Swinging between half-hearted negotiations and menacing moves
Ever since the inception, Pakistan and India seem to be preoccupied with each other. India especially seems to leave no stone unturned in order to defame and shame Pakistan through its aggressive agenda in media, in movies and in government statements.
Does sharing a 2,912 km border bring any prospects of an emotional connection for Pakistan and India? Apparently not.
Currently, with regular infringement of the Line of Control (LoC) and hurling of accusations from both sides, relation with India does seem to have reached a record low. This is not an ideal scenario. In this day and age, it hardly seems to be an acceptable solution.
But why is the situation so bad?
“Well, the difference originates from Two-Nation Theory,” said Hussaan Tariq, a public administration graduate based in Karachi.
“They [India] do not really believe in the Two-Nation Theory and therefore have a hard time accepting that we are a separate nation.”
Analysing Hussaan’s explanation, it seems to be more of an ideological problem. If so, four wars and lots of threats and counter-threats, insurgencies, blame, Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (WB) infringements, manoeuvres over water hardly seem a pleasant situation for the situation. A brief look at the timeline of Pak-India ties speaks volumes of the failed state of diplomatic affairs between the two countries.
A tale of failed diplomacy
The startling fact about the relations between India and Pakistan is that nothing ever works. And both sides resort to the not-so-desirable tactics of relying on brawns rather than brains.
There have been some diplomatic efforts though they do not seem to have borne fruit in the long run.
Salman Zaidi, Deputy Director at Jinnah Institute, Islamabad, thinks this is a diplomatic crisis.
“I don’t think that relations between the countries are on the lowest ebb right now,” he opined.
“But the situation is not desirable. India has once again used a pretext to not talk to Pakistan. And yes there is a diplomatic crisis which needs to be sorted out. Right now it’s India who is calling the shots.”
But why is India calling all the shots? Why has it lost any interest in Pakistan and what sort of situation has led up to the current doom and gloom? Khizra Raza, a political graduate student based in Lahore, thinks both the countries are responsible for the recent crisis.
The situation is not desirable. India has once again used a pretext to not talk to Pakistan. And yes there is a diplomatic crisis which needs to be sorted out. Right now it’s India who is calling the shots
“Well, with Modi heading India you really cannot expect much,” she stated. “This is precisely why they are getting more and more hostile toward Pakistan.”
She further talked about Pakistan’s civil-military imbalance to be one of the causes. This imbalance implies that many important portfolios including foreign affairs have been ceded to the military. This is precisely why the Kargil war took place in the first place. The army bypassed the civilian government and India lost all faith in Pakistan.
“Military rule, though not in the form of a hard coup, has strengthened in Pakistan. And whenever military’s presence is there, the stance is generally anti-India. But then again instances like Kargil are not sufficient reason to defame Pakistan. I mean many countries invade and conquer. USA does the same, doesn’t it? Then how was Pakistan a destroyer of trust?”
Hussaan holds a similar opinion but from a historical perspective.
“Like I said, the difference is ideological,” he told DNA.
“The animosity between Pakistan and India is nothing new. Every Pakistani and Indian kid has been brought up with the notion that we are enemies. These differences started right at the time of inception, and we have not been able to shake them off even to this day.”
He then moved on to diplomacy.
“See, the sincerity of diplomatic effort is not there,” he explained. “India really does not bother. Rather they try to keep manipulating the weaknesses of Pakistan. We even have evidences of Indian intervention in Karachi and in Balochistan. Do you really think diplomacy is even conceivable in such times?”
A very prominent event in July was the Modi-Nawaz meeting in which Narendra Modi clearly exhibited his stance that he couldn’t care less about Pakistan. He totally overshadowed the Pakistani premier and a lot of hue and cry was raised regarding the optics of the meeting.
“This is because our politicians are more bothered about their personal interest,” Khizra opined. “Indians on the other hand are always thinking about their national interest, and that is why they do not stoop in front of Pakistan.”
So who wins? Pakistan or India?
Fights usually result in one winner and one loser. On the chessboard of international diplomacy, Pakistan and India seem to fight hard to win. But who is the best fighter and who has the best tactics.
“Well, India should not be taking us for granted.” Hussaan asserted.
“We do not have any sort of dependence on India – neither economic nor diplomatic. So if India thinks it can be the bully on the block, it is badly mistaken.”
Khizra too agrees to the point.
“If India had the power to wipe us off, it would have done it by now,” she stated the obvious. “Yes, India is a bigger economy and technologically more advanced, but our army is better and stronger. Our intelligence is better, RAW is nowhere, and no one lauds it. ISI is way sharper, way better. So I am sure India has a reality check in place.”
However, in the post-Cold War era, armed warfare has gone obsolete. Battles are fought in houses, in drawing rooms, on TV channels, in economic forums, in international and regional alliances. Warfare is now psychological, economic, technological and cultural. Diplomatic standing is affected by who can offer what to the world, and not by whose army is brawnier or who fires better missiles.
Salman thinks India is better-liked in the comity of nations than us.
“Sadly, Pakistan has been unable to leverage soft power and hard power,” he explained. “The world has some sort of romance with India. India offers more to the world regardless of the various poverty indices. It has more smart power you can say and hence gets way more appreciation and alliance than Pakistan.”
It is a sad truth. Our eastern neighbour has lesser trouble domestically and therefore more leverage to grow internationally. Pakistan has been caught in the vermin of international security crisis and militancy, but surely there still is hope left.
“Well, we are definitely improving,” Hussaan sounded confident. “We are improving on our security issues, and the change has been both visible and remarkable. We will come back.”
So while India thinks it has won all battles, there still is leverage for Pakistan.
So near yet so far
Shared borders, a combined history of over thousand years, common cultural legacy and common problems do connect the two neighbours and bring them both together. Pakistan and India seem to share a bond that is unfortunately more evident when it comes to the problems.
Both the countries have gender issues that have gone beyond control, both have poverty, both house illiteracy and both have an economic disparity between haves and have-nots.
Do these common problems present an opportunity to strive for a common solution? Salman Zaidi thinks otherwise.
“These are commonalities, yes,” he argued. “But they do not necessarily translate to bilateral efforts in this regard, so they are irrelevant when we talk about negotiations. These might be helpful in multinational forums but clearly India is not in the mood.”
However, the hatred and the aggression displayed on the surface might not necessarily trickle down to the masses.
“I was reading something regarding a domestic problem of India on Facebook the other day,” Khizra narrated. “And I commented there that although I was not an Indian, I would prefer such issues to be sorted out. Now the response I got was phenomenal. I got inbox messages where Indians thanked me and presented the opinion that there should be peace. This shows that the common people do not hate each other.”
However, ironically, Pakistanis and Indians generally are seen abusing each other on social media and this is something very common.
“You know what,” Khizra went on, “This only happens when you talk about very serious and sensitive issues. Other than that, there are not many grudges in the life of a common man. People are not concerned.”
Hussaan agreed, but chose to differ partially.
“Yes, the magnitude of hatred is less than it seems,” he clarified. “But it is there and you cannot deny it. I am not saying that every Pakistani or every Indian is a jingoist always gripping the opportunity to rip each other apart, but yes there are problems that you cannot deny.”
The geographical and cultural closeness between the two states is marred by the deep-rooted conflicts and differences. They are here to stay definitely, but at this point in time both the nations should be focusing on bridging the gaps.
A hawk or a dove
Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri in his book (to be published on Tuesday) has talked about foreign policy stance in terms of a hawk and a dove; however, he thinks that neither is desirable.
Ignoring the Indian aggression is not the best thing to do,” she contended. “Even though things will get worse if we become aggressive in response, but are things any better without aggression on our part?
Salman Zaidi thinks context is important.
“Things were different back then,” he stated. “Pakistan was an altogether different political animal in the time of Musharraf. Things are different now. We do not have a foreign minister unlike Kasuri’s time. We do not have a foreign policy brief on the Indian issue.”
He further expressed his reservations.
“What Mr Kasuri is talking about is how progress on Kashmir was made during his time. Today it is different. And India generally does not talk about Kashmir. Rather the focus now is on insulting Pakistan.”
However one thing is for sure irrespective of the situational difference: We need to be clear in our heads whether we want to be a hawk or a dove.
Hussaan thinks Pakistan needs to take up both roles.
“Both roles are required in various situations,” he stated. “We need to be a dove when it comes to promoting peace. However, we need to be a hawk if they ever dare to target our sovereignty. We are no less in military strength.”
Khizra thinks aggression will always beget aggression.
“Ignoring the Indian aggression is not the best thing to do,” she contended. “Even though things will get worse if we become aggressive in response, but are things any better without aggression on our part? I beg to differ.”
“Our media needs to be a bit smarter than it is currently. Rather than propagating where Ajmal Kasab lives in Pakistan, it should focus more on national interests. Do we really need to blame the world for all our misfortunes when our own media leaves no stone unturned in displaying Pakistan as a bloodletting monster full of bomb blasts.”
She however was hopeful with regards to the current shift.
“The narrative of the media however is shifting now. India should not take us for granted as we won’t take much time transforming from a dove to a hawk in the wake of future insurgencies.”
Interestingly enough, no one is really interested in playing the friends card in Pakistan and India. Both consider each other to be bitter enemies and transgressors of each other’s national security. But this stubborn attitude would not do any good. Both need to focus on diplomatic channels – bilateral and multilateral ones rather than half-hearted unilateral attempts. But again, Pakistan needs to be a little more assertive and convey to the world that it is not some for granted piece of cake and therefore will not tolerate any abuse of its sovereignty.
This is the time for some real work and both the countries need to be serious now – but not too serious.