1.6 Billion People of South Asia live in poverty. Studies reflect that 40% of world’s most poor live in South Asia. India leads in the poverty index standing at 30.3% (385 million people) while Pakistan has 20.2% (36 million) of its population classified as poor. It is a sad reality that the these countries spend billions of dollars on arms and ammunition, For instance, growth of the Indian economy has come at the cost of the “marginalisation of a vast section of society”, while “bad governance and corruption attacks the roots of democracy” in Pakistan. Overcoming these challenges is no easy task, yet the priorities of South Asia’s leaders seem to be on other matters. India the dominant power of South Asia has a monumental defence budget of $36 billion in 2014/15, Defence budget of Pakistan has been jacked up to $6 Billion for the same period.
In South Asia, it is very much possible to reduce spending on external security and use these resources for improving the lot of the people. For this a shift in thinking is needed at the top particularly if India is to provide the lead.
Peacemaking is the most important issue not only for both the countries but also for the region, particularly Afghanistan. Some people believe that only political will is required to improve relations between India and Pakistan. This is rather simplistic and I do not think that is completely true as there are structural obstacles and historical baggage to overcome.
As if things were not bad as they stood but now with the rise of RSS in power the prognosis are ominous and awesome. The RSS ideology is the” Indian incarnate of Fascism” that is driving force for BJP and in particular Narendra Modi.. The ultra religious fanaticism the loyalty to Hindu nationalism are the ideological foundations of modern day Indian fascism. Indian secularism is now dead.
Talking about fascism – till the rise of Modi one wondered how can RSS inspired movement be a fascist as there is no charismatic leader, and fascism cannot function without a charismatic leader. Modi has emerged and filled that role.
A Muslim killed Gandhi or was it a Christian or was it a Dalit – NOT TRUE – It was Nathuram Godse a RSS activist man who killed Gandhi.
So where do we stand today?
* Can we say that we are about to witness a turning point in Indian destiny? Are we about to see a progressive, confident, vibrant secular India at peace with its neighbours and at peace with itself?
* Can we say that it could be turning point in the relationship of India with Pakistan?
It is a truism “There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests”. This again is not true at least in the case of India and Pakistan who have been locked in perpetual enmity. We shall come to RSS and Modi a little later as it concerns relations with Pakistan.
Let us consider the first and the most immediate danger. It emanates from the fact that both nations have nuclear weapon systems and if used would cause mutually assured destruction. Second in priority is Water and Kashmir issue: I have put them together as they are inextricably linked with each other. The third is the concept Proxy wars. The list is long but I shall confine myself to these three.
Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. This statement is repeatedly given by Indian policy makers. Pakistan denies any such claim by India and strongly believes that “Jammu and Kashmir is neither an integral part of India, nor has it ever been so and shall never be so‟.
The Kashmir question is one of the oldest unresolved international problems in the world. The experience of six decades has shown that it will not go away and that an effort is urgently required to resolve it on a durable basis. Kashmiri population has a pronounced sense of identity of their own, with their sufferings and their aspirations rather than just a piece of territory contested by neighbouring rivals. For well over 66 years they have been denied freedom, 80,000 were brutally killed, murdered, raped and divested of basic human rights and are under a tight military occupation of nearly 700,000 India troops. Did you know that it is largest and the longest occupation in the annals of military history. There is one soldier to control and torment 11 Kashmiris whereas they have one doctor to take care of 65,000 Kashmiris in the valley. Let us not forget that they were assured by the entire international community represented by the United Nations that they would be able to decide their future by a free vote. Where is the international community?
The- right to self-determination of people is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been denied.
Let us not forget that it is not an issue of real estate between India and Pakistan .The most important party is Kashmiris. Let us not de-humanize the issue by ignoring Kashmiris. It is not a bilateral issue between two rivals; it is not even a trilateral issue; it is in fact a multilateral issue since there are binding UN Resolutions in existence that need to be enforced.
There are certain characteristics of the situation in Kashmir which distinguishes it from all other deplorable human rights situations around the world.
* It continues to prevail in what is recognized under international law as a disputed territory. The UN Resolutions constitute a binding and solemn international agreement about the settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
* It represents a government’s repression not of a secessionist or separatist movement but of an uprising against foreign occupation: an occupation that was expected to end under a determination made by the United Nations. The Kashmiris are not and cannot be called separatists because they cannot secede from a country to which they have never acceded in the first place. When seen in this historical, moral and legal sense their struggle for freedom cannot and should not be termed as terrorist activity. That is adding insult to the injury.
Is it really the emotional attachment, a matter of national prestige or something else? Is Pakistan unnecessarily obsessed with Kashmir or is India comfortable to maintain the status quo as it is in physical occupation of Kashmir? Why has all suggestions to resolve this issue been rejected by India? India is well aware it has neither the moral or legal justification to hold on to Kashmir. In fact it is doing it for a good reason. It fears that should it accede to the UN Resolutions of holding a plebiscite or negotiate a settlement with Pakistan and Kashmiris this would amount to a national suicide as that could trigger off a chain reaction and other separation and freedom movements in India such as Naxalite insurgency, Assam revolt, Nagaland, Dalits demands and most ominous of all Khalistan movement would resurface with renewed vigour. They fear India would then fall like a house of cards. Once again I shall say this is NOT True.
By accepting to implement UN Resolutions India in fact would rise in stature. It will become more strong and prosperous and so would Pakistan . If India agrees to a plebiscite, it shall be a win win situation for all. It shall be the best thing India could do for its people, for the people of Kashmir and Pakistan. Together they could march together for the improving the lot of their people in an environment of peace and friendship.
Many experts of International relations believed that future conflicts will evolve around water. The Importance of water is undeniable as human survival is reliant on it. The presence of water cannot be ignored while deciding the dispute of Kashmir. Both Pakistan and India are dependent on Indus basin System. In fact, Pakistan is much more heavily dependent than India, since India has other sources of water as well. Pakistan is an agriculture country and agriculture constitutes nearly 60% of Pakistani economic activity. River water is essential for irrigation, drinking and hydro electric power generation purposes. Whereas Kashmir water is important to India, For Pakistan it is a matter of life or death. It is perhaps in this context that the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah said that Kashmir is the Jugular vein of Pakistan. So it is not just Kashmir but its waters that present serious security and survival concerns for both nations.
It is the geography of the rivers that gives India strategic dominance over Pakistan by the virtue of its military occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. All the six rivers of the Indus basin rise in Kashmir and except for the Indus, all are routed through Indian held Kashmir to Pakistan. India has constructed many dams and many more are under construction or on the drawing board..Many analysts believe the last two years of flood in Pakistan had some linkages to the excessive release of water by India in the Jhelum and Chenab since the monsoon equally hit the upper part of the region. They fear that India after the construction of dams would be in a position to cause both drought and floods in Pakistan. At least at two occasions, Indian politicians and in particular RSS have expressed the desire to use water as a weapon against Pakistan.
Having briefly discussed Kashmir and Water let us quickly take stock of security environment. In fact this in my view it should take precedence over all other matters.
Would it be an exaggeration to call the subcontinent a nuclear tinderbox? Many would agree with this since India and Pakistan have gone to war three times and nearly came to a full blown war on many occasions. The source of greatest contention – the territorial dispute over Kashmir – remains unresolved. With that dispute in the background, the potential for a triggering incident via a cross-border terrorist activity remains ever possible. It is not hard to imagine a small conventional conflict escalating to nuclear War. US non-proliferation expert George Perkovich recently said: ‘Never have nuclear competitors been in an environment like India–Pakistan, where there is a seamless spectrum from sub-conventional to strategic.’
Jingoistic voices emanating from New Delhi calling for a punitive war and massive retaliation against Pakistan in case there was another act of terror rings alarm bells. Let me make one thing clear in view of Pakistan’s geography and adverse relative strength in conventional armed forces has reduced its nuclear threshold. Pakistan’s undeclared nuclear doctrine envisages use of small tactical nuclear weapons on hostile military forces should they ingress beyond a red line into Pakistan territory. This red line is difficult to delineate. In my view it is safer for humanity that hawks in the Indian military do not embark on their so called cold start doctrine or any other misadventure of surgical strikes into Pakistan. It is because should in the perception of the military in Pakistan the red line is crossed and they resort to small tactical nuclear weapons – this could escalate into full blown nuclear war.
Enters Narendra Modi in this environment. With his hatred of Muslims and their blood on his hands are we heading towards a nuclear catastrophe- I hope not!
Mark Fitzpatrick in his book “Pakistan’s nuclear dangers- why I changed my view”, provides a very well-informed, comprehensive, balanced and fair picture of nuclear environment in the sub continent. He breaks from the common, one-sided Western assessments of Pakistan’s nuclear programme by carefully examining its drivers and the regional security dynamics that
impelled its evolution. He boldly – and correctly – identifies the issues that need to be addressed to establish deterrence stability in South Asia.’
Today, Pakistan has moved to plutonium-based weapons that are deliverable by nine different ballistic- and cruise-missile systems and provide options for battlefield use. He writes. Of gravest concern is the potential for a nuclear war, triggered by another large-scale terrorist attack in India with Pakistani fingerprints, as alleged in the 2008 Mumbai atrocity, this time followed by an Indian Army/Air reprisal. Lowering the nuclear threshold, Pakistan has vowed to deter this with newly introduced battlefield nuclear weapons.
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) claims that a nuclear war between South Asian rivals would kill 2 billion people around the world and spell the “end of human civilization,” It would trigger a global famine that would immediately destroy crop yields, damage the atmosphere and throw global food markets into chaos. China, the world’s most populous country, would face a catastrophic food shortage that would lead to enormous social convulsions.
I shall wind up this horrible nuclear scenario by quoting Arundhati Roy in her essay “The End of Imagination”. I quote : “The bomb is India. India is the bomb. Not just India, Hindu India. Therefore, be warned, any criticism of it is not just anti-national but anti-Hindu. . . . This is one of the unexpected perks of having a nuclear bomb. Not only can the government use it to threaten the Enemy, they can use it to declare war on their own people.” Unquote.
In a speech, delivered at Oklahoma’s Cameron University, Chuck Hagel a US Senator and now the present incumbent Defence Secretary of the US reportedly said: “India for some time has always used Afghanistan as a second front, and India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border and you can carry that into many dimensions”. He further added “that India had been using Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan.”
Pakistan Security establishment and many neutral Security analyst allege that besides fomenting and aiding Balochistan insurgency there is undeniable evidence that RAW the Indian spy agency is supporting rogue TTP and other elements in heinous acts of terrorism to destabilise Pakistan .
India on the other hand blames Pakistan’s ISI for all the terrorist activities that take place in India. If we are to see any prospects of peace and stability in the region we shall have to find mechanism to stop these proxy wars .
What is the point in these warm Handshakes, CBM, Trade etc if you continue destabilising and terrorising each other? I think the biggest CBM would be to stop these proxy wars. .
Hopefully, there is the realization in both the countries that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute or to the other problems that exist between the two.
Whereas Nawaz Sharif is bending over backwards to improve relations with India and seek settlement of core issues, there is hardly any enthusiasm visible in New Delhi for undertaking a major foreign policy initiative towards Pakistan. On the contrary, Indian leaders have come to focusing exclusively on a single point agenda of terrorism, in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
It is the first time in Indian history that leaders from neighbouring countries have been invited to the swearing-in of an incoming prime minister. The invitation itself was an excellent in diplomatic manoeuvre. The meeting was a good opportunity to determine what would be the attitude of MODI and his BJP. It is now clear that it is still the repetition of same old single point mantra of Terrorism and there was no mention of the core issues.
Modi’s hands are soaked with the blood of over 2000 Muslims of Gujarat, yet his brutality fades into insignificance when compared with the crime of the Congress Party of India, which has killed over a hundred thousand men, women and children of Kashmir, with impunity. This party invaded East Pakistan and dismembered it and Bangladesh was born. It killed hundreds of thousands Sikhs and the crime continues unabated even now. It is argued that Modi has established strong relations with Israel, which may result into greater threat to Pakistan, but it is nothing when compared with the huge spy-network, the Indian Congress Government established in Afghanistan, in 2005. So in Pakistani perspective things remain ominous.
This single point agenda and mantra of only bilateral discussions of all issues have run out of steam. It has bought India a lot of time to maintain status quo on Kashmir and to intimidate her rival into submission. This policy has to change if we are to have a meaningful solution of the issues. The concept of “settlement of Issues by Bilateral discussion” has been tried out for 40 years since the Simla Agreement and things have gone from bad to worse. Now these two rivals are nuclear powers capable of not only destroying each other but almost to bring to an end at least a good part of human civilisation. If not to meet the ends of justice, in their own self interest the world community, the UN and powerful nations have an obligation to intercede and broker a peace.
I can assure you if the world feels comfortable to leave these two rivals to sort out their issues bilaterally they shall be endangering the entire world. Finally I conclude that Kashmir
is the core issue that needs to be settled for peace and stability in the region, whereas Modi is not ready to compromise on Kashmir, or concede “even an inch of Indian territory” he is even committed to abrogate article 370 of Indian constitution, yet it is Kashmir which will decide Modi’s future, because the key to regional peace lies with him.
( Saeed Ismat read this paper at London Institute of South Asia’s annual seminar on 29th May 2014 )
Disclaimer: views expressed are not of The London Post