India and Pakistan: Impossible relationship?

BY  ArticleYAA

Cross post

It is a complicated relationship that has failed to make much headway over time. Both can do with peace between them yet neither is willing to change the traditional approach and narrative. This has led to limited use of peace bringing measures. Halfhearted measures have not delivered. They never do.

The bloody revolution that gave birth to Pakistan coupled with impediments created by India in equitable division of assets gave rise to a strong anti-Indian feeling. ‘According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), India still owes it a little over Rs5.6 billion – mainly on account of assets held with the RBI “pending transfer to Pakistan.”  According to historian S Aijaz Husain, total assets that the government of Pakistan was entitled to receive from the RBI amounted to Rs1.7 billion. However, the SBP received assets worth only Rs1.2 billion. (Express Tribune July 16, 2014)

Three wars later, the bitterness continues. Afghanistan once seen as strategic depth area for Pakistan is with time viewed as potential strategic depth space for India with justifiable reasons. How does one interpret burning of Pakistan flag at Chaman border by Afghans post Baluch protest at Modi government’s comments on Baluchistan?

A much bigger county than Pakistan, India’s approach has never sought to dispel Pakistan’s fears. Both nations have focused more on being a ‘national security state’ as opposed to a ‘national welfare state.’

India-Chinese border disputes and Chinese closeness to Pakistan adds yet another dimension to regional politics. However, there is much in common between India and China in terms of economic and strategic interests to let the CPEC overshadow it. Further, the effort to launch of Project Mausam is India’s answer to Chinese Maritime Silk Road and the most noticeable effort to counter China by Modi government. India perceives the Pak-Chinese economic developing ties as a direct threat to its desire to rise as the regional superpower.

Besides, India is concerned about China investing not only in Pakistan but also in Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. More recently, China blocked Indian entry in in NSG.

Coming to the present scenario, in my Op-Ed of July 2014 I had written that is still relevant:

Modi has a very limited experience of foreign policy. His appointment as the national security advisor has been Ajit Doval. Looking into Ajit Doval’s past and thought process is interesting as it reflects upon the shape of foreign policy India would like to map out with Pakistan. Let’s be very clear. The position Ajit Doval holds is not a ceremonial one.  It’s a powerful seat that has a strong place in the nuclear line of command. Ajit Doval holds sway over Indian intelligence agencies. His predecessors hailed from the diplomatic core; not Ajit Doval. He is from the intelligence operations. He has been part  of a think tank with expertise in Pakistan and China affairs. The second he steps out of this ambit, he will have to heavily lean on others for expert advice. To say that Ajit Doval’s background is interesting is an understatement. He had infiltrated the Golden Temple reportedly in the uniform of an ISI officer, he was involved in negotiating the release of hijacked prisoners of the Indian Airlines Flight 814 in Kandahar in 1999 and “handed over insurgents” from Kashmir and Mizoram. Quoting The Hindu, “Mr Doval has talked of the importance of covert action. In a 2012 article, he defines these as “a low cost sustainable offensive with high deniability aimed to bleed the enemy to submission.” In his view, “the most effective way of dealing with terrorism would be to identify boys who have got the courage of conviction to match that of the fidayeens and who are capable of taking risks. Identify them and put them in action.” He notes, ominously, “Pakistan has its own vulnerabilities many times higher than India.” (Published June 23, 1014)

Recent volley of negative statements by not only the senior officials of Modi government but also its military continue on lines on maintaining tensions high leading to the same from Pakistan. Is it to be interpreted at a desperate attempt to divert attention from Kashmir uprising?

Pakistan contends Indian Occupied Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan not India. Present protests in Occupied Kashmir and upheaval reminds me of Ispahani, who, in 1948 in his capacity as first High Commissioner to the US, , during the UN deliberations on Kashmir in the same year, wrote to Jinnah: “Eventually, the Kashmir dispute will have to be settled in Kashmir, and not at Lake Success [then the UN headquarters].” In the meantime, though, Ispahani also cautioned Jinnah that he should quickly appoint many more, and better calibre, diplomats for Pakistan, as, “Nehru is barging in his ambassadors all over the place.” (Pallavi Raghwan, June 22, 2016)

The current uprising in India-occupied Kashmir is a genuine upsurge. Pointing fingers at Pakistan is akin to clutching at straws to cover for one’s own inefficiency.

The approach by both nations as a consequence of the bitterness from their very birth due to actions and reactions has led to limited use of involvement of peace building measures, limited use of involvement of international comity of nations to resolve the irritants, limited use of using diplomacy as a tool to move towards a lasting peace.

There is no simple answer to the question of attaining peace between both. However, the initiative of taking the first steps usually should come from the bigger of the two. This is undeniably India in terms of area and population.

Both nations may consider temporarily putting a freeze on territorial dispute and focusing on baby steps in diplomatic and economic fields.

Both nations may consider focusing befriending nations closer to the other nation; this applies more to Pakistan than to India. The circles of both need strengthening to breach differences directly and indirectly. Sir  Ernest Satow, author of well-known  Guide to Diplomatic Practice, writes, “Diplomacy, is the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of official relations between the Governments of independent States, extending sometimes also to other relations with vassal States.”

Let us try moving to resolving our internal issues and applies more to India than to Pakistan, strengthening diplomatic ties with each other. This does not mean to say we ignore the issues we face between each other. It does mean to say however, both our narratives need to change-at least temporarily to establish grounds to be able to talk about these irritants.



The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

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