“We can change our friends but not our neighbors” were the words uttered by a late Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with reference to Indo-Pak relations. The ties between the two South Asian countries are are an amalgamation of militarization and nuclearization amid an expensive arms race. The sworn enemies are injecting their national wealth in the armaments of destruction, supporting the disgruntled elements as proxy tools and reluctantly, further nudging towards poverty and backwardness.
The recent deadly attack on a military convoy in Pulwama (Indian Occupied Kashmir) exacerbated relations of both the countries to the lowest ebb. The attack claimed 40 lives of Indian soldiers. Indian authorities accused a Kashmir based Jihadist group Jaish-e-Mohammad of the attack, whose chief Maulana Masood Azhar allegedly lives in Pakistan. However, no actionable intelligence or evidence exists against the man accused. This was followed by intrusion into airspace of each other by both the countries, egging them to the brink of a full scale war. Both states are ready to annihilate each other not realizing the consequences of a nuclear war. The war mongering media has been influencing the sentiments of common masses by generating antipathy and war hysteria.
Unexplored Peace Avenues
In the current situation, when bells of war are ringing in the civilian and military corridors of both the countries, there is a need to visit the unexplored avenues of peace which can de-escalate the tensions and guarantee regional stability as well as security. The biggest concern is that the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) which were taken to stem the widening trust deficit, still remain unimplemented.
In this heated environment, Multi-track track diplomacy is best suited to ameliorate the relations of both the countries. The track II diplomacy was to build the bridges between both countries. Track II Diplomacy was proposed by John Paul Lederach on the basis of his vast experience in many conflict-ridden areas of the world like Nicaragua, Middle East and African continent. It aims at establishing contact between the leaders and also at the grass root level among the various groups. As the US Assistant Secretary of state Harold H. Saunders wrote, “Change more often seems to swell from the bottom up rather than to fall from the top down.” By enhancing the contact between people and communities on both sides of the border
including civil society, NGOs, cultural exchanges the lacuna of trust can be filled to a large extent.
“Change more often seems to swell from the bottom up rather than to fall from the top down.”Harold H. Saunders
There are gaps in track one diplomacy which need to be filled in order to achieve sustainable peace. Ever since the partition of the subcontinent, hotline contacts have been established only partially. The intractable Kashmir issue proved to be an impediment in further advance of positive relations. Till the mid of 1950s, both countries were cooperating in minority rights, rehabilitation of refugees and other areas. The relations soured when both states started taking sides in the cold war and it was the lack of robust government to government contact that both states went to the brink of full scale war in 1965, 1971 and 1999.
The professional conflict resolution can be effective in mitigating tensions between both the states and for that, there is a dire need to connect their civil society, media persons and NGOs. The civil society is one of the progressive strata of society which tries to promote mutual understanding by minimizing hatred, animosity and mistrust among the masses. The Initiatives known as Neemrana Dialogue and the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy were very much successful in reducing the gulf of mistrust. Such initiatives managed to provide a platform for constructive criticism. Similarly, both the states should allow the NGOs striving for Indo-Pak peace to operate without constraints to boost people to people contacts.
In the sphere of commerce, a huge effort needs to be done as currently both states have a minuscule trade. According the World Trade Organization report both states have a trade potential of $37 Billion which currently stands at just around $2 Billion unfortunately. Pakistan exports rice, cotton, mangoes, oranges and in return imports tomatoes, organic chemicals, iron and steel. The negative balance of trade can turn positive if Pakistan improves the quality of its agriculture goods.
Neo-liberal philosophy adheres to the thought that countries will never go for war if there exist well-embedded trade ties among them, a perspective which holds true in the contemporary International System. The greater the bilateral trade between the two countries, the lesser are the risks of war as trade creates a web of interdependence and increases the cost of war. Pakistan and India should look forward to taking bilateral trade to a new high and secure peace not just for themselves but the entire region.
The civil society is one of the progressive strata of society which tries to promote mutual understanding by minimizing hatred
For successful economic ties, India and Pakistan need to avoid the detrimental trade practices of protectionism and tariffs on political grounds. In 1996, India had added Pakistan to the list of Most Favored Nations (MFN) for business which was an appreciable initiative. Such initiatives are required for regional peace once again and this time it is India which has to respond to Pakistan’s call. India can participate in multi-billion CPEC project which will lead to increase in its exports and put it in a win-win situation. Unfortunately, both states are grappling with the severe problems like unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and extremism. Thus, the increased cooperation in trade and development can elevate both nations to pinnacle of glory.
According the World Trade Organization report both states have a trade potential of $37 Billion which currently stands at just around $2 Billion unfortunately.
Another dilemma in the case of India and Pakistan is the disconnection between academia in both the countries. Academicians have both will and potential to melt ice and unlock peace but unfortunately, nothing much has been done in interconnecting it, transcending borders. The national curriculum in both the countries is replete with animosity against each other and demonizes independence leaders of the other state. Such activities will only lead to more hatred against each other. The educational tours and cultural exchanges will promote the understanding of each other cultural which are very diverse and rich. The step can be taken by cultural attachés by organizing cultural exhibitions and shows.
Cricket Diplomacy serves as a pragmatic solution to rising mistrust and suspicion. India-Pakistan matches in any format, are nerve-breaking and thrilling and remain the most watched broadcast in both the countries. The friendly series continued till 2005-2006 but it was hampered by Mumbai attacks in 2008 which marked the beginning of a new era of Indo-Pak escalation. Politics and sports should not be intermingled and both the countries should step forward for resumption of friendly series as Cricket brings the people of both the countries close.
Tourism is one of the consequential channel of revenue for both the countries. India earns billions of rupees in the wake of tourism and so does Pakistan. The potential of tourism is great but only political will can transform it into a peace-building measure. Easy access to Visa can also act as bridge between both the nations. There is a need to provide facility of “Visa on Arrival.” Shrines of many great Sufi saints who are revered in Pakistan are located in India. Every year scores of people cross the border to pay tribute to Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti Dargah Ajmer Sharif shrine. Similarly, thousands of Sikh Pilgrims come to Pakistan to celebrate Baba Guru Nanak’s birthday. The proposition of opening the Kartarpur Corridor is a commendable effort by Pakistan in this regard and is being welcomed by people across the border. Such initiatives need to be taken periodically by both the governments.
Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are taken by both states at the grass root level. Previously, India and Pakistan shared information including intelligence in capturing terrorists, smugglers and other anti-state or criminal elements. However, Dr. Shireen Mazari a prominent Defense Expert of Pakistan said that the CBMs did not include the information regarding strategic arsenal including nukes.
India and Pakistan are nuclear states possessing weapons of mass destruction, but the two never shared information about nukes, security installations and number of conventional or non-conventional weapons. This advertent act helps in keeping the minimum level of credible deterrence without compromising strategic ambiguity. However, this uncertainty stemming from information sharing can send a situation over the precipice. Recent aerial skirmishes, which brought the two powers on the brink of a full-scale war, were also a result of miscalculation of capabilities at both ends.
In a Nutshell
Both the neighboring countries have man avenues progress to explore than locking horns with each other. The bone of contention, Kashmir issue needs to be resolved via political negotiations and in accordance to the will of the Kashmiri people. Multi track diplomacy played a key role on many occasions in converting sworn enemies into decade-old friends. In the case of Pakistan and India there is a dire need of generating political will. After the ascendancy of Imran Khan as Prime Minister, hopes for regional stability are high. It is time for India to respond to the call of peace by taking one step forward and recognizing the fact that prosperity and development are mutually beneficial to both the South Asian neighbors.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.