Pakistan: India’s Best Bet

The events since 1947, wars, espionage, stand offs, attempts to embarrass, and disparage each other, actions, reactions, arms and nuclear race, cessation of East Pakistan, several bilateral disputes particularly the final disposition of the disputed Jammu & Kashmir, allegations, and counter allegations of interference in each other affairs and terrorism coupled with the recently reinforced hybrid warfare have established at least one fact beyond any reasonable doubt. India has wittingly or unwittingly made Pakistan a classic enemy. Excluding the option of engaging in an all-out 21st century war, India now prescribes Sun-Tzu who centuries ago advised that the supreme art of war was to subdue the enemy without fighting.
With a population of 1.4 billion, India’s GDP is a little over 3 trillion dollars. Dominating the South Asian subcontinent and proximity with the important Indian Ocean trade routes, the country has abundant natural resources; is a party to every important international agreement except for a few such as the NPT and the NSG. Alongside Japan, Germany, Brazil, and South Africa, it is an aspirant candidate for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. In other words, India has all the ingredients of becoming a real-world power. Why hasn’t it become one? Or why is the world not seeing it becoming one, even after seeing its advancement in various fields? Well, the answer is simple. It is the existence of a non-compliant neighbour on its western border, called Pakistan.
In its immediate neighbourhood, no country poses any threats to India in any manner whatsoever. However, sharing a border of 2659 km and 3190 km with China and Pakistan respectively keep it strategically occupied mostly on account of its non-flexible standpoints on border issues and claims over disputed areas. Due to political compulsions or lack of intellectual depth and imagination to grow and improve, India has not come to terms with the ground realities especially when it comes to competing with China or its dream of Akhand Bharat (Undivided India) positing that modern-day India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka etc are one nation. Ideally speaking, before joining the QUAD, I2U2 and other such arrangements, it might have wished to address certain crucial issues at home i.e. the various separatist movements and presence of multiple armed separatist factions in the states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland.
Advancement in technology means practically nothing for the over one billion people of India if it allocates less than five per cent of its budget to education; has an unemployment rate of over 23 per cent; faces all sorts of environmental issues; has only one bed for every 2000 persons and Uranium is being sold in the open market. Paradoxically, the allocation of over 65 billion dollars shows the level of importance the country accords to its defence. Is this huge expenditure to undertake excursions in hitherto unexplored areas for economic purposes or is it to defend its borders? The two-decade stay of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and their hastily implemented withdrawal plan have some lessons to learn. The lessons learnt from the 1962 war with China were revisited by the Indian army in its recent clash with its Chinese counterpart in the Galwan Valley. In any case, India knows that it might take decades to compete with China in the real sense of the word.
India does not desire to conquer Pakistan. It simply cannot. It only wishes to have a compliant neighbour just like other SAARC countries to focus all its attention to China and pursue its ambitions of becoming a future world power. Pakistan’s very existence and its refusal to take dictation from India are elements that New Delhi finds difficult to cope with. India’s sheer power is not going to help it in any way as the balance of power in South Asia created by Pakistan in 1998 would make it think a hundred times before forcing an all-out war on its western neighbour. The strategy to subdue Pakistan through tactical moves of hybrid warfare or taking provocative actions or launching disinformation campaigns or creating embarrassments for Islamabad in FATF, UN, SAARC, and other regional and international forums, have not worked either.
The biggest hurdle between India and its march towards becoming a world power is, therefore, its perpetual animosity with Pakistan and in the heart of that animosity lurks the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. If not for the people of Kashmir, India may consider addressing the Kashmir dispute for the sake of its own future. The events of August 2019 and tampering with Articles 370 & 35-A have not been able to remove Kashmir from either the UNSC agenda or the South Asian geo-strategic canvass. If Kashmir is taken out of the equation, the resulting normalization of relations would benefit the peoples of both countries in every sense of the word. Pakistan is perhaps the best bet if India desires to become an economic power in the years to come. The emerging scenario in Afghanistan and the Middle East would only enhance Pakistan’s strategic value particularly regarding energy and trade corridors of the region. Pak-India bilateral trade itself puts both countries in a mutually advantageous position.
The world has seen several previously unthinkable events taking place such as the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin wall, and France & Germany becoming allies and subsequently forming the powerful European Union. Peaceful co-existence is the only prudent way to move forward and pave the way for a healthy environment for future generations. If PM Narendra Modi is sincere to the people of India, he should address and solve the Kashmir dispute and have his name engraved in golden letters in history. In this way, future generations will put his name just next to Gandhi and remember him as a visionary leader of India.

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at

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