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India –Pakistan Relations: Look to the Future Not the Past

Paper No. 5709                               Dated 25-May-2014

By Dr Subhash Kapila

India and Pakistan, if both desirous to forge a friendly relationship in the years to come, and to erase the severe strategic distrust that exists need to look to the future and not the past.

Years back I had written a Paper on this site that ‘Pakistan’s Democracy is a National Security Interest for India’ and the Paper advised various steps that should be taken to assist democracy taking firm roots in Pakistan. In particular the Indian media was advised a big role in this direction. Besides other things, the Indian media was advised neither to go euphorically overboard nor heighten expectations on a single development. This also applies to the current visit of PM Nawaz Sharif to New Delhi tomorrow.

On May 27 2014 as PM Narendra Modi of India and PM Nawaz Sharif sit down for their first ever talks, following the Swearing Ceremony on May 26 evening which the Pakistani Prime Minister has graciously accepted to attend despite known odds, the cardinal principle that should dominate the proceedings is that both “India and Pakistan Should Look to the Future and Not the Past”.

The ‘past’ in India-Pakistan relationship is riddled with adversarial, conflictual and acrimonious exchanges chiefly arising from the flotsam and debris of the 1947 Partition of the Indian Sub-Continent. Such a pattern and record can hardly provide the basis for eradicating the accumulated ‘Strategic Distrust’ of six decades.

India and Pakistan need to follow the ‘Mantras’ that China advances in similar contexts that such problems are the left-overs of history and should be left to succeeding generations to solve them over time and with patience.

PM Modi and PM Sharif would be well advised to adopt this approach as they sit down to get a measure of each other and since this is an occasion of Swearing-in of the new Indian Prime Minister who has come into power with a massive mandate, the meeting on May 17 should be restricted to establish a working personal relationship and not an occasion to score ‘brownie points ‘for respective domestic audiences.

The Indian interlocutors and the media should refrain from the chant of ‘Talks and Terror’ should not go together. This is now being chanted by Congress Party spokespersons obviously for political reasons. India knows as to which elements in Pakistan are behind such state-sponsored terrorism and that requires a separate strategy other than introducing positivity in India –Pakistan relations.

Pakistan must shed its ‘past pattern’ of insisting on the ‘left-over problems of 1947’ to introduce positivity in its policy formulations on India. The Kashmir issue has been flogged ad nauseum both within Pakistan and international forums and can continue for another 1000 years with no outcome. Same applies to other contentious issues that comprise the so-called Composite Dialogue.

Within Pakistan, perceptionaly, it is only the Pakistan Army Chiefs and the Islamic fundamentalist s that are vocal on this count to retain their relevance in Pakistan political dynamics. To me besides an occasional reference the last Pakistan General Elections, the mainstream political parties in Pakistan were not so vocal.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, as a first step, should stop the practise of visiting Pakistan political leaders on visits to New Delhi the obnoxious practise of meeting Indian Kashmiri separatists leaders called to the Pakistan High Commission. India-at-large look on this Pakistani unproductive and unwarranted political tactic with repugnance and insulting. And, it should be added, that India-at –large politically matters as the results of the last General Elections indicate.

The Indian media needs moderation when highlighting the Pakistani political dynamics. The world knows that the Pakistan Army Chief dictates Pakistan’s foreign policy towards India. So while PM Nawaz Sharif has accepted the invitation of PM Modi to attend his Swearing-in ceremony, the Indian media headlines sensationalising it as Pakistan PM has tamed the Pakistan Army or Pakistan PM defies the Army or such like headlines make the task of PM Nawaz Sharif that much more difficult in friendly initiatives towards India.

In my preceding Paper on this site I had recommended that pending more positive Pakistani openings to India, it would be advisable for India to follow the ‘Congagement Strategy’ towards Pakistan.

The ‘Engagement Component’ is to be directed towards the Pakistan democratic civilian Government, Pakistan’s civil society and sensitising the Pakistani public that India harbours no ill-will towards Pakistan, The last named has to be played out by the Indian TV media.

The ‘Containment Component’ f India’s strategy should be directed towards containment of Pakistan Army’s propensity towards military adventurism against India, its Islamic fundamentalists groups affiliates and known terrorists groups operating with ISI complicity. Each of these sub-elements would require separate sub-texts for containment.

Stated initially by me is that “Pakistan’s Democracy is a National Security Interest of India” and this must be assiduously be sustained by India at all levels.

There is no relevance of the Congress Party’s stand that dialogues with Pakistan should ‘“Neither be Interrupted Nor be Interruptible” and this smacked of appeasement and the syndrome of ‘Peace at all Costs”, Chamberlain style. It must be membered that this was in the context of Composite Dialogues.

Concluding, it needs emphasis that India and Pakistan should shed the contentious past of India-Pakistan relations including discard of the Composite Dialogue and its contents in entirety. But in tandem to sustain democracy in Pakistan India needs to walk the extra mile in generating ‘windows of opportunity’ for civilian governments in Pakistan to grasp.

The new geopolitical realities in which India is emerging are being grudgingly recognised by the United States and China too suggest imperatives that India- Pakistan relations should now “LOOK  TO THE FUTURE, NOT THE PAST”.

 

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