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India Pakistan Relations: The Dynamics of Peace
Dr.Akmal Hussain
Newspaper: The Daily Dawn, Lahore
Dated: 27 July, 2001

In examining the dynamics of India Pakistan relations Hegel's famous dictum, may be a helpful starting point: "Freedom is the recognition of necessity" i.e. By understanding the conflicting imperatives that impinge upon India Pakistan relations it may be possible to grasp the space for efficacious action. The fact that the Delhi Summit was held in the first place signifies the internal and external pressures for peace on the respective states. Failure to arrive at a joint declaration connotes the political constraints to a quick resolution of opposed standpoints. Thus within the dialectic of India Pakistan relations peace can only come through a carefully conducted process rather than as a prize at the climax of a single summit. In this article an attempt will be made to examine the pressures for and the constraints to peace in the present historic conjuncture. It is a moment in which both Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharaf are attempting to transcend the adversity of circumstances so that men may make history.

The pressures for peace operate at a strategic level for both Pakistan and India. In the Indian case the pressures operate on a state, which has achieved economic take-off and is now seeking access to global markets for its IT, electronics, heavy engineering and chemicals industries. At the same time it is seeking a Security Council seat and thereby a more important voice in global power relations. Yet these aspirations are constrained by the fact that its huge military budget is keeping 30% of its population in abject poverty together with acute regional economic disparities. This is creating powerful pressures on its traditionally secular democratic political structure. At the same time with almost half its army locked in counter insurgency operations in Kashmir, the resultant massive human rights violations undermine its candidature for a Security Council seat as the world's largest democracy. Moreover the tensions with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue create a nuclear flash point, which puts India out of sync with the global community that is seeking to defuse the threat of nuclear conflict. Thus seeking peace with Pakistan is a medium term strategic imperative for India. Prime Minister Vajpayee's sagacious initiative for the Delhi Summit emanated out of these considerations.

In the case of Pakistan by contrast, the pressures for peace are more immediate. The regime of President Musharaf seeks its legitimacy and political survival through economic revival, an objective that continues to elude the government. This is due to a situation where lack of fiscal space through a massive debt relief package, prevents the implementation of any serious economic revival strategy. The economy continues to remain on the knife-edge of good harvests and the danger of debt default. Unlike India, Pakistan is in the throes of an economic crisis and institutional erosion that constitute a direct and immediate pressure on the state. Therefore overcoming the economic crisis is a matter not just of the survival of the regime of President Musharaf but is a question of the security of the state itself. The crucial feature of this situation is that without the fulsome support of the international community for massive debt relief and large private capital inflows, economic revival is simply not possible. Getting such support requires (apart from democratization), defusing tensions with India and bringing the armed militant groups within the rule of law. This dialectic induces a military regime with a national security perspective to seek peace with India precisely for its own survival and for strengthening the State. This imperative is operational for Pakistan in the short term since its economic and state crisis itself is so immediate. Thus while both India and Pakistan are subject to their respective strategic imperatives for peace, the time scales of these imperatives for the two countries may be slightly different. That is why Pakistan's government was so concerned that a joint declaration be signed at Agra, while the Indian government held back even though both countries were equally keen not just to have the first summit but the second one in December as well.

Having analyzed the pressures for peace on both India and Pakistan, let us now examine the constraints that pose a challenge to the leadership of both countries in the pursuit of peace. Three distinct but inter-related features of India Pakistan relations have historically constrained any serious attempt at achieving lasting peace:

  1. A concept of power prevails in the conduct of India Pakistan relations that is rooted in a particular perception of the ruling elites of the two States: The affirmation of statehood lies in adversity with the other State which was born in tandem at the stroke of midnight in August 1947. The assertion of power in this context closely resembles the definition of sociologist Stephen Lukes, who sees power as being exercised: "When one party affects another against the interests of the latter". The practice of power has therefore been seen within the narrow paradigm of two states defining themselves in terms of their adversity to the other. Clearly as both India and Pakistan have matured over the last 50 years in terms of self-confidence, the development of their respective economies and their independent roles in international relations, such an adversarial notion of statehood, has become obsolete. The expression of state power would be more credible and more expressive of national interest if it were exercised for improving the economic and social conditions of their respective peoples. Therefore state power in India Pakistan relations can no more be seen in terms of a zero sum game where one party necessarily "affects another against the interests of the latter". On the contrary, as both India and Pakistan seek to overcome poverty, illiteracy and shortages of basic services for their peoples, such an exercise of state power would open up a new space for cooperation. This new space would engender a sense that the "other", while being different, is a vital fertilizing force as a member of the wider human community. The emphasis during the Agra talks by both President Musharaf and Prime Minister Vajpayee on the need to seek peace for the material welfare of their respective peoples, is illustrative of the new paradigm of power in the context of India Pakistan relations. The argument by President Musharaf that there is no military solution to the Kashmir issue and that it needs to be resolved to overcome poverty, finds resonance in the use of the word "Insaaniat" (Humanness) by Prime Minister Vajpayee. Thus there is a new historic conjuncture in which two adversarial states locked in the embrace of death for half a century, now seek to unlock the possibilities of enhancing life.

  2. The second constraint to peace is that historically, in establishing and sustaining an adversarial paradigm of state power, it has been necessary for the propaganda machinery of both countries to demonize each other. This becomes particularly necessary in a situation where the peoples of the two countries share so much in common in terms of their folk traditions and the well springs of their humanity. The other must be drained of all human qualities and converted into a demon to be exorcised from within the self, if it is to become a perpetual target of hate.

    The process of demonization that has been an integral element in the practice of an adversarial inter-state relationship has also reached its logical end in the present conjuncture. Over a period of 50 years, an antagonistic relationship between India and Pakistan with its associated diversion of scarce resources towards huge military apparatuses has brought South Asia to a moment of reckoning. Almost half the people are banished to poverty, illiteracy and preventable diseases. Children who embody our future are in a far worse condition. The majority are suffering from malnutrition, millions are dying of water borne diseases and almost half the school age children do not get the opportunity of even primary education. Out of those too poor to go to school, millions of children are engaged in labour. Many are maimed, blinded, and struck with lung diseases and brain deformities related with poisonous emissions, and physical hazards at work places. We are witnessing a massacre of the innocents.

    Yet as if this were not enough, the practice of adversarial state power has brought both countries to a nuclear standoff. The tension of the Kashmir issue and the less than 5 minutes of flying time for nuclear missiles, have combined to dramatically raise the risk of death by nuclear accident. It has been estimated that for the individual citizen of South Asia the probability of dying from an accidental nuclear war is higher than the probability of dying in a road accident. Therefore for the majority of the people of India and Pakistan antagonism between the two states has not only brought hunger, disease and death but has also subjected all South Asia to an unacceptably high risk of complete extinction.

    Clearly, the epistemology of demonization associated with the paradigm of power has divorced successive governments in India and Pakistan from the sources of universal humanism rooted in their respective civilizations. The ruling elites, the politicians and jingoists, must now ask themselves a question: Of what use is a civilization if it cannot be brought to bear to sustain life and to actualize its human potential? If the peoples of South Asia are to survive, the epistemology of hate and death must be replaced by the recognition that on both sides of the border we are human beings seeking to survive.

  3. The third constraint to the pursuit of peace in South Asia is the imagined fear by successive governments that giving a concession from the stated hard line position, would lead to an explosion of popular discontent leading to a fall of the government concerned. There are of course extremists lobbies who continue to maintain rigid positions based on mistrust, hate and the notion that courage means annihilating the other. President Musharaf during his press conference on 20th July 2001 illustrated the historic conjuncture, by making a new formulation in this context. He proposed that the majority of the people of India and Pakistan want peace and that the leadership must have the courage to ignore the extremist minority for the sake of their peoples. This implies that courage is no more being seen in terms of the exercise of hostility against the neighbouring country. Instead courage is being sensibly defined as swimming against the tide, in terms of the ability to pursue peace and the welfare of citizens.

    The key to the peace process will lie in the wisdom with which the general proposition is translated into a changed negotiating position by both sides. Negotiations as opposed to mere 'Summit talk' implies give and take. At some point a shift has to occur by both sides from their initial apparently irreconcilable positions to the discovery of common ground. In the Pakistani case there has been a demonstration of flexibility and a significant concession by shifting from the position that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute that can only be solved through the UN Security Council resolutions of 1948. The new view is that Kashmir is the central issue (as opposed to a bilateral dispute) that needs to be resolved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The key demand from the Pakistan side is that the centrality of the Kashmir issue be acknowledged by India and some progress made in resolving it before the "cart" of other confidence building measures can be placed behind this "horse". On the Indian side the key demand is for Pakistan to accept the fact that armed militants from Pakistan are operating in the Kashmir valley.

    Both Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharaf represent moderation in the heart of their respective "Establishments". Both apparently wish to pursue peace through negotiations. Yet both are pulled back by the hawks within their respective power structures. The courage on both sides will perhaps consist of taking the process forward by so finessing the hawks that each side recognizes the ground reality: The fact is that there is a popular indigenous rebellion in Kashmir against the Indian State, so it is a central issue for Kashmiris, Pakistan and India. Equally it is a fact that armed militants from Pakistan are active in adding fuel to the fire that has been lit by the people of Kashmir. The first step presumably is to recognize these facts. The next step perhaps would be to go forward, in discovering the common ground in which the best national interests of both Pakistan and India can be pursued.

    While a new historic conjuncture has opened up in India Pakistan relations it is a window of opportunity in time. For the opportunity to be grasped both leaders must pursue peace with a sense of urgency. Peace must be achieved in the foreseeable future if it is to be achieved at all. The dynamics of peace lie in the inter-play between the leaders as much as in the inter-play between each of them and their respective power structures. These dynamics if they are to bear fruit have to be conducted within the small window in time available.

In this article an attempt has been made to examine the opportunities for and constraints to peace that have emerged in India Pakistan relations. I have argued that strategic imperatives now operate on the two states to seek peace. Historical circumstances now make it possible to replace an obsolete paradigm of state power based on an adversarial relationship with the neighbour, by a new paradigm in which power could be exercised for improving the conditions of life of the people and thereby open up a new space for cooperation. Fifty years of mutual demonization that has sustained conflict between India and Pakistan, has led to economic deprivation for the majority of the people, social disintegration, and the danger of extinction of all life through a nuclear war. The time has come therefore to change the mind-set of demonization with a new epistemology which recognizes the "other" as being human. Security must therefore be sought not through the means of eliminating the other, but through cooperation and development.

At the political level of course the challenge has been recognized by the leadership of both countries that the extremist lobbies whether in India or Pakistan must be handled with the necessary adroitness so that the interest of the peoples of both countries can be pursued. The peace process therefore, while it is predicated on the passion to enhance life, cannot be expected to be smooth and painless. As the great Sufi saint Sultan Bahu puts it:

[In this landscape of love you confront much pain, I would sacrifice my life O Bahu For those who take another step forward.]

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