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Is Pakistan Really Ready For Peace With India?

Is Pakistan Really Ready For Peace With India?

Author: AK Verma
Publication: The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS)
Date: April 12, 2002
URL: http://www.ipcs.org/issues/700/731-ip-verma.html

Is peace between India and Pakistan at all possible in a presently foreseeable time frame? Evidence suggests that the Pakistan establishment, on balance, has ruled out peace. A strong conviction pervades in its military that peace enforced through military means remains the best alternative. Its rejection of the 'no first use' nuclear doctrine is predicated on this premise. Thrice, in the early 1980s, 1987 and 1990, it seriously examined its nuclear strength for possible use against India in a tactical mode.

Two heads of Pakistani Governments, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and General Zia-ul-Huq, who took unconventional steps to broker peace with India, met with untimely deaths. Observers believe their efforts in some way contributed to their tragic ends. No wonder Pakistani leaders are reluctant to settle for peace with India. The question whether peace between the two countries will come now or later, if later how much later, thus, becomes unanswerable contemporaneously.

Where the roots of this conundrum lie and how deep they stretch merit painstaking investigation. 1947 is not the only significant milestone. The past, post-1947, came loaded with primordial animosities. Post-1947 scenarios sustained them and they now constitute a mix of emotions, fantasies, fears and dreams which no political dialogue can resolve on its own. The following factors played very significant roles in this determination.

* History: Aliens who brought an alien religion into the subcontinent a millennium ago became part of the landscape over the centuries. But their followers, after the advent of the British Raj, were encouraged to develop a separate identity. The communitarian discourse, which followed, evolved from the cultural into the political mode; this made the rising composite Hindu-Muslim culture stop in its trajectory, leading to separatism and ultimately to the political division of 1947. However, the separate trajectory of individual communalism continued to grow in Pakistan, with anti-Indianism replacing anti-Hinduism. Antipathy for the majority Hindus replaced antipathy for larger India. Partition did not resolve the issue of fear, subconscious or conscious. Pakistan continues to betray the psychology of a threatened state, which must see its adversary demolished.

* Geography: India and Pakistan must coexist, with subcontinent realities shaping their place in the region and the world at large. Pre-1947, the Muslim League had succeeded in establishing parity with the Indian National Congress for deciding subcontinental political dispensations. Pakistan, created by the Muslim League, has from day one, sought parity with India, which must however remain just a dream. Can this dream be jettisoned?

* Islam: Pakistani Islam, conditioned by sentiments of anti-Hinduism, is, therefore, intensely ant- Indian. It's more conservative and orthodox strains do not sense ease with neighbouring India. For them Pakistan came into existence the day the first Muslim stepped into the subcontinent. In their minds the battle for Pakistan is not yet over and will perhaps continue till India becomes a Muslim state. In the past 100 years or so, since Islamic fundamentalism made its appearance, its strength and sweep have constantly been on the increase. Whether or not the current outrage and action against fundamentalism will succeed in arresting its further growth worldwide, Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalism, state nurtured and supported in the past, cannot be said to be on the retreat. Political power in Pakistan rests with its military and the Islamic ideology. If the ideological anchor of Islam is removed, can Pakistan exist as a nation state?

* Indian Muslims: They play an important part in Pakistani calculations about India. Opinions may differ about the weightage of such calculations but certain Islamic precepts propel the assumption in Pakistan that Indian Muslims do have an important part in Pakistani calculations about India. Doctrinal issues in Islam, like place of nationalism in the larger loyalty towards religion, prove to be a problem for countries secular and democratic. Empiric evidence from the West suggests that only the third generation Muslim immigrants start shedding the powerful influence religion exercises on their lives. The first and second generations openly display attitudes that run contrary to state national policies when religion impacts with such policies. In India, with the comfort of larger numbers and an escapist political culture, Muslim attitudes on philosophical questions like Islam vis-à-vis nationalism, universal human rights as opposed to dictates of Sharia, etc., will take much longer to mutate and develop new norms. Till then, hopes of a transcending sympathy based on religion will continue to be harboured in Pakistan and shape policy. The silence of most leaders of the Indian Muslim community at various levels on national issues impacting Pakistan, perhaps unwittingly fuels such hopes.

(AK Verma, Former Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat)

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