Overtures for Peace and Reality

Spearhead Analysis – 29.11.2018

The long awaited 100- day mark has come and gone. Overall there is satisfaction but there is also criticism that needs to be noted and considered. Most people thought that a strategic direction for the economy has not been set and the entire focus has been on past corruption and loans to tide over the economic crisis. People thought that visits to foreign countries should be to forge, consolidate and improve relations and not projected as trips to get bail-outs and nor should there be negative talk of Pakistan in foreign lands. The governments’ role should be to project positive aspects of the country and its future plans. The government should shun debates on trivia and focus only on major issues that need attention—and above all the governments’ role should be to calm the environment and not do the opposite by hurling threats and getting into verbal duels over non-issues. With the confidence and support of the people and a growing international image the government does not have to be in a permanent election and defensive mode. In his address at Kartarpur the Prime Minister rightly said that ‘the past is for learning from and not for living in’ —and one could add ‘also not for wallowing in’.

The Prime Minister made some other very significant points. He said that the only problem that prevented good relations between India and Pakistan was the Kashmir issue and that if there was political resolve on both sides this issue could be resolved. He stated that now the military and the government in Pakistan were firmly together. India’s oft stated stance has been that the military does not allow relations between the two countries to improve so the Prime Ministers strong declaration in the presence of the Army Chief should lead to serious rethinking in India especially because Pakistan’s Army Chief has said on multiple occasions that Pakistan desires good relations and peace with India. The Prime Minister rightly pointed out that with relations restored to normalcy the two countries could concentrate on poverty alleviation as the dividends from trade and reduced arms expenditures kick in. India, this year, became the top spender on armaments and has multi-billion dollar arms import plans from Israel, the US and Russia. Countless think tanks and funded projects thrive on the India-Pakistan hostility and their fears of a nuclear event on the sub-continent. The Prime Minister said clearly that conflict between two nuclear armed states was unthinkable—a message to those in India who think that with India’s conventional arms superiority a conflict under the nuclear umbrella was possible through hare brained ideas like ‘surgical strikes’ or ‘cold start doctrines’. The ISPR has quoted the Army Chief as having said that- ‘“It’s a step towards peace (the Kartarpur Corridor) which our region needs. Barbed wire at borders is a measure by a sovereign state to check and deny illegal crossings. Corridors and gates are for legal peaceful visitors. And this goes for all our neighbors.” Kartarpur thus came as a befitting finale to the 100-day mark.

Pakistan has been asking for an unconditional dialogue between the two countries to reset relations, address all relations and consider bilateral strategic restraint and crisis control measures. India does not agree. In fact, India has down played the Kartarpur opening, delinked it from dialogue between India and Pakistan and has taken the position that the Kartarpur Corridor linking Sikh holy sites on both sides of the border was a long standing demand of India’s Sikhs to which the Indian government has agreed. India has also poured cold water over Indian participation in the long overdue SAARC Summit to be held in Islamabad. More important than taking credit for the Kartarpur Corridor arrangement is the fact that the corridor has, or is going to, become a reality and that this augers well for future relations between the two countries. The world needs to note India’s obdurate stance and the plight of the Kashmiris under Indian occupation.

While basking in the glow of the 100-day success, the Kartarpur success and the bail-out successes it would be prudent to remain keyed to real life issues like water shortage, serious shortfalls in education and healthcare, failure to control the population and the need for good effective governance. A recent UN study has highlighted the fact that lack of access to clean drinking water and pollution of water sources is a major reason for stunted growth of children and child mortality. These issues need to be addressed. The hybrid war being waged against Pakistan requires a hybrid response therefore our future National Security Strategy should incorporate internal security, economic security, political stability and socio- economic cohesion and evolving the internal environment of the country. This strategy will come as a response to a review of the threats and the exploitable issues facing the country. We may continue the thrust for dialogue and peace with India but the hard reality of Indian hostility and the rapid radicalization of the Hindu majority in India that is breeding intolerance and hate and even steps to re-write past history to distort and obliterate India’s Muslim heritage should not be ignored. Also pertinent is the fact that we need the IMF package, we need access to financial institutions all over the world, we need a functional relationship with the US and we need to project the image of a naya (new) Pakistan under naya competent management that is ready for business with the world. The world wants to hear more about this naya Pakistan and not about the one that we have transitioned from.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)