Pakistan-India peace: A good idea that nobody wants

Updated Oct 15 2014

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The politicians, the armies, the media, the people; none of the stakeholders are interested in peace. How do we ever achieve it then? —Photo by Reuters
The politicians, the armies, the media, the people; none of the stakeholders are interested in peace. How do we ever achieve it then? —Photo by Reuters

Peace is a good idea because the Quaid believed it so. Congratulating Rajagopalacharia on ascending the office of Governor General of India, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had expressed his desire for “real friendship between the two dominions”.

Gandhi, never the one to be outdone in matters of conciliation, had taken it a step further. K.C. Yadav quoted Gandhi as having said in divided India:

Indians and Pakistanis are brothers who have separated.
Let them live in different homes and continue to remain brothers.

It makes economic sense too.

Currently, marked at 2.4 billion dollars, the trade worth between the two countries, according to the Jinnah Institute research, has a potential of growing more than 10 to 20 times the current value.

That will be further consolidated by the vanishing of informal trade flows via Dubai, resulting in a decrease in prices of commodities; and transit access to Afghanistan and Central Asia via Pakistan to India, and to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh via India to Pakistan.

Also read: 6 things Pakistan and India can do instead of fighting

It is indispensable for the security and strategic paradigms as well. If the two nations were to look beyond their differences and establish a friendly relationship, the major threats for either one would cease to be threats.

That should allow the two countries to focus inwards, enabling Pakistan to deal better with the Talibans slowly permeating its metropolises, as well as empowering India to extirpate its own terrorist organisations, such as the Naxalites and its many offshoots.

Peace would allow better appreciation of reason to reign in the foreign policy of the two republics.

Until now, the foreign policies of the two countries have been spurred by the necessity to assume a pugnacious façade, and on the premise of ‘the enemy of the enemy being one's friend’.

When peace prevails, the two can set parameters that actually matter for progress as the bedrock to establishing relationships with a foreign country.

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And lastly, it is good for the people of the two states – not just for the millions who have relatives or friends across the border, but also the general public.

The prospects of cultural exchanges, the learning opportunities, and the symbiosis that may result as a consequence of collaborative efforts to mitigate collective malaises, such as poverty and illiteracy, as well as some regrettable traditions.

Unfortunately, it is a good idea that nobody wants. There are few buyers and even fewer sellers of it.

The politicians:

The politicians of the two countries appear to not want it because war is a good rallying point.

It is an even better attention shifter. If the polls are close, raise the Pakistan-India issue, and some sympathy is sure to be won. If things at home don’t look quite as desired, shift focus to the borders. Or even if the government feels threatened anyhow there is always the stories from the Line of Control to divert the frustration towards.

Also see: Modi ups the ante in border fighting

Unlike America, we need not create enemies. History warrants that the threats are more palpable than perceived. Thus, people fall for the rhetoric of warmongers much more readily.

The armies:

The degree of the desire for peace in the two armies is also hard to assess what with their bread and butter linked to an ever-present enemy.

India spends more than 47 billion dollars on its military and Pakistan does close to 7 billion – which is more than 2.5 per cent of the GDP for either country respectively. India has to feed a 4.7 million large active and reserve force, as Pakistan has to a 1.4 million. Then, there is the spending on the nuclear arsenal and the general weaponry.

Together with these comes the influence the two armies enjoy, and the respect and prestige that comes with the job.

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If peace were to sustain, the need to have such large armies, and the associated costs of placing them at borders (more than half the total force for either country is deputed to protect the line of control) would become redundant.

The media:

The people are the victim of propaganda; the media, a hostage to popular public opinion.

It is a never-ending rut where the second suckles off the first and then feeds it right back to the first. War and strife are a selling story, which brings ratings.

To the people, it is personal; the distrust stemming from years of posturing and mischief from either side, the distorted narratives history books teach to either folk, and the tumescent egos that we have inherited ensure the people are too piqued to think properly.

The animosity, therefore, perpetuates.

Mature nations of the world may have learned to live with their differences, but the ideals of forbearance are not for us.

We cannot move past the past. We cannot look beyond the belligerence.

The big picture is not for us.

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How do we ever achieve peace in the region then, especially when no stakeholders want it?

Where do we start?

Doves would have to take charge. They would have to withstand criticism from all ends. They would have to endure the storm of vitriol that the hawks would spew.

They would have to be vigorously proactive, and for both the nations.