07202019Headline:

Pak-India relations: anchored in 1947 by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

There are two divergent narratives emerging from both sides of Indo-Pak border that are in stark contrast to each other. On one side is the unified narrative of almost all political parties of Pakistan that relations with India should improve. In complete contrast to that Indian media is spewing venom against Pakistan while politicians in the heat of the election rhetoric are presenting Pakistan as an enemy. And now even Kashmiri students are labeled as traitors when they cheered for the Pakistani cricket team.

There is nothing surprising in Indian attitude. It is the same approach adopted by Indian National Congress (AIC) throughout its negotiation with All India Muslim League (AIML) to find a political formula for a post-British India era. AIML, led by Quaid-e-Azam, offered many solutions to AIC starting from round table conferences during 1930s up to 1945. One of these proposals was creation of an Indian Union of autonomous states in which only currency, foreign affairs and military was controlled by the center. A model that was similar to later day European Union (EU). But AIC created road blocks to all these proposals because they never wanted Muslim majority areas to remain part of India. Their fears were derived from the demographic influence Muslims could have in a democratic united India. They made it impossible for AIML to remain part of India and pushed it towards division.

In early years of partition India had successfully promoted propaganda that AIML, hence Muslims by implication, was responsible for division of India. Recent books on Indian history have started presenting a different picture which blames AIC for partition.

The question then arises why did All India Congress (AIC) adopt this strategy of blaming Muslims for division of India? There were many reasons for it. First and foremost, AIC wanted to develop a psychological barrier between Muslims left behind in India and those living in Pakistan. They were told that the cause of their backwardness and misery is Muslims of Pakistan as they divided their political influence. Any affiliation between these two communities could have produced political and strategic problems for India. Look at recent events in Crimea to get an idea what I am referring to. Second objective was to develop an international diplomatic posture that India is the damaged party in the division of sub-continent. This gives her a legitimate right to protect her interest in adopting an aggressive posture in Kashmir, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In last few years whenever I proposed that All India Congress (AIC) should be blamed for division of India as a larger national party Indian intellectuals approach me with historic evidence that I am wrong. In response I tell them that we can’t change the past but we can build a better future so let’s work together for an Indian Union on the model of Eurozone. But these Indian intellectuals back down and never come forward to work towards that objective. This exposes the weakness of their arguments and their approach towards Pakistan. Even Indian think tanks adopt this posture that India has to manage Pakistan in a way that it remains distracted in her internal strife and burdened by her security needs.
If India does not want to occupy Pakistan then why we are always afraid of her and what are their real intentions? India wants to keep Pakistan in the defensive posture and intentionally engage saber rattling to push it to remain a security state. Heavy defense burden is too much to bear for Pakistan since our economy is almost one fifth the size of India. Second, India is more interested in balkanization of Pakistan rather than absorb it into an akhund bharat. The separation of East Pakistan was part of that strategy. The dynamics have changed since Pakistan’s testing of nuclear weapons. India has to recalibrate its strategy and can no longer close her eyes to a possible nuclear response from Pakistan as a desperate measure to protect its territorial integrity. All those people who suggest that nuclear weapons have hurt the viability and security of Pakistan need to revisit and reconsider their views.

India will do what it has to do but what should be our strategy in this relationship. In my view improving relations with India are strategically important for us. We need to adopt a multi pronged approach towards that objective.

PML N government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should realize that the pre-partition mind set of Indians to keep Muslims out will not be changed just because newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan invited his Indian counterpart to attend the oath taking ceremony but was unceremoniously rebuked. PM Nawaz Sharif should also realize that he carries on his shoulders the dignity of the nation and his unguarded overtures towards our neighbors are not considered appropriate by the majority of the nation. People support good relations with India but a rejection of a publicly announced means that diplomatic ground work was not done by the government to ensure that it will be accepted and reciprocated. It is more appropriate for Pakistan to initiate back channel contacts in social, economic, intellectual and cultural sectors before it is escalated at the highest government level.

First we need to reach out to Indian Muslims as they are our cultural and co-religious brothers. Formation of Indo-Pak cultural association should be initiated to create intercourse and dialogue between these two communities. Pakistan should relax visa restrictions for Indian Muslims visiting shrines and other cultural events. Pakistan should seek opening of Indian market for tv dramas, talk shows and movies to India. Pakistan should develop a protocol with India so that Pakistani tv channels can be streamed live in Muslim majority cities.

The second is improvement in trade and economic ties. Pakistan has already awarded most favored nation status to India. India on the other hand has allowed direct investment in Pakistan. Pakistan can invite India to form a transit trade route to Central Asia and Europe in conjunction with Iran. India should become part of Iran-Pakistan pipeline project that can form the bridge for deeper trade relations later on. Number of flights and destinations should be increased on reciprocal basis. Rail and road transport should be streamlined and improved.

Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek are border disputes that need to be resolved to ease tension between the two countries. All of these can not be resolved at the same time but trust deficit can be reduced by resolving the Sir Creek issue and then move on to Siachen before the Kashmir crisis can be tackled. Kashmir conflict should not drive the bilateral relations between these two countries. Here I am not proposing that Pakistan should give up its legitimate right on Kashmir but rather that this complex issue can be resolved once goodwill is developed. India should also recognize that Pakistan has legitimate security concern emanating from her involvement in Afghanistan. India should realize that Pakistan has international support for her security concern.

India is aspiring for a growing international role. This objective can not be achieved unless her neighbors in her vicinity feel secure. Pakistan is not the only country which has issues with India. Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka have also complained about the insensitivity of India to their concerns. SAARC could have provided a platform to India to develop warm relations with South Asian neighbors but so far they have failed to use this platform effectively.

Despite its size and democratic history, India is still dealing with ethnic tensions in many parts. Interfering in her neighbors to foment separatist movements could back fire on her long term stability and economic prosperity. She should learn from Pakistan’s experience which willingly created non-state actors for the interest of others to fight with former Soviet Union in Afghanistan. These same elements are now challenging the writ of the state in tribal areas.

The destiny of India-Pakistan is linked and recognition of this realty sooner than later will help the region to stabilize and prosper. Pakistan has realized the importance of it but India is still resisting because of her historic insecurities. We hope the new government in India after upcoming elections in April will depart from the rhetoric and come to its senses for the benefit of all.

What Next?

Related Articles