Majority in India and Pakistan wants peace between both countries:
Despite the continuous hostility
between the two countries, a majority of the billion and a half
people of India and Pakistan want to live as....
Blessed are the
peacemakers. But to be successful, their efforts have to be rooted
in reality. This wasn’t the case with a recent seminar in New Delhi,
which called for the resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue, because
its timing was hopelessly wrong.
It wasn’t just that
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari responded to the domestic
pressure on him by taking recourse to the only way available to
Pakistani politicians to boost their standing - adopt a strident
anti-Indian stance. The Indian army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, too
underlined the tense mutual relations by expressing concern about
the infiltration into Kashmir.
The day after the call
for peace, another seminar of economists in New Delhi described
Pakistan as a threat to the world with a Pakistani representative,
Riaz Ahmed Sheikh, confirming what is widely believed by saying that
“all the subversive groups are still being secretly supported and
helped by the former military generals”. The only caveat to this
observation by critics will be that it isn’t the “former” army
officers who are helping the terrorists, but some who are still in
Given this incestuous
relationship between the state and the so-called non-state actors,
it is hardly surprising that a London-based think tank has referred
to the possibility of Pakistan “moving towards anti-Americanism and
more Sharia law”.
Even the seminar on
peace saw the Pakistani human rights activist, Asma Jehangir, say
that the “Taliban and terror elements are forcing people to embrace
their ideology…to subjugate the people to their brand of Islam.”
It goes without saying
that the reason for their success is that Islamabad is not exerting
itself with sufficient vigour to eliminate the “terror elements”.
And the reason for their seeming reluctance has long been clear. It
is that the Pakistan army regards the Taliban as a strategic asset
Although the Americans
have been trying to convince the army that India does not pose a
threat to Pakistan - a fact which Zardari mentioned in his saner
days before his latest declamation on waging a thousand-year war -
the Pakistani establishment, which means the army and the
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has not been listening.
The establishment has
long convinced itself that it alone is the bulwark against Indian
expansionism which, it believes, will overwhelm Pakistan both
culturally and militarily. In its view, such a denouement is
unavoidable because of India’s larger size and soft power -
Bollywood films and songs - unless the army and the Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI) are able to take what can only be called
pre-emptive action by destabilizing India.
establishment’s earlier attempts in this direction failed in 1948
and 1965 and then went horribly wrong in 1971 when Pakistan itself
lost its eastern half, terrorism remains the only alternative in its
hands. Since nuclearization of the subcontinent has ruled out wars,
as in 1965 and 1971, the Kargil incursions of 1999, on the lines of
the 1948 “tribal” invasion, was the last military option tried by
After its failure,
Islamabad has been banking on jehadis to bleed India with a thousand
cuts. Its urgency may have increased because of India’s growing
influence in Afghanistan, which means that Pakistan may have to
fight on two fronts if a war breaks out.
What is frightening is
that a war is not as much of an anathema to the jehadis as it is to
the rest of the world because of their apocalyptic mindset, which
regards a war against infidels as a holy crusade and sees death as
the gateway to paradise. This combination of nihilism and
realpolitik makes the scene all the more frightening.
For the Pakistan army,
the alternative - peace with India - is unacceptable because it will
ensure India’s final emergence as the victor in South Asia with its
widely admired multicultural democracy, vibrant cultural life and
There is also the fear
that Pakistan will be subsumed by such a development, like
Bangladesh which has already taken the first step towards emulating
India by replacing the Islamic tenets in its constitution with
secular principles, as at the time of its formation in 1972.
therefore, are waging a futile struggle. Unless civil society in
Pakistan replaces the army as the dominant force in the country - as
in all civilised nations - there is little possibility of the
military and the ISI allowing a lasting settlement with India
because, to them, it will mean signing Pakistan’s death warrant not
only as an Islamic country but also as a separate entity.
The only way in which
peace can be ensured is by Pakistan’s transformation into a genuine
democracy, where the army will be under civilian control. Since
democracies do not go to war, as is often said, India and Pakistan
can then expect to live in peace and benefit from its dividends
through economic cooperation and cultural exchanges.
It is worthwhile
remembering that both in 1965 and 1971, military dictators ruled the
roost in Pakistan. And, in 1999, Gen Pervez Musharraf’s misadventure
in Kargil was launched behind then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s
back. The peacemakers should concentrate, therefore, on
strengthening democracy in Pakistan rather than indulge in issuing
Amulya Ganguli is a
political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com