Monday, 31 August 1998

Ties with Pakistan - Why not Play the Business Card

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

In medicine, it is not merely the symptoms that need to be

treated, but the causes. Otherwise, whatever the expense and
attention paid to the symptoms, they will recur, often with
greater virulence. This is what has been happening to relations
between India and Pakistan since 1947.

Indian policy towards Pakistan has concentrated on
addressing itself to the specifics of the hostile actions of that
country. Over the last decade and a half, emphasis has been laid
on security systems designed to tackle the problem of Pakistan-
financed terrorism. If Indian policy means merely preventing
aggressive action it is clear that it has failed. Indeed, the threat
from Pakistan is today more virulent than at any time during the
past two decades. The reason for this is a paradigm shift in
Pakistan’s strategy towards India since 1971, from concentrating
on a 'hot war involving regular troops to a covert war involving

The Indian response to this new strategy has been reactive
rather than proactive. It has focused on the effects of Pakistan’s
actions rather than on their roots. This is akin to dousing fires
while the blowtorch that set them off in the first place is left
untouched. Thus the ’victories’ that are being won over the
terrorists—at enormous cost——are merely paving the way for
future disasters.

Only Superpower
India has a lot to learn from the United States, and not merely
in the sphere of technology. The world's only superpower has
been clear-cut in the defence of its vital national interests, going
so far as to bomb the residence of a head of state (in Libya) and
jailing another (in Panama). The United States has therefore
expanded the concept of 'hot pursuit' to include countries
several thousands of kilometres away from its shores. As a
consequence, despite its openness, it is relatively free of terrorist
acts. Had the U.S. followed the Indian pattern of reacting only
within its boundaries, a rash of violence would have been the

This is not to argue that India should emulate the U.S.A
superpower has degrees of freedom not available to weaker
countries, and international opinion would be quick to condemn
the bombing of Benazir Bhutto s Clifton residence in Karachi, for
example, or the capture and imprisonment of General Hamid
Gul of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). What can be done,
however, is to increase to unacceptable levels the cost to Pakistan
of financing insurgency and terrorism within India. This can be
achieved by permitting private organisations to provide financial
and material aid to elements within Pakistan that are facing
discrimination. The Sindhis, the Ahmediyas and indeed the
Shias would in substantial numbers fall into this category.

What is sauce for the goose should be so for the gautier. A
Pakistan that openly defends a policy of financing insurrection
in a neighbouring state should have no grounds for objecting to
that state repaying the compliment. Once Pakistan gets the
message that the financing of insurgency is a game that two can
play, the pressure within that country for a mutual cessation of
covert hostilities will grow and (hopefully) prevail.

Second Aspect
This brings us to the second aspect of the suggested paradigm
shift. Apart from instituting a system of responding not just
within India but within Pakistan as well, there is a need to
prepare and articulate a set of responses that can initiate a
dialogue not just with the armed forces establishment in Pakistan
and its subservient civilian cover, but those elements within
Pakistani society that have a long-term practical interest in
peaceful relations with India. The day the Punjabi entrepreneur
displaces the Punjabi General as the centre of gravity within
Pakistani society, peace between the two countries will be better

Within Pakistan, the most significant of the potentially pro-
peace groups is the entrepreneurial class. It is no accident that
sentiment in favour of accommodation with India is stronger in
business-oriented Karachi than in the more cantonment·oriented
Lahore. Rather than confine its dialogue with Pakistan to the
agenda set by that country India should expand the boundaries
of the discourse by emphasising economic and cultural interaction.
That the trade between the two neighbours is so meagre, and
largely confined to such items as cement and sugar, is to the
benefit of the trading class of neither country. Should India make
some unilateral trade-related gestures to Pakistan, it would
increase the pressure of the lobbies within that country which
recognise that Pakistan cannot make significant economic progress
except by befriending India.

Even according to published records, military spending in
Pakistan as a proportion of total government spending is, at 39
per cent, three times greater than India's. Defence spending in
that country (even excluding the hidden items) rose by more
than seven times between 1980 and 1994. This has eliminated the
advantages enjoyed by a Pakistan freed in 1971 of its poorest
province (Bangladesh) by its ostensible foe. Within Pakistan, the
business class is increasing its first-hand contact with India, a
process that needs to be encouraged, and is thereby becoming
aware of the benefits of a policy of peace. By offering greater
trade, India would expose the essentially anti-Pakistan policy of
the armed forces of that country.

Today the military and its feudal allies in Pakistan are
confronting a bourgeoisie chafing under autocratic rule. Although
Pakistan passes off as a democracy, the fact remains that neither
its press nor its politicians dare to take on the armed forces. The
brief empowerment of the entrepreneurial classes ended on
April 18, 1993, when Nawaz Sharif was dismissed from office
and - to the relief of the armed forces - lost to that convert to
traditionalism, Benazir Bhutto, in the elections that followed.
However, the public support that was generated for the caretaker
government of Moeen Qureshi indicated the support within
Pakistan for a policy that focused on economic progress rather
than on seeking to harass its bigger neighbour.

Failed Reforms
The ruling elite within Pakistan has cleverly used Islam as a
shield protecting it from exposure by prying eyes. After the
infructuous agrarian reforms of 1949 and the Ayub reforms of
1959, Pakistan has not experienced the changes in land ownership
and tenure that have become commonplace in most parts of
India. Even the earlier attempts at reform were modest, the
ceiling being 150 acres of irrigated land in 1949 and 500 acres of
irrigated land in 1959. That even such reforms failed is testimony
to the grip of the Bhuttos and the Pagaros, the Jatois and the
Mazharis, over agriculture in Pakistan.

As in the industrial sphere, a well-crafted offer by India of
trade in agricultural commodities with Pakistan would
immediately divide the farming community there into the
pragmatists and those die·hards who are willing to forgo
economic benefits in the hope of dividing India. Indeed, the
much-maligned GATT agreement can be used as a lever to
generate free trade between the two neighbours.

By simultaneously increasing the costs to Pakistan of its
policy of interference in India, and by waving the carrots that
would accrue from closer economic co-operation, relations with
that country can be put on a less troubled track far more
effectively than the present policy of treating the symptoms
while leaving unattended the source of the disease.

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