Is India-Pakistan entente possible?

For India, the solution to the conflict will allow it to play a meaningful role in the region. — Photo by AFP



[Note for WoP readers: The Talks are scheduled between two neighbors who ever since independence have been on a warring path. People in South Asia as well as international observers have always been urging the two countries for such a process. Unfortunately the governments in both countries backtracked from these peace talks and a more belligerent stance was adopted particularly from the Indian side after the Mumabai attacks of Nov 2008. So now when these talks are being held, the holding these talks itself is a welcome sign for peace in the region.

My friend Peter Chamberlin has put in very pertinent remarks on this subject, so before you go to the main piece jotted down by Izzuddin Pal, first read this. Peter writes:-


The plans that were hatched in the London conference on Afghanistan (to have Pakistan shoulder the burden of easing the pressure on American forces, even if, apparently that means nudging India out), have only added to the delusional quality of the scenario unfolding on the eve of new Indo-Pakistani talks.  Hard-liners on both sides are fueling the usual fires of mistrust, coincident with the Pune bombing.  The pointing fingers of guilt are already distracting the peoples of both countries, before new issues that might lead to permanent peace can even be formulated.  There is only a minute chance that issues can be resolved, but that should be dwarfed by the enormity of the limitless opportunity represented in this pregnant moment.  Finding a path to true peace between these two lifelong antagonists should be possible if only the players are truly honest and concerned about what is best for their own people and for the entire human race.


That is simply to really hear what I have been saying over and over:  Remove the United States and every other nation that stands between them from any negotiations, so that they might deal with their own real issues without hiding behind the false fronts created by others.  Enter into negotiations over state terrorism, while accepting the worst proliferators of state terrorism as intermediaries and no good will come from these talks.  Both governments have worked with the US in sowing this state terrorism, so there is no use pretending that their friends the Americans are not involved in such things.  In the end, the Imperialists plan to assert their dominance over this critical region, no matter what the locals might desire.  America is going to take its military road show to the next targeted country, shifting its load in Afghanistan to either Pakistan or India.  If that transfer of power takes place it will be like lighting a fuse for the entire sub-continent.

Whoever sits at the table for both Pakistan and India will be representing all of humanity.  God (or all of the gods) will be watching the human interlocutors to see whether they are to be judged or to be honored for all time.  There is a heavy burden on these men’s shoulders that would make Atlas tremble.  I hope that they are up to the task. Here end comments by Peter. The main post now follows. Nayyar]



Izzuddin Pal


During the twenties the western powers had an opportunity to decide about the future of conquered territories, and during the forties they had to cope with decolonisation of their subject nations. In both cases they followed what some historians of imperialism call the policy of strengthening post-colonial links. The goal of this policy was to link the conquered territories or the post-colonial regimes with the emerging international political economy in order to protect their interests.


This objective had many facets, such as: to patronise the reliable compradors; and to restrain the newly-acquired autonomy by defining the borders in order to leave scope for potential disputes between the neighbouring countries, e.g. Middle East — Jordan-Transjordan-Palestine-Balfour Declaration for a Jewish homeland; Africa — from north to south, ignoring geography, tribal affiliations, and animal migrations; and South and South-East Asia — The Philippines, Indonesia, Sukarno later deposed by Suharto, India-Pakistan, the Radcliffe-Mountbatten Award ignoring agreed principles for population and river-canal linkages.

Peace has its distinct economic dividends, for citizens in both countries, for promoting cultural and educational exchange. The two countries do have a long history of a shared heritage.

All this was to promote dependency and protect the imperial political interests and trade. In the post-Second World War period, this policy produced a significant bonanza for what US President Eisenhower had referred to in another context as military-industrial complex, and of course for globalisation.

The India-Pakistan dispute has both internal (Hindu-Muslim tensions) and external dynamics. In the case of the latter factor, the dispute seems to correspond with the rules of the British policy for strengthening post-colonial links for both countries.


Kashmir is the core issue that explains the India-Pakistan dispute. The future of the princely state, the majority of population, and its geographical linkage with the Indus Valley would by all counts have made it a part of Pakistan. It did not happen and several factors are usually mentioned which created this situation, such as hostile attitude of Lord Mountbatten towards Mohammad Ali Jinnah, role of Jawaharlal Nehru and what is called the Edwina-Nehru relations, the role of the ruler of the state, the failures of the Pathans to occupy the strategic route, the Poonch revolt, etc.

The real causes which seem to describe the British policy for strengthening post-colonial links are: 1) to temper with the partition plan in order to allot the district of Gurdaspur to India and create a corridor for providing all-season link for Kashmir with India and, 2) to make a massive airlift of the Indian army to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, in October 1947. Such an airlift would require contingency plans to implement it in time. As Alastair Lamb (Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy) mentions, both the Indian apologists and the British officials had argued that this was the result of a ‘triumph of improvisation’. But the airlift on such a scale would take more than a few days, even a few weeks. Some military strategists are of the view that perhaps this kind of airlift must have been in the works, involving considerable staff work, perhaps parallel to the announcement of Radcliffe-Mountbatten Award as mentioned above.

In this possible time-frame, the objective of the airlift would be in line with the British policy for strengthening post-colonial links planned for the two countries. Lord Mountbatten was accompanied in his mission for transfer of power by some senior members of the British bureaucracy and some advisors who had high credentials as members of the Establishment, thoroughly familiar with the policy for strengthening post-colonial links. Of course, the Hindu-Muslim relations after the introduction of provincial autonomy had deteriorated, especially in the old United Provinces; and during the Pakistan movement, Hindu fundamentalists were also bent upon creating instability and to protest against the possible vivisection of Mother India. The tinkering with the border of Kashmir, however, had long-term implications.


Given this context, let us go fast forward and briefly ponder on the current perspective, and to examine the arguments which would strongly favour an honourable settlement of the dispute, with reference to the following three factors: the economic perspective, the financial considerations and the role of diplomacy.

That India and Pakistan should be able to live side by side peacefully is an important principle honouring contiguity which was the basis of establishing a separate homeland for Muslims. That was the desire of the founder of the nation, as indicated by the fact that he left his property interests intact in Bombay and his will included beneficiaries from both countries.

Trade is usually considered as a first propeller of good relations. In a narrow sense, this factor alone is not a reliable index, because as the global data on trading with the ‘enemy’ would indicate, the profit motive and the urge to pursue transactions for mutual gain usually defy obstacles, both in official trickles as well as informal dealings. This is made possible by the fact that in the cross-border dealings, there are advantages in shipping and other transaction costs which can be higher for longer distances. Trade, however, is also associated with other factors which play an important part in promoting mutual economic relations between the countries, such as trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIP) in goods and services, and rules for foreign investment. All this becomes part of good economic relations.

There may be some resistance from the business and industrial sectors in Pakistan to removing official barriers to economic relations. Both sectors have become used to the shelter for high-cost goods provided by the ‘no-war’ situation prevailing between the two countries for decades, as against, Indian industry significantly improving its comparative advantage. But this is the stuff for negotiation and arrangement for transitional and temporary exceptions and exemptions in bilateral agreements.


Above all, peace has its distinct economic dividends, for citizens in both countries, for promoting cultural and educational exchange. The two countries do have a long history of a shared heritage.

The other factor, the financial considerations, which favours peace with its own dividends, is related to the cost of war or near-war conflicts. Professor Paul Kennedy, a well-known British historian in his The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers examines how wars are usually decided by the relative financial advantage among the adversaries, and it equally applies to other near-war conflicts. He suggests that in specific conflicts or over the long run, the chances of gaining ‘ascendancy’ are correlated strongly to available resources and economic durability; military “over-stretch” is the consistent threat when ambitions for security requirements are greater than the resource base can provide.

Both India and Pakistan, as nuclear powers, tend to divert large resources to feed deficit financing and military build-up. The arguments offered by Professor Kennedy, therefore, would equally apply to both countries. The recent statement of General Ashfaq Kayani underlining the India-centric position of the army is of course a strategy prepared in response to India’s Cold Start doctrine — to attack before mobilising, increasing the possibility of a ‘sudden spiral of escalation’. It may lower the threshold for nuclear overhang and increase hostility between them. But the question of drain on resources — the choice between guns against butter -will continue to haunt both countries.

Is it possible then to argue that diplomacy would present better prospects than the previous two options? The literature on the strategy of survival of a small state gives us some guidance in this regard. For example, a stable and a growing economy can provide a strong negotiating position to the country, which is not the case with Pakistan. Associated with this phenomenon is the role that the diaspora can play in advocating the case of their native land. But there is a small professional class living abroad which is not able to relate to the performance of the political elite for their poor governance and reputation for lack of integrity.


There is no military solution, in any case, which Pakistan can pursue effectively. Negotiation and persuasion are the only options available to the country. Both countries can liberate themselves from the burden of the big powers’ policy for strengthening post-colonial links by recognising that there are three parties involved in the dispute over Kashmir. In any viable solution of the issue, the people of Kashmir will have to exercise their opinions, who still live in a virtual limbo of special status. And Pakistan as a lower riparian of the rivers, the life blood of the Indus region, has considerable stake in the future of the territory. For India, the solution to the conflict will allow it to play a meaningful role in the region. Peace will have dividends for both countries.

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] This cup of tea was served by: Wonders of Pakistan […]

  2. We in India are still maintaining the clonial linkage but not like you do. It is now your turn before coming to the table .We should work togather for a respectful exit of all concerned countries from the present mess for ever but nothing is going to happen all of a sudden .SO CAUTION IS NEEDED! …,

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  4. Hi……….It looks next to impossible for us to even think that WE might be one country someday…god knows if dis issue or war will be stopped one day………or not???????????????

  5. To think that India and Pakistan will become one country one day is simply not possible. The wheel of history has moved too far in these 64 years that such a possibility cannot be conceived now. However, both countries retaining their own identity as separate, sovereign nations can still be friends. In spite of what the hardliners on both sides of the border may think or act, both of us are having a legacy of shared history, a joint struggle for independence, a geography that has interlinked us so close that even if we think of getting aloof we might not.

    The best course, therefore, is that both need sit together, settle the core issue and then can both of us move forward in the direction of a joint South Asian approach towards world affairs. DIFFICULT THOUGH BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

  6. @ Shachì, Entire world is now aware of the US strategy
    to use so called Islamic forces to dominate the world through petro dollars of Saudia and CIA’s own highly scientific mind control devices to turn human minds into Frankensteins serving the cause of US imperialism worldwide. No wonder that now the major players around Asia’s political chessboard i.e. China, Russia and India are giving full support to the West to operate in most Muslim lands to help achieve that objective. Question is that can this blood shed be avoided?? I wish the moderate, patriotic forces come into power in all these countries so that problems like Kashmir, Chechnya, Georgia, Xinjian, Bamiyan, Ayodhaya , Mathura and Kashi are discussed over the table and are solved once and for all..It is only then that we can hope friendship with all Muslim countries in the world.

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