Self-denial of fundamental ground realities and a humiliating illusionistic perceptive, largely induced by US pressures and its unending demands, has become a political and morally bankrupt dilemma for Pakistan’s foreign policy establishment in Islamabad in its political discourse towards India. Islamabad wants the warm embrace of an everlasting political romance with New Delhi, a non-realistic dream in itself, without realizing that “it takes two to tango.” How long are we going to act as imbeciles chasing a mirage that only exists in the imaginativeness of our own mind’s eye?
Who would not want to live in friendship and peace with one’s neighbors? But what if the neighbor throws bricks at your rooftop every day? St. Augustine’s tale of a pirate is instructive in this context: In the “City of God,” St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great. The Emperor angrily demanded of him, “How dare you molest the seas?” to which the pirate replied, “How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a pirate and a thief. You, with a great navy, molest the world and are called an emperor.” St. Augustine thought the pirate’s answer was “elegant and excellent.” (quoted by Noam Chomsky in Pirates and Emperors)
Metaphorically speaking, the fact of the matter is that India is big; it ought to behave like a “Big Brother” but it does not. Pakistan is small and it ought to act as a respectful sibling consistent with the Subcontinent’s culture of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. But “Big Brother’s” belligerence, self-centeredness and “all the pie is mine” attitude has turned the sibling into a rowdy “rebel”. For the last six decades the “rebel” has been demanding “Big Brother’s” whole-hearted loving and fair attention that the “Big Brother” is incapable of giving because of its intrinsic, genetic and historical cognitive development. It claims that the entire playing field is its domain irrespective of the sibling’s legitimate rights and fairness expected of “Big Brother’s” moral conduct.
It is in the context of this mindset that the concept of “Akund Bahrat” lives on in Indian minds even today. So let us not, on the urgings of others, indulge in self-denial: India and Pakistan are two neighbors in emotional, strategic and psychological warfare, throwing bricks at each other for the last six decades – and will continue to do for the foreseeable future. Let us face facts, come to terms with historical realities and call a spade a spade.
Islamabad’s recent one-sided flawed peace initiative to India is making a mockery of this nation. It is obvious that the Pakistani Prime Minister’s response to Indian PM Manmohan Singh’s brutal outburst at the UN lacks political conviction, much less a strategic direction. Of course, appeals to political stability and peace among the two nations are nothing new – but that is pure rhetoric. Consider the verbal assaults that Manmohan Singh directed at Pakistan in response to Sharif’s appeal for peaceful co-existence between the two nations:
“Addressing the UN General Assembly, Singh said he shared Sharif’s hopes for better relations but warned that Pakistan must no longer be ‘the epicenter of terrorism in our region’.”
“ ‘For progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilized for aiding or abetting terrorism,’ Singh said. ‘It is equally important that the terrorists machinery that draws its sustenance for Pakistan be shut down,’ he said.”
In his meeting with the US President, the Indian Prime Minister bitterly lambasted Pakistan. Singh also told reporters, “I look forward to the meeting with Nawaz Sharif even though the expectations have to be toned down given the terror arm which is still active in our subcontinent.”
It is absolutely clear that the “reconciliation” comments at the end of the Sharif-Singh meeting were made at the urging of the US, which has been pursuing its own geo-political and economic interests by promoting Indian’s hegemony in the region, and possibly in entire South-East Asia and beyond, as a US strategic partner in its China-Russia “containment policy”. Also the reconciliation announcement at the end of the meeting was utterly meaningless public diplomacy rhetoric for public consumption and for the political purposes of both Pakistani Prime Minister and his counterpart in India. In addition, Pakistani political leaders’ endless focus on an “Indian Connection” as the epicenter of its foreign policy success is also a diplomatic demand that the US and the IMF have imposed as a pre-condition to financial assistance. Because of its own domestic and political leadership weaknesses, Pakistan is being held hostage to the whims and dictates of others.
In Islamabad, it is time to rethink our situation, ourselves and our relationship with others. Islamabad needs to fully comprehend that specific actions are followed by specific consequences. Islamabad needs to understand that politics, nation-building and managing complex present-day societies internally and dealing constructively with a complicated external world is not a political game aimed only at ascendency to political power. Leadership in Islamabad is answerable to this nation’s citizens and is failing and flawed in many of its political diplomatic initiatives so far, including that of its “India Connection”.
I have already written in one of my previous articles some time ago that a full-scale or a limited war between Pakistan and India is not a possibility anymore. We are both nuclear powers. Nuclear deterrence and mutual destruction is a guarantee against an all-out war. India will not venture, irrespectively of its rhetoric as psychological warfare, into a limited military conflict because it knows Pakistan has superiority in tactical small-range nuclear military hardware that could inflict humiliation on any of its enemy’s adventures. So what are India’s options: covert actions to destabilize Pakistan internally if it wishes to choose so – Ironically, it is doing so at the moment. So what are Pakistan’s options?
Islamabad needs to ensure Pakistan’s military input in its foreign policy initiative towards India. It needs to strengthen the ISI role as a powerful counter-insurgency instrument of its foreign-policy-making process. Islamabad needs to go on a global diplomatic offensive to highlight Indian covert activities within Pakistan and its state terrorism in held Kashmir. My argument here is not to suggest a total diplomatic or political disengagement with India or a political discourse leading to an escalation of conflict between two nations. What I am saying here is “hold the bull by its horns” and then go forward in pursuit of goals common to the interests of both nations. Be realistic in your approach – stop being illusionistic, be determined, be firm – do whatever is necessary without being complacent to other’s demands and dictates. Islamabad needs to follow an independent foreign policy (I am aware of the domestic problematics in this respect – but that is a separate issue to be addressed intensively).
It is worth noting that the incumbent Pakistani Prime Minister has not always been so conceptually and strategically narrow-minded, at least rhetorically, on this particular issue. In 1997, Nawaz Sharif was able to bring Pak-Indian relationships to an equitable balance-of-power level. Now Islamabad wants to inspire a total pro-Pakistan strategic response from India without realizing and acknowledging the fact that this is not the strategic foreign policy vision of India in 2013.
Today’s India is demanding regional hegemony in partnership with the US and is claiming global eminence as a regional super-power. It is not 1997 – that was a long time ago.
New ground realities demand new approaches to our relationship with India. Are we willing to be a satellite state to Indian hegemony?
So far, Islamabad’s myopic view of New Delhi appears to be in that direction! Will the Pakistani nation accept it? I do not think so – do you?
The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.