Fact Sheet on Pakistan

M.L. Sondhi

The Tribune, 1986 (Date Unknown)

Perhaps the historic conflict between India and Pakistan can be overcome only if certain obsessional attitudes on both sides are replaced by rigorous and disciplined expositions of workable national security policies. In fact, the decision of the two countries to adopt a time-bound package of proposals aimed at normalising their relations may be regarded as a challenge to some long-standing beliefs.

The persistence of the cold war mentality in the subcontinent can only be combated through imaginative political symbols which can inspire constructive efforts for regional stability.

Some efforts at unofficial diplomacy appear to have won surprisingly warm support in the highest echelons, primarily because the political and strategic impulses of the leadership in India and Pakistan have moved away from the factors of paranoia towards mutually advantageous interest and receptivity. The politico-military rationale for an arms build-up cannot be suddenly wished away but the techniques of statecraft can be used for conflict resolution if the political environment offers realistic opportunities for balanced payoffs.

Framework: The conceptual framework which views India’s relations with Pakistan only in terms of crisis management does not take into account the underlying causes of the destabilising trends in South Asia. A more innovative and viable framework for Indian policies in South Asia should emphasise various proposals for strengthening peace-keeping as a permanent system.

Mr. Rajiv Gandhi will be able to steer Islamabad away from confrontation if he makes a sustained effort to invest both Indian and Pakistani security policies with a more comprehensive legitimacy. It is in this challenging area that some useful lessons can be drawn from the work down by the independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues, which is popularly known as the Palme Commission. One of these lessons is to reappraise the conventional wisdom that particular problems with Pakistan must always be related to the overall challenge which Islamabad poses to India’s geo-strategic and military planning.

The Palme Commission report’s insistence on a more pragmatic path of common security implies that countries should be willing to accept unilateral responsibilities which can lead to either tacit or actual cooperation in enhancing international security. The whole idea that negotiations for common security are “gifts to an adversary” or “rewards for his good behaviour” is firmly rejected in the report.

Confrontation: If this line of reasoning is adopted by India and Pakistan, both countries would address themselves to the problems of arms reduction and confidence-building without leading the security discussions into an impasse over “the general international behaviour of one’s opponent”.

Given the very real consequences of the large-scale US military aid to Pakistan and the reports that have persisted about Pakistan’s involvement in the training of terrorists who sneak into Punjab, the basis for an alternative set of policies is unfortunately limited. While India has to continue to deter Pakistan from exercising adventurous options, the effort to reach a closer political consensus with Pakistan demands priority attention.

To quote the Palme Commission report, “the East-West military confrontation is spilling over into the Third World.” It is not enough to strengthen Indian defence to check Pakistan’s aggressive proclivities. The specific reasons for the increasing militarization of conflicts between the Indian and Pakistani national systems must be gone into, and a set of guiding principles must be evolved for realising a regional consensus on peace and security goals. The time is ripe for an Indian initiative on the lines of the Palme Commission report model to cover the following four dimensions: (1) conventional arms control, (2) regional security, (3) arms conversion for development and (4) demilitarisation of conflict.

Behind the apparent clash of strategic positions between India and Pakistan is a clear identity of interests in favour of promoting regional security and cooperation. It is now necessary for Mr. Rajiv Gandhi to pose the question direct instead of allowing the moralistic overtones in which the dialogue over a no-war pact and a friendship treaty is being conducted.

The bureaucratic focus will inevitably remain on the adversarial relationship unless a thoughtful political leader provides the necessary strategic vision and operational readiness for creating a coherent peace policy for the region as a whole. Both India and Pakistan have to deal with awkward facts but by far the greatest obstacle to regional security in South Asia has been their persistence in using obsolete political techniques which have only sustained the legacy of bitterness.

It is unproductive for the two countries to focus their attention exclusively on military elements of national security. If India makes “common security” a central element of its regional policy, it would mark a momentous upward shift for Indian diplomacy. An ordered system of priorities would emerge only if Pakistan and India succeed in achieving a greater measure of non-involvement in super power rivalries.

There is every reason to believe that India can ask Pakistan to face up frankly to the issues which are central for defusing tension and ending confrontation provided India’s own responsibilities can be spelt out in terms of a protective and dynamic confidence-building process.

World Attention: World attention is now focussed on SAARC and India’s contacts with Japan. Some political observers believe that India can provide incentives for Japan to assume its global responsibilities in the economic sphere. Tokyo must accept the reciprocity of interest and eschew parochialism in international economic relations. If India’s efforts to induce pragmatism in economic development help Tokyo recognise the new world economic situation, there would be a benign effect on the nexus between international economic soundness and political stability.

The inauguration of SAARC has attracted global attention, but there are many ambiguities which can become critical if there is no serious follow-up with clear signs of India’s full commitment to the economic and technological modernisation of the entire SAARC community.

To conclude, there is no shortcut to ending the India-Pakistan conflict. India’s diplomatic imagination must be extended to the designing of comprehensive schemes which can meet the needs of the specific regional situation in South Asia and also signal important new directions for scientific, technological and economic activities in Asian and global settings.

A salient avenue of cooperation can open up provided India decides to institutionalise cooperation in nuclear affairs at the Asian level. It can be an unprecedented enterprise in which India can initially associate with Japan, China and the SAARC countries, and later on with other Asian countries to set up an organisation for the development and control of nuclear technology.

Opportunity: There is an excellent opportunity for Mr. Rajiv Gandhi to use his direct personal contact with Asian leaders to call upon them to unite their isolationist attempts at nuclear development in a dynamic programme which transcends all short-term antagonisms.

This project of common interest can be described as ASIATOM and its launching can help both Pakistan and India overcome their egocentric attitudes in relation to their potential nuclear capabilities.

The setting up of an all-Asian institution to interconnect the available scientific talent in the field of nuclear physics will be a remarkable breakthrough in scientific collaboration in our continent. The success of India’s modernisation effort will depend upon our ability to overcome some of the contemporary conventional wisdom which has allowed conflict and tensions to escalate.

The International Year of Peace (1986) can be promulgated by setting up a working group charged with the task of addressing itself to the fundamental issues of common Asian participation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
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