The unfinished agenda

August 14, 2019

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AT the time of partition of the Indian sub-continent in August 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and the entire leadership on both sides had not visualised that the new states of India and Pakistan will be perennially engaged in hostility and antagonism. Jinnah after the partition expressed the hope that relations between India and Pakistan will be like the United States and Canada.

Post-partition, Jinnah stated: “I sincerely hope that they (relations between India and Pakistan) will be friendly and cordial. We have a great deal to do… and think that we can be of use to each other and to the world.” Unfortunately, India and Pakistan since their inception as new states 72 years ago till today miserably failed to live like normal neighbours and got engaged in periodic acts of armed conflicts. The legacy of partition of the Indian sub-continent and the wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971 still shape dynamics of Indo-Pak relations to the extent that even after 72 years, the two countries are unable to mend fences and detach themselves from the bitterness of the past.

Why Jinnah’s vision for normal, friendly and peaceful ties with India couldn’t be transformed into a reality and how the 1965 Indo-Pak war can be termed a major destabilising factor in deepening cleavages between the two neighbours? How and why the daunting task of dealing with India is an existential challenge for Pakistan? Why since the last two decades India pursues a policy of indifference with Pakistan and how the present Indian leadership under Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to isolate Pakistan regionally and internationally? These are the questions which are raised in the context of Indo-Pakistan relations and the prevailing abnormal ties between the two major countries of South Asia.

All the regimes governing Pakistan since August 1947 have been grappling with challenges emanating from India and to a large extent their foreign policy has been India centric. Host of issues ranging from the occupied Jammu & Kashmir to conflict over water resources, Siachen, Sir Creek and cross-border infiltration shape Pakistan’s approach and policy vis-a-vis India. Henceforth, the daunting task of dealing with India needs to be analysed from four angles.

First, the legacy of partition and post-partition events which deepened Pakistan’s sense of insecurity with India. From Pakistan’s point of view, shared by almost all the regimes since 1947 till today, India pursued a consistent policy to weaken and destabilise the nascent state of Pakistan by not providing its share of financial and military assets following the partition of the Indian sub-continent. India also tried to starve Pakistan of water resources by stopping the flow of water immediately after the partition. India’s policy of reneging from the UN Security Council resolutions of 1948 and 1949 for holding plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir and its well documented policy to support various nationalist movements compelled Pakistan to perceive India as a ‘enemy state.’

There are reasons why Pakistan is facing the challenges that it does from across the border. Economic disparity lies at the heart of it all.

The 1965 Indo-Pak war was a watershed in re-shaping relations between the two erstwhile neighbours. From August 1947 till September 1965, the people-to-people interaction was free of hassle as travel and trade were normal. But, following the 1965 war, border controls, which were strictly enforced by Pakistan, restricted the movement of people which was earlier allowed with minimum curbs. Although the Tashkent Declaration, arranged with the Soviet mediation in January 1966, paved the way for the restoration of diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan, the two sides agreed to release prisoners of war, return territories captured during the course of war and normalise trade relations, the downward trend in their ties was not reversed.

Second, India’s policy of non-reciprocation of resuming the comprehensive dialogue (earlier named as composite dialogue) which got suspended following the attack on an Indian airbase in Pathankot in April 2016 is another evidence of sustained Indo-Pak standoff. Comprehensive dialogue comes under track-1 diplomacy whereby India and Pakistan discuss a variety of issues ranging from Jammu & Kashmir to Siachen, Sir Creek, water resources, nuclear, terrorism and trade relations. Following the attack at Uri in the Indian held Kashmir in September 2016, India hardened its stance by not holding any sort of bilateral talks unless what New Delhi argued an end of cross border terrorism from Pakistan.

The foremost challenge which Pakistan is facing for dealing with India is the Indian Prime Minister Modi’s threat to isolate Pakistan regionally and internationally. Responding to the Uri attack of September 2016 in the Indian held Kashmir, Modi vowed to retaliate by isolating Pakistan particularly in the region. As a sequel to his threat, India along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan refused to participate in the 19th SAARC summit which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November 2016.

Since then, SAARC is in limbo as its summit must be attended by all the SAARC members but four out of eight SAARC countries refused to participate. Pakistan has repeatedly called for the holding of SAARC summit but without any positive response from those who have boycotted the summit giving an illogical argument of worsening security situation. SAARC, which was launched in Dhaka in December 1985, is the only regional organisation to promote cooperation among South Asian countries in vital areas of trade, commerce, environment, combating terrorism, rural development and disaster management but has been a hostage of Indo-Pakistan conflicts and is almost non-functional. For India, by isolating Pakistan in the SAARC region it hopes to exert pressure on Islamabad to acquiesce to New Delhi’s pre-eminence in the region.

Third, Pakistan is facing a serious challenge from India’s Kashmir policy particularly the age-old ambition of BJP to absorb Jammu & Kashmir in the Indian union. BJP’s election manifesto clearly calls for the abrogation of article 370 and 35-A in the Indian Constitution which gives a special status to India’s only Muslim-majority state. Although original article 370 which was inducted in the Indian constitution in 1950 pledged to maintain the identity of Jammu & Kashmir by creating the offices of President and Prime Minister of J&K and restricting India’s influence only to defence and foreign affairs was severely eroded by withdrawing the offices of President and Prime Minister and expanding New Delhi’s hold over occupied J&K in other areas like currency, finance and communications. Article 35-A guarantees special status to the occupied J&K by disallowing any Indian national buying property, seeking permanent residency and casting vote in state elections. BJP’s argument is that both these articles are an impediment to absorb the occupied territories in the Indian Union and also prevent substantial development and investment in that territory by Indian nationals.

On August 5, the Indian Home Minister Amit Shah while addressing Rajiya Saba (upper house) of the Indian parliament announced the annulment of article 370 and 35-A through a presidential order. For Pakistan, revocation of articles 370 and 35-A means altering territorial status of occupied J&K and unleashing another wave of violence particularly in the Muslim-majority held valley of Kashmir. The deployment of extra 40,000 Indian forces is meant to cope with the backlash from Kashmiri nationalists in the wake of the annulment of article 370 and 35-A.

Glimpses of the Quaid’s struggle both as a statesman and as a leader of the masses.
Glimpses of the Quaid’s struggle both as a statesman and as a leader of the masses.

What will be Pakistan’s response as the Modi regime has proceeded by revoking article 370 and 35-A and can it afford to challenge the Indian act by aligning itself with Kashmiri Muslims who surely will revolt and unleash another phase of armed struggle against the occupied forces? Kashmiri leaders ranging from Farooq Abdullah to Mahbooba Mufta and others have warned India not to cross the red line by revoking article 370 and 35-A as it will force occupied J&K to end its union with India. Pakistan has warned India of refraining from annulling the special status of J&K and annexing it to the Indian Union but Modi’s communication with the American President Donald Trump about seeking mediation with Pakistan on Kashmir is nothing but a ploy to get the US involved in the shape of mediation to transform line of control as the international boundary.

Fourth, another challenge which Pakistan faces from India is the possible transformation of its eastern neighbour as a Hindu state. According to BJP’s election manifesto, 42nd amendment in the Indian Constitution which was inserted in 1976 declaring India as a secular state will be revoked so that the age-old dream of Hindutva is given a practical shape. Since BJP has two-third majority in Lok Saba (lower house) and will have the same majority in Rajya Saba in 2021, in that case it will be in a position to revoke that amendment. Pakistan will certainly face a difficult situation if India passes through turmoil in the event the BJP regime ends secular status of India. Periodic lynching of Muslims and cruel behaviour of fanatic Hindu groups having the patronage of BJP and Shiv Sena against Dalits and various religious minorities will certainly destabilise India with far reaching repercussions on Pakistan.

How Pakistan can deal with the challenges which it will face from India in the years to come and why New Delhi under the Modi regime is so confident in marginalising its western neighbour in global and regional arena? No country can effectively deal with external challenges and threats unless it puts its own house in order. This condition surely applies in case of Pakistan as without a vibrant economy, good governance and the rule of law it cannot deal with external fault lines particularly those related to India. One can observe the surge of intolerance, extremism, militancy and violence against religious minorities and those who are raising their voice against BJP’s dictatorial and authoritarian mode of governance but the reality is India’s annual economic growth rate is now 7%, its foreign exchange reserves are around 400 billion US dollars and soon India will be world’s fifth largest economy overtaking Britain. Furthermore, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India has reached $45 billion, remittances have crossed $80 billion and India earns annually $28 billion from tourism. India has its economic issues particularly when around one-third of the population lives below poverty line but the size of its middle class has expanded to around 40 per cent of its population.

Whereas, Pakistan’s economic growth rate which in 2017 was around 5.5 per cent has been slashed to less than three per cent today; its foreign exchange reserves with the State Bank are meagre $8 billion and its exports are hardly $23 billion. Pakistan earns $20 billion from remittances and hardly a couple of hundred million dollars from tourism. Therefore, a country which is economically weak and fragile cannot effectively deal with foreign policy challenges.

Unless there is a sense of national ownership among the stakeholders of Pakistan and the state actors are mindful of formulating and implementing policies for bettering economy and ensuring good governance, the country will neither be able to effectively respond to India’s new Kashmir policy based on absorbing the occupied J&K in the Indian union or New Delhi’s intent to isolate Pakistan at the regional and international levels.

Under prevailing political and security situation, settling old scores with the political rivals while not focussing on human and social development, Pakistan doesn’t need an external enemy. Its internal fault lines and contradictions are enough to keep the country weak, vulnerable and dependent on foreign countries and multilateral financial lending institutions.

Unless a rational thought process is unleashed at the state level to transform mindset which is insecure and imprudent in dealing on issues with India and other external actors, one cannot expect New Delhi to amend its hostile approach vis-a-vis Pakistan.

The writer is former Meritorious Professor & Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi.