Debating Indo-Pak Relations
{ Imtiaz Alam. }
Originally printed in The News International January 12,2003. Reprinted with permission.
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A debate has started; both in Pakistan and India, over the kind of relationship the two countries should evolve, after long decades of a hate-hate relationship. Focusing on the Joint Press Statement and understanding reached at Islamabad, the debate is confined to the prospects of the resolution of the Kashmir question, without in fact allowing a greater room for reflection. While evaluating the main thrust of the ongoing debate, this author will place the debate in the much wider context of Indo-Pak relations and South Asian fraternity.

created by Bryan Christi and appeared in the December, 2001 issue of Scientific American

The critics of the Joint Statement can be divided in two categories: The one who base Pakistan’s own existence and identity as juxtaposed to a ‘Hindu India’, and those who want to make a political capital out of their opposition to General Musharraf’s peace initiative, regardless of its positive implication on their struggle for democracy. The anti-India ir-rationalists will not agree to even a most favourable solution to Kashmir, nor will they ever agree to even a most fruitful relationship with India since they have become a prisoner of their own ideology that has failed to guide Pakistan find its own positive existence and its relationship with its twin-brother. Their opposition to the Joint Statement is rooted in their chauvinist ideology and rejection of dialogue, in preference for violent means, even if Pakistan is totally isolated and faces the most horrendous consequences.

They have built empires and their immense clout they fear will vanish if reconciliation went too far- which it must. With an irredentist view on Kashmir, they want to use it as a bogey to keep people of Pakistan a hostage to their vested interests. The religious right that as a class, opposed the creation of Pakistan, although divided on its attitude towards India, does not accept Pakistan even as a nation-state and want to zealously defend its gains, that it once made by collaborating with the state apparatuses in the business of jihad and co-manufacturing of ideology. The other critics are just being expeditious, such as PML-N that has the distinction of initiating the Lahore process. Militarization of the civilian mind is now becoming a hurdle, rather than a support base, in the way of efforts by the armed forces to harmonize its corporate interests with new geo-strategic realities. Those who are fighting for democracy and wants to keep the armed forces out of politics cannot oppose the effort to resolve conflict through peaceful means since the hegemony of garrison over civil society, besides endogenous factors, is rooted in maintaining a perpetual conflict with India.

Courtesy of The Applied History Research Group

Indeed, Pakistan was carved out of British India to allow the people of Muslim-majority regions to shape their own nationhood in a separate nation-state. While addressing his last meeting with the Muslim League in Delhi the Quaid asked the Muslims of India to live as loyal citizens of India, he declared Pakistan to be a state of all its peoples, regardless of their religion during his address to the first session of the Constituent Assembly in Karachi. Rather than basing Pakistan’s entity in conflict with India, he vowed to have friendly relations with India as existed between Canada and America. Such was his vision. As opposed to Quaid’s democratic vision, the nation building took an authoritarian course to allow the domination of Mohajir-Punjabi interests over others, on the one hand, and garrison over civil society, on the other.

The legitimacy for this power structure was sought by vulgarising the ‘two-nation’ theory, which had served the purpose of partitioning India, as ‘ideology of Pakistan’ and internalising the external by inculcating anti-India spirit into the national-body of Pakistan. How could the two-nation theory be extended to Pakistan, after the partition and massive but tragic migration? Nor could Pakistan have any endogenous justification for its existence out of an exogenous factor of India. Consequently, deviating from Quaid’s vision, neither did Pakistan become a republic, nor evolve a positive, affirmative and dynamic self-image, rooted in thousand of years of existence of its federating units across the Indus Valley Civilization.

Pakistan was neither an aberration of history, nor a by-product of British conspiracy, as perceived and brushed aside by pseudo Indian secularists. It is based on solid foundations of its people, who wanted to have a separate homeland, and was created out of the mutual agreement of the epoch-making historical forces that decided the fate of the subcontinent in its struggle for self-determination. Unfortunately, the Indian notion that Pakistan will not survive and Nehru’s nationalism that adopted and extended the Monroe Doctrine to India’s small neighbours reinforced the paranoia of a fear-stricken state of Pakistan. India’s hegemonic expressions and hostility also facilitated Pakistan to seek its identity in anti-India notions and ideological justification and support from elsewhere to counter-balance an adversary. This dialectic set into motion mutually reinforcing chauvinist and aggressive ideologies that have kept relationship between the newly independent nations a hostage to adversity. Consequently, the differences were turned into conflicts and wars were fought to perpetuate disputes. Even if efforts were made to resolve them through negotiations they were not meant to build a sound edifice of friendship on whose strength such intractable disputes as Kashmir could be resolved.

Historically, the basis of this Punjabi-Mohajir nexus or Mullah-military alliance and hegemony of garrison have been eroded. The Punjabis are now more confident, as compared to Northern India left behind by South and is inclined to make use of Pak friendship for greater gains from regional trade, to gain than lose in friendship with India. Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to mend fences with India were a reflection of this Punjabi maturity. Mohajirs now seek privilege by forging exclusivity, rather than Muslim fraternity. And the armed forces are now inclined to see the survival of their corporate interests by scuttling their extended security agendas. The arms race had entered a stage where it could not be sustained, nor could cross-borer terrorism be any more allowed since it had backfired rather than make India bow. India has its own no less small reasons to find peace with Pakistan, besides the compulsion of politicians to respond to a much larger peace constituency than hate.

This time around, after Pakistan has rightly bid farewell to arms, no debate will be useful, nor will negotiations be fruitful, unless placed in the context of friendly Indo-Pak relation and grater collective good of the South Asian region. More than Kashmir, Indo-Pak relations remained a hostage to the enmity generated by the partition. It is the liberation of Indo-Pak relation from the captivity of hostility that can create a soil of mutual confidence, strengthened by mutually beneficial cooperation across South Asia and beyond, that can help overcome historically rooted disputes in a process of reconciliation. The ideas of South Asian customs, economic and monetary union and collective security are so much inspiring and mutually useful that border disputes will disappear with the softening of borders while respecting the sovereign entities, and allowing the Kashmiris and so many other dispossessed peoples to realize their aspirations. The logic of hostility will have to be turned over into the logic of fraternity. But for South Asia to become a really dynamic region, it is India that should exhibit greater understanding for Pakistan’s and other smaller nations’ legitimate interests since it is a greater stakeholder than the others. What is no less important is that the Muslims in India and Hindus in Pakistan will never become first-rate citizens unless Indo-Pak conflict is resolved and it must be understood by the religious right in Pakistan, if it has any concern for its Muslim brothers who are almost equal to their numbers in Pakistan

The composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan in February should be viewed in this broader perspective, rather than skewed down to partial preferences of the two sides. A new perspective, a new environment and a new logic are needed to inform the interlocutors. The ideologies of adversity and diplomacy of stalemate will have to be abandoned in favour of understanding, flexibility and accommodation. We live in a ruthless world of unilateralism, globalisation and militarization and cannot survive, nor find a respectable place in this world of great imbalances, without first putting our own South Asian house, in order. Those who do not understand it will learn it on their own peril after the loss of this opportunity. The crux of the matter is that: There cannot be a new beginning for the Kashmiris without a good beginning between India and Pakistan, and there cannot be any beginning for South Asia without a friendly relationship between the twin-brothers of the subcontinent

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