The challenge that India faces from Pakistan is real and existential in nature. The history of Indo-Pak relationship has always been that of war, deception and hatred. The discourse on this particular paradigm has always been of great relevance to the strategic and securities studies community in India.
The course of events in both geopolitical and geo-economic front calls for a grand strategy to be created and implemented by India in order to ensure security and peace. In order to create conducive environment for peace to prevail, India must engage with Pakistan because there is no other choice as Pakistan has always been dangerously interested in India. The geopolitical strategic dimensions that is taking shape in the Gilgit-Baltistan to Afghanistan belt with the prominent presence of China and the withdrawal of NATO forces by 2014 is a serious challenge that the state of India faces as far as the security of the sovereign is concerned.
At the same time the economic factor is perhaps the strongest instrument for enhancing cooperation between states and is the key to promoting peace in a globalized world. The stakes in such a relationship are so high that states usually repel from any kind of violent confrontation with each other.
The strong nexus between China and Pakistan, which is apparent through the notion of an “all-weather friend” and the infrastructural engagement from Kashgar to Gwador through the Karakoram highway is a factor that brings volumes of issues related to security challenges to India. The logistical feasibility for China for its energy supply and to counter India through Pakistan has entrenched their relationship in the platform of strong strategic advantage for both to play the geopolitical game according to their interest. Pakistan allowing the Gwador port to be used as a naval base by China, which is seen by the invitation from the Pakistan defense minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar is a gesture of great security implications. As the Chinese vulnerability on the Malacca strait diminishes which is a possible chock point to its energy supplies in case of any war like confrontation with China because of the rapid development of the Karakoram highway and energy pipelines as well as rail connectivity through the Pakistani corridor tilts the balance in the favor of the Sino-Pak nexus. With the withdrawal of the NATO forces by 2014 there is a high possibility of Pakistan reengaging in the eastern front. The influence of the anti India Pakistani military over the governance structure of Pakistan shows that there is a possibility of Pakistan engaging in destabilizing Afghanistan in order to get strategic depth to continue the activities and programs to make India bleed. Therefore under such circumstances it will be naïve to soften the security policies by India including repealing the AFSPA from Kashmir as the interlocutors suggested in their report because we cannot forget that 36 out of 42 terrorist camps are still active in POK.
The essentials to build a strong security framework can clearly be seen from the geopolitical dimensions that is taking shape. This is precisely the reason why India must strengthen its military and give the defense apparatus enough resources and space to reflect the security dimensions to the government of India. There is a need to increase the number of military officers in the ministry of defense who can give a clear and real vision of the security scenario and propose the imperatives. There is a need to increase the military budget which is less than 2 percent of the GDP at the moment in order to strengthen the defense structure with essential procurements immediately with lesser and smother bureaucratic procedures. These moves may shake the Pakistani defense establishment and make them take actions, which may be provocative but history tells us that Pakistan would anyway be occupied with the anti-India syndrome which will make them take provocative actions irrespective of what India does as they have done before. With this note I would go to my second argument which is centered on economic relationship between the two countries.
Economic relationship is one of the fundamental reasons for cooperation between states in the globalized world. India knows the importance of economic interdependence and has always reached out to its neighbor, but there has never been any degree of reciprocity from the Pakistani side. It was in 1995 when India granted the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan something that Pakistan never reciprocated till today. It is the only situation in the world where a country has unilaterally declared MFN status to another without getting the same in return.
The aid that was given to Pakistan by India during the floods that occurred in the former’s provinces was initially not accepted, and wanted it only through the UN. Hence these examples show that there is no reaction to any action done by India, and Pakistan will do what the military establishment wants it to do. India has always tried to engage in talks, keeping trade and commerce as the focus, and Kashmir as a back burner issue. If Pakistan wants to develop, it has to change its mindset. They have to put the Kashmir issue aside and engage in economic consideration with India. This will create a win-win situation for both. Pakistan will involve itself with one of the world’s fastest growing economy and will gain better access to a giant market that the world eyes upon. This will help Pakistan with its internal development, especially in the fields of agriculture, education and science & technology, and most importantly employment.
Employment of the Pakistani youth alone can stop them from making a bomb, or a Kasab out of themselves.
India at the other end will enjoy the peace it has always craved for but could never achieve because Pakistan is ruled by its military always remained a regional de-stabilizer. However, talks are the only way forward. India needs to push Pakistan to engage in bilateral trade and commerce and perhaps this is the only way to make the Pakistani army realize that this is an option they shall not refuse if they want Pakistan to develop and contribute to the peace in the region. The Pakistani intelligentsia agrees with this concept and believes that the Kashmir issue must be swept aside if Pakistan wants comprehensive growth and prosperity.
The conflict over Kashmir has made Pakistan lose a lot more than India has, as Pakistan at the moment has nothing to give Kashmiries except radical Islam.
The educational, employment and economic growth of Kashmir is lot higher than most parts of Pakistan. Under these conditions of geo-economic factors it is in the best interest of Pakistan to engage in deeper economic relationship with India if it does not want to rob a progressive future of its youth.
These are the two primary paradigms on which India must build its strategy to deal with Pakistan. It must have a security approach as well as an economic interdependence approach to counter, pacify and develop Pakistan so that peace can prevail. India must be hard so that no more 26/11 can occur and it must make that clear to Pakistan, but at the same time diplomacy must lead in a manner so that economics can triumph. The economic interdependence will also give enough opportunities to India because of its superior economic strength to squeeze or arm-twist Pakistan if the latter does not comply with the international norms and decides to jeopardize peace.
Economics is rapidly becoming a new form of warfare in the globalized world of today and India must quickly learn this new art of war and equip itself for this sort of warfare. If war is politics through other means, economics is war through other means. Therefore in order to achieve the political goals that centers around on establishing peace between the two countries, India must focus on a strategy that includes economic softness and hard military gestures.
[Bhaskar Sharma is a postgraduate student at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached via email at: bhaskarwork [at] yahoo.in]
[Views expressed herein are the author’s own, and do not necessarily represent Jamia Journal’s editorial policy.]