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India and Pakistan: Talking ’CBM’, making ’ICBM’

by M B Naqvi, 3 November 2008

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Whither India and Pakistan: Rethink relations

by M B Naqvi

Indians and Pakistanis have, some day, to think of the future of South Asia in a fast changing world.

There is much optimism over India and Pakistan implementing the America-recommended Confidence Building Measures over Kashmir bearing fruit. The first Indian goods consignment has arrived in Azad Kashmir across the Line of Control and similarly some Pakistani goods have gone to India. Good.

Like the bus service between the two Kashmirs, it is to be watched how much progress is being actually made. The recent reports were that the buses were running often empty. Why? Because of the two sets of babudoms have written so many caveats to preserve their strict control that an ordinary Kashmiri family that is not affluent or well educated can scarcely go through the long drill of obtaining all the necessary NOCs and permissions. This is a deterrent to the success of the CBMs. Let us hope that this CBM does not meet the same fate because the babudom on either side is extremely suspicious of all men who cross the LOC; and they ostensibly fear that there may be bombs or armaments in the merchandise. The time they would take on either side to inspect would be an indicator whether this border trade can survive such lengthy scrutiny.

The future courses of India and Pakistan are not hard to guess. They are still widely divergent: India has just aligned itself with the US much to the chagrin of Pakistani bureaucracy and the military because they have, more or less, been replaced by Indians. The American recommendation for Pakistan is not to leave their camp. Pakistan economy is more or less in the process of melting down and its diplomacy does not know which way to turn.

It had relied on the US bailing it out. But they forgot the US economy is in trouble; it is election time in America; it is facing difficulties in its Afghan War; and a dispute has arisen over the role that Pakistan should play. True, in normal strategic terms the US should not allow Pakistan to go down. But for the US it is not a normal time. It is going slow and wants Pakistan to grow desperate some more. It might dictate the small print also.

China too has not met Pakistan’s request for cash aid. So far the Chinese have not been extending cash aid to any other state. But the real reason is they all want to know what Pakistan will do for itself.

In Pakistan’s relations with India the basic assumptions and attitudes remain anti-Indian. There is no indication it will cease to deter India nuke by nuke and missile by missile. Indians no longer treat Pakistan as a major threat. The military schools and academies train the officers and men in both countries do not teach how to love the other.

Truth to tell, the CBMs and the composite dialogues are mostly American constructs. Genuine reconciliation is no part of it. The resolution of conflict is to be done by papering over the differences and implanting over it CBMs. The American attitude and assumption is the preservation of America being Number One in a fast changing world. It so happens that Indians have taken much too long to hitch their wagon with the American star. Now is the time when the unipolar world has ended and other powers, including India itself, are emerging, though America remains number one in military strength.

The question is where will the Indians and Pakistanis go? The Indians have nowhere to go except to retreat to an extent and cultivate friendships with others while working for a slightly better and more workable international order. The Indians and Pakistanis have, some day, to think of the future of South Asia in the changing world. India’s ambitions have been understandably to be another superpower. In a fast changing world, it has to speed up its decision-making without sacrificing democracy. There is a square to be made a circle: how can it be a superpower with many of its neighbours constantly working against it.

The post-American period should see many regional groupings to prosper. South Asia will not be amongst them. India has to have far too many nukes earmarked for Pakistan while others may be used for whatever purpose they have been made for. Most of the Pakistani nukes are aimed at India. With these nukes ready to be fired at each other at fairly short notice, no kind of mutual trust is possible. No amount of CBMs will succeed.
Only a genuine grassroots-up kind of reconciliation will succeed. The regional integration will only be possible if India and Pakistan can reconcile. That will start a train for India reconciling with Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan.

If the Indians are moved mainly by Hindutva philosophy, then India should write off the idea of any regional integration. India’s dream of emerging as a major power among the several world shaping forces may remain a dream. Let it unify all Indians first. As for Pakistan, if it does not control its military, it will finally dissolve itself into chaos. Shouldn’t Indians and Pakistanis start rethinking their relations?