India-Pakistan Relations: Where Do We Go From Here?
Chair: Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee
Panelists: Hussain Haqqani, PR Chari, Satish Kumar
Maj Gen Banerjee
Hussain Haqqani is a distinguished scholar and needs no introduction to this distinguished audience. His latest publication, "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military" earlier this year has been well received in the US and has earned very favourable reviews in all the quality press. The book is an appropriate backdrop to today's discussion "India-Pakistan Relations: Where do we go from here?" The discussion is not to discuss Pakistan or Indo-Pak relations, but is to look ahead. The discussion will also greatly benefit from the contributions of the other eminent persons gathered here today. In January 2004, Haqqani and Ashley Tellis presented at Carnegie a discussion, which was later published in the form of a monograph titled, "India & Pakistan: Is Peace Real This Time?" Its observations are perhaps as relevant today as they were when it was presented. Their view then was that peace dividends would be minimal and chances for peace slim. Nearly two years and two rounds of dialogue later, are there signs of hope? What needs to be done? How can we go forward? What are the issue that can be addressed, both, at the government and Track II levels? I invite the panellists to address these issues.
Views aired in the Carnegie presentation, those published in the media, both, in India and Pakistan, and the arguments made in this recent book convey the same views. Three-four major elements of that view are as follows. Historical factors impinge on Indo-Pak relations. They need to be taken into account and respected but must not be relived by historic revisionism. Therefore, the first assertion is that Indo-Pak relations will not move forward if viewed as a resolution of historical disputes. Policy-making must not be based on historical analysis; however, a historical perspective is necessary to address the issue. Resolution of the debate per se is not relevant for policy-making.
Internal dynamic of Pakistan shapes the Indo-Pak dialogue much more than India's internal dynamics influences it. For example currently, India is buzzing due to its economic growth, ideology does not affect India's policy as much as Pakistan where the elite decision-makers are still ideologically governed vis-à-vis India. Added to this, the conservatism of the military establishment, its ideological moorings are entrenched, unlike politics and politicians where many an ideological hat can be worn by the same person or organisation. That ideology in Pakistan has evolved over time and its main components are: Islam is the unifying force in Pakistan; animosity, antagonism or competition with India is a rallying point to overcome domestic issues; and, US patronage compensates for Pakistan's relative weakness against India vis-à-vis in economic and military strengths. These ideological components have unfortunately not changed. It has only morphed over time. For example, in recent times Kashmir is referred to as the "core" issue. This term was only invented in the 1980s and was absent in Pakistan during the 1960s, but the concept about Kashmir remains the same. Along with terms like "core issue," terms like Shaukat Aziz's "conflict management" and "conflict resolution" are just that, terms. In the final analysis, resolution of knotty Indo-Pak issues boils down to the presence or lack thereof of political will. It is not a technical issue, but political. That political will does not exist within the Pakistani military hierarchy and intelligence services.
The Pakistan establishment is unique, as it comprises of the military, intelligence services and the bureaucracy. The top five per cent account for 42 per cent of national income and the bottom 20 per cent account for eight per cent of the national income. Although economic differences between the rich and poor in India are stark, that difference is worse in Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan's establishment is an oligarchy with limited number of people in politics, media, military and intelligence services. Although this oligarchy professes the desire for peace with India, it has not made the paradigm shift to achieve that peace. In Jinnah's less-known and less-quoted view about the future of Indo-Pak relations to the US ambassador in 1948, he opined that after initial periods of tension, he saw the relations settle down into a groove along the lines of US-Canada relations. It must be kept in mind that US-Canada relations were initially turbulent, with dispute and a war over Oregon. Nine territorial disputes remain. Nevertheless, they are largest trading partners in North America with the largest movement of trade and services across any border in terms of volume. Lack of military competition, joint defence arrangements, option to work freely in the other country, etc are examples of their close relations today.
India and Pakistan need to evolve such a relationship. The reasons for doing so are all Pakistan-centric.
After 58 years, Pakistan still does not have a functioning Constitution.
Transfer of power has not been democratic with a military coup or a palace coup being the preferred mode of transfer of power!
By virtue of its political role, Pakistan's military has created a problem for itself and its people. People object to its political role but not its traditional role as defending and providing security to the country.
Pakistan's economy has been erratic. Cyclic periods of growth and decline are characteristic and correlated to the concessional flows of external funds, debt rescheduling & restructuring, especially from the US. Hence, the critical mass required for a self-sustained economy is absent in Pakistan.
Glaring low standards of education is another internal factor.
Thus, for Pakistan's own internal stability based on these internal reasons, a stable and peaceful relationship with India is necessary. The 1965 & 1971 wars, Kargil and the jehadi machinery have extracted tremendous cost on Pakistan's internal well-being. Therefore, the aforementioned reasons must necessitate a paradigm shift in Pakistan to avoid not just tensions with India but also to mitigate its internal turmoil. The Pakistani establishment or oligarchy considers peace with India as a "well-choreographed dance" and not a "marriage."
Indo-Pak relations are also characterised by excessive optimism as it was during the Agra Summit. Similarly, January 2004 was another event. Such events have repeated themselves in the past and with the same result. The "core" issue in the Indo-Pak dynamic for Pakistan is whether "the Pakistani establishment can sustain its pre-eminence without a certain degree of hostility to India." For the Indians, the "core issue" is, "Can India's decision making apparatus go beyond the historical-romantic perspective of reunification, not just intellectually but emotionally too." This is grist to the Pakistani conservatives' mill to spew venom against India as they rile against the East Germany-West Germany analogy (read reunification) that is made or alluded to in India. A reading of conservative articles and opinion pieces shows that the bogey of "India wanting to erase the border and questioning Pakistan's identity" is constantly used to whip up hysteria in Pakistan.
An awareness of the concerns a Pakistani hardliner plays on and ways to address and mitigate it will tremendously benefit the Indo-Pak dialogue. To this effect, LK Advani's remarks about Jinnah during his Pakistan visit are welcome. Such gestures will help mitigate any insecurity and will also help in making the Pakistani elite realise that there is no sense in competing with India, as Pakistan is incapable of doing so, the cost of such an endeavour is overbearing, it is not and will not work and is harmful to the people of the two countries.
To India, the challenge is to present the dialogue in such a manner that the Pakistani moderates can transform the internal discourse in the country. A summary of current developments are as follows:
Both countries are running into the same problems again;
Kashmir issue is resurfacing: Despite Pakistan's demand for "concessions" from India, none will be forthcoming and that is a given.
The "concession" demand rationale in Pakistan is based on the argument that Pakistan will eventually secure a concession and win Kashmir. This is fallacious; instead, it must be based on the argument that peace is necessary for tackling the various problems besotting Pakistan today. Hence, the concession demand alludes to the establishment "need to secure" or "appear" to win, otherwise the political will in the peace process will disappear. Normally, a peace process between adversaries is ventured upon only after securing respective political will in each country. In this process, it is the converse. India's decision to negotiate with Pakistani leaders who do not have the requisite political support or will is reflected in examples like the parleys India held with Zia ul Haq, a domestically struggling and discredited Nawaz Sharif, and now Musharraf. As long as there is a constituency for fomenting tensions with India, the Pakistani efforts at peace will be unsuccessful. Therefore, India needs to cultivate Pakistan's domestic peace constituency. A national consensus for peace based on popular political will has to be cultivated in Pakistan.
It is generally believed that Indo-Pak tensions are caused due to elite mindsets. While this is true, the elites and the mindsets remain the same. Can the mindsets change and how? This is the heart of the problem. The second cliché is that Indo-Pak relations are marked by tensions and instability, punctuated by crises and conflict. Periods of peace and tranquillity are generally ignored. In a less pessimistic note, we are on a cusp between a period of peace and tranquillity. Whether we move forward or backward would require a bold prediction.
With disregard to Haqqani's wariness about historical analysis of the issue, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) exercise undertaken in early 1972, soon after the Indo-Pak war is pertinent here. An assessment was made then that the threat from Pakistan would not abate. Other aspects of the assessment are:
The Pakistan Army GHQ in Rawalpindi would be reorganised since its area of responsibility had reduced but its threat assessment would remain focused on India.
Pakistan would seek to balance relations between South Asia and West Asia and hence, could lean towards West Asia and as a result, lead to increased Islamisation of Pakistan.
Sino-Pak and US-Pak ties would strengthen. The chill in Sino-Indian and US-India relations would also continue as a result.
The assessment could not foresee nuclearisation of Indo-Pak relations, the quick rehabilitation of military and Islamic forces in Pakistan's polity.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is more than responsible for the turn of events, especially in fostering Islamic forces. Thereafter, this trend continued under Zia ul Haq, Benazir Bhutto, etc. Coming to present times, a balance sheet needs to be drawn to review both positive and negative trends in Indo-Pak relations and where it will go from here. The positive factors are: holding up of ceasefire that has permitted India to fence the LoC; establishment of communication links - road and rail links between New Delhi, Lahore, Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus link, forthcoming opening of Munabao-Khokrapar rail link, Amritsar-Lahore/Nankana Sahib road link, etc; Track-II processes and people-to-people contacts are greatly enlarged.
The negative factors are that the nuclear CBMs are proceeding at a glacial pace; differences in the 8-point composite dialogue have been pinpointed but the political will to make necessary compromise is absent; continuation of cross-border terrorism and the fillip terrorists received due to the Kashmir earthquake. The chance secured by LeT to engage in relief operations gives it respectability in Pakistan and Kashmir.
A long-term view of Indo-Pak relations is necessary to grasp where it is heading. Hence, a review of the systemic factors that underlie Indo-Pak relations in the current phase is necessary. The positive factors of this review are:
Operations of nuclear deterrence,
Kargil and 2001-2002 border confrontation crisis highlight limits of armed conflict and military means to resolve Indo-Pak problems,
Global milieu disfavours use of force to resolve bilateral disputes, and
US presence inhibits conflict, effect of the presence of NATO troops in Pakistan.
The negative systemic factors are:
Weak democracy in Pakistan, India can do little to address this issue,
Military dominated polity in Pakistan and hence the establishment has vested interests in maintaining "controlled" tensions with India, and
Kashmir remains "core issue"/major/major core issue. The issue needs addressing, whether there is a solution or not is up for debate.
In conclusion, the usual solutions offered in form of CBMs needs reinvigoration to expand peace constituency in respective countries. Instead of incremental and piecemeal steps, CBMs that are more ambitious need initiation. For e.g. large CBMS like the oil pipeline (irrespective of US opposition), sharing of electricity and the most ambitious of all is the need for evolution of a supplement for the Indus Waters Treaty. This is to convert a treaty that was basically a partitioning of water resources into an area development plan. This could lead to development of an entire spatial geographic region of the sub-continent. Therefore, the very process of engaging and negotiating Indo-Pak CBMs itself is the greatest CBM and can provide a tremendous fillip to the peace process.
Haqqani's presentation was non-provocative to an Indian audience. I would agree with most of what he said and could only add to a few of his perspectives and arguments. I take a more grim view of the peace process. There is so much of superficiality about it and the delegates meet knowing that they would not make progress on real issues. Therefore, I agree fully when Haqqani addressed real issues, such as about Pakistani internal dynamics shaping India-Pakistan relations.
First, a couple of points and then the question of whether there is any hope in Indo-Pak normalisation. Given the history of mutual relations, we take an overly sentimental view of bilateral relations. When bureaucrats from the two sides meet there is bonhomie but when the leave they agree to disagree and meet again. Relations must be conducted in full knowledge that these are relations between states, in which each state calculates its core national interests. In the absence of this, the impression created in the media that so much is happening is incomplete. The biggest obstacle in improving Indo-Pak relations is the numbers of people within Pakistan looking for the slightest pretext to project India as the enemy and describe Kashmir as central to its relations.
Next, recent developments in the LoC are of historic importance, and we need to allow time to generate a momentum for exchange of new ideas and construct a new basis for the relationship. That momentum is not being allowed, with the Pakistani establishment alternating its positions. Furthermore, there is a gap between the two countries on the Kashmir question and for India; there is no question of concessions. There is no territory that India is prepared to give. Coming to the prospects of peace, it must be said that the denial of democracy in Pakistan retards the creation of a conducive environment. However, that does not mean that India should not deal with anyone whoever is in power at a given time. Even if President Musharraf contests the 2007 elections as a civilian candidate, he will find some way to ensure that real power rests with the military. The military in Pakistan has developed as an economic class.
Finally, the army and intelligence agency cadres in Pakistan are imbued with ideas of religious extremism and it is going to be difficult to take action against these elements. The leadership in Pakistan, instead of frequently going public with new demands, must accept the limits within which any settlement can take place. It is the decision-making structures that matter, and this is where more work is needed. I am sceptical about the relationship over the next 20 or so years. Kashmir and Siachen are core issues. Terrorism is another, and emanates from the soil of Pakistan.
The only cause for optimism is that the two countries are unlikely to resort to force. Therefore, they should formally renounce the use of force, including the use of nuclear weapons. It is important that Pakistan realize the dangers of using violence in the name of religion.
While setting the question of where we go from here, there are three distinct routes. One, to go along as we presently do, discussing relations occasionally and not getting anywhere. Alternately, things could get much worse. There is a third possibility - that relations will improve. Is this possibility real and how can this happen?
It is difficult for people in power to give up their stated positions, because one objective is to stay in power. One possibility of paradigm shift in recognition of mutual benefits is through people, and people-to-people contact can have an impact on politicians. As regards Kashmir, Pakistan has accepted that there is going to be no redrawing of maps. Bearing this in mind, talks on Kashmir should continue.
Major change comes from people who have the courage to break away from stated positions. This is lacking now, and not everybody in the Pakistan establishment has come to terms with reality. Some of them still have unrealistic scenarios about the future, which must be taken into account.
There are two concrete gambles that have been underestimated. Firstly, the gas pipeline is economically compelling. To place oneself at that level of dependence on a neighbour in terms of energy security is a gamble. Second, the agreement to allow cross-LoC trade allows reintegration of economic geography of erstwhile J&K, and could allow reestablishment of pre-partition trade routes.
The negative Indian dynamics that impede relationship improvements include political partisanship, such as statements from the BJP that only it can solve the Kashmir issue and also the nitpicking about the September 2004 Joint Statement about the absence of the phrase terrorism. Response: This is not a constraint, and the peace process was started by Vajpayee.
Institutional problems impeding relationship improvement arise from the fact that real time interventions are often needed in any composite dialogue, and this mandate is not forthcoming. Second, there is a lack of any internal policy coherence or scenario planning in India, and different agencies (MEA, MoD, and Planning Commission) rarely coordinate to work out the possibilities. Third, there is a culture of impunity, which is a dead weight on the negotiating process. Finally, there is lack of critical reflection in the media, which receives signals only from South Block especially in international relations.
The media in South Asia are less research-oriented. For example, numbers often are not put into facts. On a historical note, the first statement that was made regarding the possibility of India and Pakistan coming together was by Clement Attlee in 1946.
From a strategic-military perspective, Pakistan is not a threat. Nuclear weapons for Pakistan would be a good thing, as they would make Pakistan feel more secure. Visiting Pakistan and meeting hardliners, one finds that prospects for peace are not as bleak as made out to be. There has been substantive progress in the nuclear sphere. The military foundations should grow, as this would give them a stake in a non conflict-ridden environment.
There is a problem with the way in which we expect results very quickly. There is a need to realize that the peace process has given a strategic and chronological space for letting the problems to simmer down and letting both sides come to terms with the fact that there is no solution on Kashmir. Response: The question is what is strategic space meant for? Is it for more strategic space, for resolution, or for more conflict? The historic pattern has been that this strategic space has been used by one party or another for returning to some form of conflict.
The relations cannot be segregated to two countries. It is generally believed that the influence of China and Saudi Arabia is negative so far as Indo-Pak relations are concerned. Therefore, these countries must also be addressed, and India's diplomacy has to be mature, varied and subtle. If the dialogue needs to move forward, perhaps the movement of goods between the two Kashmirs need to develop.
Questions & Answers:
Question: Why should the primary responsibility for cultivating a constituency for peace in Pakistan be India's? Pakistan should come to a point where this constituency is strong enough to take the relationship forward.
Answer: It is not India's responsibility, but this would certainly facilitate the process of improving relations between the two countries. The dynamic of the India-Pak relationship will improve if Pakistan focuses more on its internal issues.
Question: Why not come to an agreement not to use nuclear weapons against each other?
Answer: Pakistan has a problem accepting a no-first-use agreement with India. This is the same dilemma that NATO had with regards the Warsaw Pact, they were not sure that they had adequate conventional forces and felt that they needed nuclear weapons to deter. The Pakistani military has a similar logic.
Question: Would India benefit greatly from being a pioneer in taking proactive measures that pre-empt conflict? For example, would it help India to withdraw all its nuclearized Prithvis from the western border? Incremental diplomatic tit-for-tat measures alone will get India nowhere. The risk base for India is lower than for Pakistan.
Answer: Anybody in Pakistan would welcome any unilateral concessions, but we need to be more realistic. It is true that Pakistan feels more threatened than India does. The existence of nuclear Pakistan should enhance a feeling of security, and in that sense, these weapons are a good thing. However, if there remains a psycho-political insecurity then that must be addressed and it cannot by hopes of unilateral concessions in the near future.
Question: Suppose there were a democratic setup in Pakistan, would attitudes toward India harden or would it be more amenable to settlement?
Answer: There has always been an initiative towards India amongst elected governments. The problem has been their stability.
Question: How can Pakistan's perception of its national interest change?
Answer: Through discourse, this is more vibrant now. Even though the Pakistani military dominates everyday life, it cannot be totally unresponsive to the needs of the Pakistani population. This is why there has to be a perceived failure of governance before the military steps in. The civilian population and the military do interact, and this will have an influence. The peace constituency in Pakistan is larger than perceived in India, and includes Nawaz Sharif's and Benazir Bhutto's political support bases.
Question: What is Pakistan's core interest?
Answer: The three elements in the Pakistani establishment's worldview are: firstly, to maintain itself as a nuclear power, obtain Kashmir, and establish strategic depth in Afghanistan. In my view, Pakistan's core interest should instead be: greater prosperity for its people, elimination of poverty, building sustained institutions, a self-sustaining political process that depends less on the military, and peace with all neighbours as a precondition for gaining economic momentum. Currently, there are huge imbalances between India and Pakistan in military spending despite the higher relative spending on its military (as a fraction of GDP) by Pakistan.
Question: What does Pakistan's perception of the situation vis-à-vis South Asia and the middle-east mean for India-Pakistan relations?
Answer: If Pakistan becomes more comfortable about being South Asian, it will stop trying to become a part of West Asia. However, in any South Asian block, India is much larger and must be cognizant of this in relating to its neighbours. Pakistan is the eastern anchor of US mid-east strategy since 1954.
Question: What is the United States' effect on India-Pakistan relations? The problems are that its involvement is spasmodic, linked to Pakistan's utility in US interests at any point. It is not an honest broker of relations between the two countries. Furthermore, what is the effect of the evolving US-India partnership?
Answer: The US involvement raises Pakistan's hopes in its search for balance of power with India. However, it needs to find its own equation in the neighbourhood, independent of the US. India is far less vulnerable to American pressures.
Question: What is the role of fundamentalists in constraining the military from not deviating from its ideology and how is that relationship used to justify high military expenditures?
Answer: The fundamentalists are a vocal constituency, but the Islamists in an alliance (MMA) got only 11 percent of votes cast in the last elections. The only reason it garnered 21 percent of the seats is that the two major parties were kept out, and major candidates from these parties had been disqualified. In a real sense, their presence in Pakistan society has not increased, just become more visible. There is a tie up between the religious groups and security establishment and this is where the US could act as a softening influence.
Question: Could economics play the role of a binder, as in the case of China and Taiwan, which have a stake in each other's stability?
Answer: Economic linkages are good, both on their own terms and for security. Trade between India and Pakistan is increasing, but is still a trickle of what it should be. There is a need to find economic constituencies within Pakistan who will find trade beneficial.
Question: What is the influence of Saudi Arabia, and to what extent would it continue to have a negative impact on decision-making in favour of peace?
Answer: Saudi Arabia's view of South Asia is in transition right now. They realize that they need to change their attitude toward the region, including Afghanistan.
Question: To what extent would China like to see a greater degree of understanding between India and Pakistan?
Answer: China has used Pakistan as a secondary deterrent towards India, instead of genuinely enhancing Pakistan's security. There is a need to distinguish genuine security needs.
Question: Is civilian control of the military in Pakistan possible? Are there models that are relevant to Pakistan?
Answer: All models of civilian control, including Turkey, which has turned the corner, entailed a gradual shift in control. The ground realities in Pakistan are changing. Even the context is that in Pakistan, democracy has always remained an ideal, and even the military has justified their regimes by claiming that they are creating a better democracy. Furthermore, the military has a sustained civilian interface. That said the power dynamic remains unpredictable while military ascendancy continues.
Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee:
Looking back on the year 2005, some twenty years hence, and future historians will probably agree that it was the year that India really began to emerge. The economy is doing very well with GDP growth rate again hitting 8 per cent, stock market is booming and foreign Institutional Investment hitting $10 billion. Relations with the US are better than ever before, with the prospect for further and substantial cooperation. There is a partnership agreement and joint action plan with the EU and the East Asian Summit earlier this month promises further cooperation in the East. Yet, India remains constrained by its confrontation with its immediate neighbours; Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. Till such time as these relationships improve and particularly that with Pakistan, India will never truly emerge as a major player in the world. What holds this back? We must seriously ponder and find solutions. It will call for bold political leadership, which will need to be bolstered by enlightened public support. There is a real role for this among non-official organisations and that is why this dialogue today, with some one of Hussain Haqqani's stature and wisdom becomes so important. On all your behalf, I thank Hussain Haqqani and the panellists for contributing to this process.