large network of CBMs consisting of communication, transparency, consultative, good will and advance notification measures have vastly facilitated the process of contacts between the two nations. The major objectives of CBMs is to build confidence, arrest the undesired drift towards armed conflict, reduce tension and encourage the adversaries to make contact with each other.
Another factor facilitating the two countries to improve relations revolves around the ascendancy of the economic factor in the post Cold War era along with the advent of globalization and WTO (World Trade Organization). It seems that the benefits of collective approaches are gaining grounds even in South Asia. Not only the two countries stressed the need to improve bilateral trade but are also expecting a rapid increase.
The outcome of the recent visit of Pakistani commerce minister to India was indeed very encouraging. The two sides agreed to double bilateral trade to $6 billion by 2014, to ease visa restrictions for businessmen from November 2011 and India would withdrew its objection to the World Trade Organization waiver sought by the European Union for granting duty free access for certain goods from Pakistan to expedite flood relief efforts. ‘For India the deal meant opening up her purse strings to Islamabad without getting what she really wanted in return-Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. The only gain for India in this direction was that Pakistan finally recognized the need to grant the status.’ India has already granted MNF status to Pakistan in 1996.
The establishment of SAARC was hailed at the time of its birth as a tool that would bring South Asian nations much closer to each other but unfortunately the organization become hostage to Indo-Pak hostile relationships. However, it needs to be stressed that since the roaring success of 12th SAARC summit, this regional organization is gradually becoming more vibrant and active. Not only it has expanded and included Afghanistan as its 8th member but it has also given observers status to many countries.
Negative Factors: Most South Asian leaders often project themselves as the ardent supporters of peace in the region especially at the declaratory level but at the practical level they rarely make tangible efforts to attain the stated objective. Flexibility in attitude could certainly pay enormous dividends. Among the factors adversely impacting upon the policies perused at the practical level include the haunts of history, periodic domestic developments, and differing security perceptions along with different interpretation of normalization.
Undoubtedly, the hangover of the past especially that of hostile relationship which is the product of the ongoing Kashmir dispute along with wars and major border clashes, enjoys tremendous hold over the attitudes which, in turn, effectively prevents the governments to initiate a major de-linking with the past.
Indeed if it is tackled to the satisfaction of the involved parties, the chances of the advent of peace would enormously brighten.
If one reviews the near and distant past, perhaps the most outstanding issue that has been and still continues to take a very heavy toll is the ongoing Kashmir dispute. Judged by any yardstick it is quite clear that Kashmir had played a dominant role in influencing leaders; approaches and shaping the subsequent policy pursuits. Even after the passage of 64 years, approaches and disputes still continue to create insurmountable impediments. Not only the multilateral efforts have failed to resolve the dispute but even bilateral dialogues have not been able to settle it. Indeed it occupies a paramount position in Indo-Pak relations and over the years it has abundantly become clearer that without its resolution, the peace of South Asia would continue to remain an elusive commodity.
Admittedly, both India and Pakistan have consistently expressed desires to resolve this dispute but most of the time both sides promoted the efforts that was closer to their own chosen solution. While most Pakistanis believe that the dispute has not been resolved because of rigid Indian attitude, the Indians not only stress the notion that Kashmir is an integral part of India but also accuse Pakistan of continuous interference in its internal affairs. Undoubtedly the major source of tension and antagonism was, in many ways, and still is the ongoing Kashmir dispute. While a review of speeches and statements of Pakistani leaders clearly reflect an earnest desire to have the dispute resolved but a similar review of Indian leaders’ speeches and statements generate totally different impression. Not a single move has so far been made by any Indian leaders that could be viewed more different from that age old Indian position on the Kashmir dispute.
It needs to be mentioned here that over the years the ongoing Kashmir dispute has become even more complex. At the time of the origin of the dispute and according to the UN resolutions of August 13, 1948 and Jan.5, 1949, only two parties were recognized as the disputants but since l990s with the intensification of freedom struggle by the people of Kashmir a third party needs to be recognized. Reports indicate that the Pakistanis have modified their stance that they would accept whatever is acceptable to the Kashmiri people as they have already made enormous sacrifices for their cause, the Indian side still resist in recognizing the Kashmiri people as a third party to the dispute.
Apart from the ongoing complex Kashmir dispute, the security perceptions of the two countries are different. South Asia has an imbalanced and asymmetric power structure. The nature of this imbalance and asymmetry is such that India is far superior in terms of size, population, resources and military strength to any of its neighbors. In view of this significant asymmetry, India envisages for itself a place of preeminence in the region and has not only been keenly asserting its position but expects to be acknowledged as such by its neighbor.
Almost all regional neighbors have already accepted India’s eminent position within the region but what they resist is the hegemonic pursuits of India. India’s vast military establishment coupled with assertive policies disregarding neighbors’ interests and aspirations forced the neighbors to opt for self defense as best as they can in view of the available resources and the operative anarchic international political system. Pakistan’s drive towards removing the initially well entrenched sense of insecurity and to strengthen its security situation was seen by the Indians as a dangerous pursuit aimed to upset the natural power balance in the region. This difference in perceptions led to mutually antagonistic policies.
Sandwiched between hostile and unfriendly Afghanistan, Pakistan’s security perceptions were largely influenced by the state of relationship with these countries. Besides, it did not inherit a comfortable security situation. In fact it was lumbered with almost all the security concerns of the British Indian government as well. Pakistan’s search for security manifested itself in the form of alignment policy initially and later on self help. Pakistan’s main security concern is India though at the moment it is deeply involved on its western border as well because of the ongoing situation in Afghanistan whereas India’s major security concerns include China. Besides India has a global vision of itself and its quest for enlarging its military might is heavily influenced by its desire to play a global role. This Indian quest has also led to the nuclearization of South Asia. It was India that tested its first nuclear device in 1974 and then in May 1998 only to be followed by the Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998.
Another factor that has been effectively slowing down the onward march of peace process is the difference in interpretation of the normalization. Almost all neighbors of India have recognized India’s per-eminent position in the region but the actual policy pursuits of India are more reflective of domineering and hegemonic streaks. Unless India learns to act as an elder brother rather than a hegemonic power, a true feeling of regional community would continue to remain an elusive commodity.
Periodic domestic developments have also adversely impacted upon the pace of normalization. It is not too difficult to assume that unforeseen developments in domestic politics could strongly influence the incumbent regime to modify its existing policy-pursuits in international or regional relations. The linkage between domestic politics and foreign relations was admirably highlighted by a British prime minister Gladstone when he said; the first condition of a good foreign is a good domestic policy’. While it is not all that easy to define what good domestic policy is but one can safely assume that stability, security and economic development could facilitate in evolving a good domestic policy. Many factors such as public opinion, state of economy, law and order situation, images and perceptions, and ideology etc. could effectively influence the course of foreign policy.
Thaw or Turmoil: One cannot dispute the fact that the overall atmosphere has considerably improved primarily because of the introduction of a vast network of confidence building measures (CBM). It needs to be mentioned here that many CBMs were the product of Track II dialogues such as Neemrana Initiative. Not only the two sides are talking about all the issues that have been preventing the desired normalization and some progress in areas like trade and people to people contacts have been made though not all that impressive but no progress, so far, has been witnessed in the area of conflict resolutions. The Kashmir dispute, Siachin, Sir Creek and water issues all remain unresolved despite the many rounds of talks.
A close scrutiny of last almost Sixty Four years’ developments between India and Pakistan indicated that India lacks the sense of urgency and requisite level of willingness to resolve all the concerned parties. It has frequently demonstrated a tendency to impose its will. If you do not accept its interpretation, it opts for delaying tactics with a view to exhaust the involved parties in order to have its own interpretation eventually accepted.
The irony of the situation is that while India aspires to be a global actor it lack all the prerequisites deemed to be necessary for a global player. To be an effective global player, it is imperative for India to secure the support of its entire regional neighbors. To do that India must learn to act like elders who give rather than always looking for an opportunity to extract something out of it.
There is no doubt that the peace process is limping forward and slowly inching towards the desired objectives. This pace, if it is continued to be maintained, the process may never be able to attain its
objectives. The importance of time and the prevalent atmosphere must be realized and capitalized. Not only the unforeseen adverse development can extract a heavy toll from what has so far been achieved but change in global and regional environments may further complicate the situation and may even bring the process to a grinding halt.
The currently prevailing atmosphere along with the incumbent level of international community’s interests is indeed conducive to the acceleration of the process. This is an opportunity of life time and should not be wasted. While there in no doubt in my mind that a vast majority of both the Indians and the Pakistanis are desirous of resolution of all disputes between the two countries peacefully, the pursuits of the Indian Government have already begun to arrest the process and begun to generate pessimism.
On the positive side, if one closely reviews that last 64 years of relationships with a view to ascertain positive development, one would not be disappointed. To ascertain positive trends, it would be appropriate to divide the entire period of independent existence into three phases: 1947-72, 1972-2002, 2002-2011. During first period (1947-72), India-Pakistan fought three major wars (1948, 1965 and 1971) and one minor war (Rann of Kutch war in 1965). The second phase starts after the signing of Simla Agreement of 1972. This phase experienced four major crises (Brass-tacks 1986-87, Kashmir Crisis 1990, Kargil episode 1999 and Troops Confrontation 2001-2001) and none of them caused an outbreak of a major war though. Kargil crisis resulted into another minor war. It need to be mentioned here that Kargil crisis generated enormous apprehensions primarily because of the fact that involved adversaries had already acquired nuclear weapons and many in the West began to entertain the notion that there could be a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. Indeed it is somewhat reflective of a low view of South Asian maturity level.
Third phase started after the successful 12th SAARC Summit that was held in Islamabad. This phase saw the advent of a peace process and the war on terrorism. One major setback experienced during this phase was the Mumbai incident of November 2008 which not only abruptly halted the then ongoing peace process but also experienced hardening of attitudes. For almost two years the dialogue process remain suspended only to be resumed recently after Thimpu meetings of the foreign secretaries.
Since the dialogue process has once again started and it is not too difficult to assume that if the process continues for few years, the advent of desired level of peace could certainly be achieved. Three factors appear to support this contention; increasing realization regarding the futility of antagonistic relationships and rising support among the general public, the common threat confronting them in the form of terrorism, emerging realities in terms of globalization along with advent of WTO etc. On the negative side it would be difficult to ignore the impact of ongoing conflicts along with the long history of distrust, and the fragility of peace process until it is strengthened by all concerned; the people, the leaders, the governments, media and the international community. It is indeed not very easy to predict whether or not there would be a thaw or further turmoil. Indeed the most predictable aspect of South Asian is their unpredictability.
(Author’s paper presented at a Center for South Asian Studies held seminar in Kathmandu, November 7, 2011.
Published in the broader interest of the South Asian Population housed in the SAARC regional body. Thanks the author and the organizers, Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS) and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, KAS -Chief Editor.