Debating Indo-Pak relations

The News International January 12,2003

Wednesday 14 January 2004, by Imtiaz ALAM

A debate has started; both in Pakistan and India, over
the kind of relationship the two countries should
evolve, after long decades of hate-hate relationship.
Focusing on the Joint Press Statement and
understanding reached at Islamabad, the debate is
confined to the prospects of the resolution of the
Kashmir question, without in fact allowing a greater
room for reflection on how and what. While evaluating
the main thrust of the ongoing debate, this author
will place the debate in the much wider context of
Indo-Pak relations and South Asian fraternity.

The critics of the Joint Statement can be divided in
two categories: The one who base Pakistan’s own
existence and identity as juxtaposed to a ’Hindu
India’, and those who want to make a political capital
out of their opposition to General Musharraf’s peace
initiative, regardless of its positive implication on
their struggle for democracy. The anti-India
ir-rationalists will not agree to even a most
favourable solution to Kashmir, nor will they ever
agree to even a most fruitful relationship with India
since they have become a prisoner of their own
ideology that has failed to guide Pakistan find its
own positive existence and its relationship with its
twin-brother. Their opposition to the Joint Statement
is rooted in their chauvinist ideology and rejection
of dialogue, in preference for violent means, even if
Pakistan is totally isolated and faces most horrendous

They have built empires and immense clout they fear
will vanish if reconciliation went too far- which it
must. With an irredentist view on Kashmir, they want
to use it as a bogey to keep people of Pakistan a
hostage to their vested interests. The religious right
that as a class opposed creation of Pakistan, although
divided on its attitude towards India, does not accept
Pakistan even as a nation-state and wants to zealously
defend its gains it once made by collaborating with
the state apparatuses in the business of jihad and
co-manufacturing of ideology. The other critics are
just being expeditious, such as PML-N that has the
distinction of initiating the Lahore process.
Militarization of civilian mind is now becoming a
hurdle, rather than a support base, in the way of
efforts by the armed forces to harmonize its corporate
interests with new geo-strategic realities. Those who
are fighting for democracy and wants to keep armed
forces out of politics cannot oppose the effort to
resolve conflict through peaceful means since the
hegemony of garrison over civil society, besides
endogenous factors, is rooted in maintaining a
perpetual conflict with India.

Indeed, Pakistan was carved out of British India to
allow the people of Muslim-majority regions to shape
their own nationhood in a separate nation-state. While
addressing his last meeting with the Muslim League in
Delhi the Quaid asked the Muslims of India to live as
loyal citizens of India, he declared Pakistan to be a
state of all its peoples, regardless of their religion
during his address to the first session of the
Constituent Assembly in Karachi. Rather than basing
Pakistan’s entity in conflict with India, he vowed to
have friendly relations with India as existed between
Canada and America. Such was his vision. As opposed to
Quaid’s democratic vision, the nation building took an
authoritarian course to allow the domination of
Mohajir-Punjabi interests over others, on the one
hand, and garrison over civil society, on the other.

The legitimacy for this power structure was sought by
vulgarising the ’two-nation’ theory, which had served
the purpose of partitioning India, as ’ideology of
Pakistan’ and internalising the external by
inculcating anti-India spirit into the national-body
of Pakistan. How could the two-nation theory be
extended to Pakistan, after the partition and massive
but tragic migration? Nor could Pakistan have any
endogenous justification for its existence out of an
exogenous factor of India. Consequently, deviating
from Quaid’s vision, neither did Pakistan become a
republic, nor evolve a positive, affirmative and
dynamic self-image, rooted in thousand of years of
existence of its federating units across the Indus
Valley Civilization.

Pakistan was neither an aberration of history, nor a
by-product of British conspiracy, as perceived and
brushed aside by pseudo Indian secularists. It is
based on solid foundations of its people, who wanted
to have a separate homeland, and was created out of
the mutual agreement of the epoch-making historical
forces that decided the fate of the subcontinent in
its struggle for self-determination. Unfortunately,
the Indian notion that Pakistan will not survive and
Nehru’s nationalism that adopted and extended Monroe
Doctrine to India’s small neighbours reinforced the
paranoia of a fear-stricken state of Pakistan. India’s
hegemonic expressions and hostility also facilitated
Pakistan seek its identity in anti-India notions and
ideological justification and support from elsewhere
to counter-balance an adversary. This dialectic set
into motion mutually reinforcing chauvinist and
aggressive ideologies that have kept relationship
between the newly independent nations a hostage to
adversity. Consequently, the differences were turned
into conflicts and wars were fought to perpetuate
disputes. Even if efforts were made to resolve them
through negotiations they were not meant to build a
sound edifice of friendship on whose strength such
intractable disputes as Kashmir could be resolved.

Historically, the basis of this Punjabi-Mohajir nexus
or Mullah-military alliance and hegemony of garrison
have been eroded. The Punjabis are now more confident,
as compared to Northern India left behind by South and
is inclined to make use of Pak friendship for greater
gains from regional trade, to gain than lose in
friendship with India. Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to mend
fences with India were a reflection of this Punjabi
maturity. Mohajirs now seek privilege by forging
exclusivity, rather than Muslim fraternity. And the
armed forces are now inclined to see the survival of
their corporate interests by scuttling their extended
security agendas. The arms race had entered a stage
where it could not be sustained, nor could cross-borer
terrorism be any more allowed since it had backfired
rather than make India bow. India has its own no less
small reasons to find peace with Pakistan, besides the
compulsion of politicians to respond to a much larger
peace constituency than hate.

This time around, after Pakistan has rightly bid
farewell to arms, no debate will be useful, nor will
negotiations be fruitful, unless placed in the context
of friendly Indo-Pak relation and grater collective
good of the South Asian region. More than Kashmir,
Indo-Pak relations remained a hostage to the enmity
generated by the partition. It is the liberation of
Indo-Pak relation from the captivity of hostility that
can create a soil of mutual confidence, strengthened
by mutually beneficial cooperation across South Asia
and beyond, that can help overcome historically rooted
disputes in a process of reconciliation. The ideas of
South Asian customs, economic and monetary union and
collective security are so much inspiring and mutually
useful that border disputes will disappear with the
softening of borders while respecting the sovereign
entities, and allowing the Kashmiris and so many other
disposed peoples to realize their aspirations. The
logic of hostility will have to be turned over into
the logic of fraternity. But for South Asia to become
a really dynamic region, it is India that should
exhibit greater understanding for Pakistan’s and other
smaller nations’ legitimate interests since it is a
greater stakeholder than the others. What is no les
important is that the Muslims in India and Hindus in
Pakistan will never become first-rate citizens unless
Indo-Pak conflict is resolved and it must be
understood by the religious right in Pakistan, if it
has any concern for its Muslim brothers who are almost
equal to their numbers in Pakistan

The composite dialogue process between India and
Pakistan in February should be viewed in this broader
perspective, rather than skewed down to partial
preferences of the two sides. A new perspective, a new
environment and a new logic are needed to inform the
interlocutors. The ideologies of adversity and
diplomacy of stalemate will have to be abandoned in
favour of understanding, flexibility and
accommodation. We live in a ruthless world of
unilateralist, globalisation and militarization and
cannot survive, nor find a respectable place in this
world of great imbalances, without first putting our
own South Asian house. Those who do not understand it
will learn it on their own peril after the loss of
this opportunity. The crux of the matter is that:
There cannot be a new beginning for the Kashmiris
without a good beginning between India and Pakistan,
and there cannot be any beginning for South Asia
without a friendly relationship between the
twin-brothers of subcontinent.

The News International January 12,2003

À propos de Imtiaz ALAM

The author is the The News International’s Editor.

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