Indo-Pak history is marred with revulsion, mistrust and hostility. Two generations of the post-colonial era of this region have departed without having the slightest feeling of amity or trust between the two geographically contiguous neighbours, having a long history of living together with a joint struggle against the British Colonialism.
Indeed, peace between India and Pakistan is the prerequisite for achieving stability and economic development in South Asia. In the past, efforts were made at both bilateral and multilateral levels to normalize the relationship between these key South Asian neighbours; however, these attempts only resulted in limited economic interactions.
There was little genuine determination or effort to address core political and bilateral issues that were a cause for belligerency between the two. The strategic culture of unpleasantness, the sense of insecurity and mistrust, and the divergent geopolitical interests of the great powers have also contributed to this environment of distrust and antagonism.
The history of regional associations is testimony to the fact that without mutual trust and confidence, there cannot be political stability and an environment of peace between regional actors. The critical nature of the relationship between India and Pakistan needs particular attention at the bilateral, regional and global level. Arguably, tensions between both rivals have the potential to bring the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. On the other hand, the resolution of core issues between the two would bring the region to new heights of peace and economic prosperity.
In order to knot a tie between India and Pakistan, a composite dialogue process started in 1997, revived in 2004 and later in 2016. Indian External Affairs Minister’s suggested mechanism ‘Comprehensive Talk’, yet have to take a formal start. Unfortunately, there remained inconsistency in this process mainly owing to sporadic incidents on both sides, and a lack of trust, political will and determination to resolve the bilateral issues between the leaderships of both countries. Analyzing the case study of the European Union (EU) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), one learns that, Europe united following the collapse of Communism in early 1990s. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Europeans buried their hatchets for the sake of the economic well-being of their people and regional development.
Similarly, ASEAN also came into being in 1967, to promote regional economies and social growth. Since its inception, “ASEAN has successfully nurtures the cooperation in political, economic, social and cultural fields with shared interest.” The leadership of these regions had the political will and determination to resolve their bilateral differences and political issues for a greater cause; the regional concord, stability and economic prosperity.
Conversely, the South Asian neighbours however, failed to produce an environment of trust, mainly owing to some unresolved political issues, and have remained hostage to animosity for the last almost seven decades now. These seven decades of post-colonial Indo-Pak relationship have been driven by aversion and mutual distrust.
The perpetual divergences between India and Pakistan have many implications, which are not only local in nature but their prolonged perpetuation also has regional and global repercussions. The leading inference being that, South Asia could not be integrated as a region, politically as well as economically. Undoubtedly, in the process, India and Pakistan were able to attain the status of nuclear powers, but over 27.5% people of both countries still suffer from abject poverty and deprivation.
Being major countries of South Asia, their animosity has held back the economic well-being of the public at large in South Asia. On this account it is possible to argue that the ineffectiveness of SAARC is also due to the mistrust between both countries. Many a time SAARC summits could not be held because India desire that. The scheduled SAARC meeting in Islamabad in November 2016 was cancelled because of Indian obduracy. Certainly, peace is a continuous process; therefore, there is no place to start and certainly no place to end policies for peace.
The division of India was not only a political event; it had ideological and religious dimensions too. After independence, the ubiquitous societal divergence between the Muslims and the Hindus gave birth to two distinctive strategic cultures. The radical class of the Hindus did not accept the partition of India and developed a thinking according to which they were determined either to end the very existence of Pakistan or to make it politically and economically subservient to India.
This Indian supremacy was undesirable in Pakistani strategic culture and furthermore, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir became the focal point of rivalry between India and Pakistan. Pakistan claimed Kashmir based on the Indian partition plan, under which geographically contiguous Muslim majority areas were to become part of Pakistan and more so, Kashmiri wanted that. Kashmiris of Indian occupied Kashmir are still fighting for their right of self-determination as per UN resolution.
For Pakistan, Kashmir is a very important issue to be resolved as per the wishes of its people. Besides considering the political and diplomatic support of Kashmiri people as its moral obligation, the resolution of issue would give geo-economics and geopolitical advantages to Pakistan. India too has its geo-economics and geo-strategic reasons of holding on over Kashmir. The difference is that, while Pakistan has been focused on respecting the wishes of the Kashmiri people; India, on the other hand, has sought to suppress the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Indian security forces have killed over 100,000 people in last two and half decades. Since July 8, 2016, there is new wave of terror by India in IOK with massive human rights violations. At the minimum level, what India should embark upon in IOK is negative peace, absence of violence of all kinds. “Of all the dilemmas in world politics, the security dilemma is quintessential. It goes right to the heart of the theory and practice of international politics.” Pakistan got independence in an environment of insecurity. The geographical size, economic strength and military prowess of India remained a big threat for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. This threat was further enhanced by the fact that successive Indian governments had not completely reconciled with the reality of Pakistan; the Indian role in the disintegration of Pakistan in 1971, being one such example. Therefore, right from the outset, the chief priority for Pakistan was to address its security dilemma vis-à-vis India and same has been focus of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
In conventional military capabilities, there is asymmetry between India and Pakistan, to the advantage of the former. India’s hegemonic designs in the South Asian region backed by military might have been a source of concern and distrust for all the nations in this region. Just to quote, Nepal, a Hindu state, is highly influenced by Indian policies. Bangladesh is facing acute water shortages owing to Indian water manipulation, being upper riparian. In Sri Lanka, Indian involvement during the insurgency has been a dreadful phase in the history of that country.
Although promotion of economic activities; trade and business is essential between India and Pakistan, but trust building and restoration of peace and harmony is even more important. Alongside economic engagement between India and Pakistan, there is a requirement of political understanding, based upon mutuality of interests. In case of India and Pakistan, many projects of geo-economics significance are feasible, but the clash of their respective geopolitical interests becomes a hurdle in their implementation. TAPI and IPI natural gas pipeline projects are two cases in point.
Geopolitical hurdles in the way of Indo-Pakistan peace process are not limited to the bilateral level. The geographical significance of South Asia attracts the involvement of global powers for serving their own interests. The US has always exploited the countries of this region for pursuing its global agenda.
If Pakistan’s geo-strategic significance was used against the spread of Communism and the later disintegration of the former Soviet Union or for fighting the war on terror inside Afghanistan, the Indian geopolitical significance is being exploited for the containment of China, regionally as well as globally. The US has had a policy of favouring one state at the expense of another to serve its own interests. This super power could have played a positive role towards normalization of Indo-Pak relations, had it really wished a stable and peaceful Subcontinent.
The major reason behind SAARC’s failure is one of the principles of this organization, under which bilateral and contentious issues are not allowed to be discussed at this forum. Secondly, the SAARC Charter also requires that decisions at all levels be taken on the basis of unanimity. In the presence of many conflicting political interests between India and Pakistan, concord is hard to attain. Since SAARC has no mandate to resolve the political issues at its forum, thus, its role would be limited to trade and tourism. Being a huge economy, India would obviously reap economic advantages from mutual trade within the South Asian region, but the smaller economies would suffer from this arrangement.
Despite nuisances, there have been negotiations and peace talks between officials, at ministerial level and even at the level of top leadership to shed away the environment of distrust between key neighbours of South Asia. These talks even continued during the period of extreme tension between both countries as track-2 diplomacy. Even after Mumbai incident, there have been some very positive developments between two countries in almost all spheres; political, economic and at the level of people to people. However, the post 2014, scenario has caused a fracture in the bilateral relationship of both countries.
The previous two tenures of BJP were under a moderate leader (AB Vajpayee) have been somewhat moderate. However, under Narindra Modi, the current rule of the BJP Government is based on anti-Pakistan policies. Modi clutched the power by defeating the moderate Congress party and even after side-ling BJP hawks like LK Advani, Jsawat Singh, Jaswat Sinha and so many others. Then, he got the majority Hindu votes, based on certain unwritten promises. How can he deny the Sangh Parivar and especially the RSS, with whom he has longstanding association? Then, the people of India, voted for Modi more than BJP under the philosophy of Hindutva.
Indian Elections-2014 has signaled a change in the Indian society. Indian Hindu society is primed with extreme views for the Non-Hindu minorities and some of the regional countries like Pakistan, that India feels obstacles in its power projection as a major power. There has been no substantive dialogue between India and Pakistan during this BJP regime under Prime Minister Modi. Each time India tried to either cancel or sabotage the scheduled peace talks without sufficient reasons. India has been running the spying network in Pakistan for causing instability through militancy and sub-nationalism. India is using Afghan soil for promotion of terrorism inside Pakistan and has intensified the firing along the LoC and Working boundary to divert the attention from massive human rights violations in IOK. Besides, through this strategy, India blocked the route for negotiations and talks.
For a durable peace and stability of the Subcontinent, there is a need that, the leadership of India and Pakistan realistically visualizes the future of the region and accepts the ground realities through an optimistic mind-set. In collaboration with the Kashmiri leadership, India and Pakistan will have to find a durable solution for Kashmir, the major irritant and potential nuclear threat. Besides, the dead-lock in negotiations for peace and resolution of Kashmir must end. India cannot be given the veto power to block the peace process.
The need of the hour is that, India and Pakistan must talk to each other, engage in negotiations, take all measures for the promotion of peace and tranquility, initiate more CBMs and develop their economies to eradicate poverty widespread among their masses. This is only possible by giving peace a chance, ending antagonism by bringing concord among the leadership and people of two countries. This process would provide opportunities for enhance economic development, resolution of issues like Kashmir and political engagement.