Change what we can, accept what we can’t

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by anoop_mig25, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. anoop_mig25

    anoop_mig25 Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 17, 2009
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    Change what we can, accept what we can’t
    ksbajpai Posted: Sat Feb 05 2011

    Pakistan’s turmoil intensifies fears that the jihadists will take over, or that it will descend into chaos. Meanwhile, Af-Pak frustrations encourage the search for alibis and novel solutions. India should “do something” — meaning eventually, settle Kashmir. Such urgings assume that fanaticism and authoritarianism flourish on fears and grievances regarding India, and that these would be cured if we reassured Pakistan. Though endlessly advanced, these theories need revisiting.
    Justified or not, Pakistani mistrust of India is a reality, and undoubtedly fertilises army domination and religious extremism. But that is the very reason these forces promote the mistrust, and if India could indeed help change this, there need to be forces in Pakistan willing and able to make democracy, modernity and moderation triumph. The Pakistan the world desires must be desired and created by its own people. With full respect to many admirable individuals struggling against impossible odds, it is hard to see any real movement for reform.
    Dominated by affluent and sophisticated families for many decades, Pakistan has so far avoided being shaped by them — is there a reason to believe they could succeed now? Moreover, unlike their liberal counterparts in India, have they ever differed from hardliners in what they demand of India? Can India reassure them by anything less than a major diminution of its sovereignty over J&K? What would be the domestic and regional consequences of India accepting such diminution? And would it be enough?

    Just framing such questions carries the answers; but even if they are debatable, the facts on the ground are not. Pakistan’s rulers are on record saying that India would be considered the enemy even if Kashmir were settled. Now, they deny knowledge of the framework worked out by the back-channel. The then-acquiescing army now reverts to its old ways. If there are domestic sensitivities, there are also many ways of quietly signalling the very rationale for the back-channels in which Pakistan now shows no interest. Instead, new reasons for tension are conjured up, the latest being that India is denying waters and also undermining Pakistan through Afghanistan.

    We harm ourselves by not exposing such malice. Pakistan’s water shortages result from its own mismanagement, and India is used as cover. As it objects to every scheme we undertake under the Indus Waters Treaty, Islamabad has begun internationalising specific complaints to strengthen its propaganda. Its Afghan charges against us are equally dishonest. It damages us by impressing some global opinion, which frequently urges us to dispel Pakistan’s fears of our aims in Afghanistan. Actually, India would be perfectly justified in doing everything Pakistan charges, as long as Pakistan’s actions against us are even worse. One wishes we had the will — and the efficiency. Given the way we function, the suspicion of pinpricks being administered without purpose are easily exploited to misrepresent a handful of our officials, in four long-established consulates, welcomed by the host country and performing legitimate visa and commercial duties, as hundreds of intelligence agents subverting Pakistan from 19 centres is pure mischief.

    So too the accusations of India scheming to use Afghanistan for a pincer squeeze. Sixty years since Independence provide proof enough that India and Afghanistan, while having separate disputes with Pakistan — Kashmir and the Durand Line — never supported each other on these (indeed, Kabul’s attitudes during the 1965 war disappointed us). It is perfectly natural for India and Afghanistan to seek close cooperation: we could do even more to help Afghanistan towards the stability the world desires if Pakistan’s objections were seen through. The only country that seeks to work from Afghan territory is Pakistan: while alive to Pakistan’s duplicity on terrorism, its aid-givers forget the original — and continuing — threat from terrorists has been from Pakistan’s use of them to control Afghanistan and to undermine India. When the US lost interest in Afghanistan, after the former USSR withdrew, Pakistan made it their backyard, with terrorists as its instruments. Both Afghan instability and “Pak-Af” safe havens derive from Pakistan’s ambitions to regain control of that backyard — looking forward to America withdrawing again. Accusations of Indian mischief are cooked-up red herrings, to draw attention away from Pakistani designs, which are the main obstacles to stabilising the region.

    Pakistan’s case on J&K derives plausibility from manifest dissatisfaction there against the situation which successive Indian governments have perpetuated through disgraceful mishandling. We cannot expect the world to understand, much less accept, our excuses.Of the two problems Delhi has regarding J&K, it must, and can, settle the one between Delhi and the Valley, but the Delhi-Islamabad problem is another matter. We must simply live with it.

    It is a hard but inescapable fact of life that sometimes there are no solutions. Existing circumstances must change before solutions can become possible. To illustrate, economic cooperation would not only be mutually beneficial, it would develop an interest within Pakistan in good ties with India, making conceivable solutions that are unthinkable today. (Is that why the Pakistani rulers don’t allow it ?)

    Till circumstances change, one has to manage fallouts as best as possible. If a cancer cannot be cured, you can only deal with symptoms. Yes, Pakistan might well become more difficult; mad mullahs controlling nuclear weapons are not as likely as the alarmists project, but that too can come to pass if the still-powerful ruling classes of Pakistan refuse to prevent it. There is only one answer for us: to be so strong that even madmen will think twice before acting.

    More than military and economic capabilities, strength comes from efficiency. India’s greatest dangers flow from the irresponsible preoccupations of its political forces and the manifest inefficiencies of its governing apparatus — and the sorry temptation they present to others. If our political actors cannot get serious, we must worry more about ourselves than


    The writer has served as ambassador to Pakistan, China and the US

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