Moving the India-Pakistan Relationship Forward [2 of 2]

Germany and France have historically been bitter neighbors, fighting against each other in both world wars. Yet half a century later, they are both part of a strong European Union, their previous quarrels seemingly forgotten and their citizens enjoying a better quality of life than their predecessors. What was the key to this? The answer to why peace is maintained is quite obvious – increased interdependence between Germany and France, where warring over disputes will harm each country too much to justify the gains of conflict.
The majority of both states no longer thinks of their neighbor as an “other”, but is linked together with economic, political and cultural similarities. Pakistan and India too need to emulate the reality that our neighbor is not the “other” but a partner in progress. 
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CASES OF INCREASING INTERDEPENDENCE

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by Mallika Paulraj

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Germany and France have historically been bitter neighbors, fighting against each other in both world wars. Yet half a century later, they are both part of a strong European Union, sharing a free border, both using the euro, their previous quarrels seemingly forgotten and their citizens enjoying a better quality of life than their predecessors.

What was the key to this? The answer to why peace is maintained is quite obvious – increased interdependence between Germany and France, where warring over disputes will harm each country too much to justify the gains of conflict. The majority of both states no longer thinks of their neighbor as an “other”, but is linked together with economic, political and cultural similarities.

The more important question then arises – how did this interdependence come about? The slow disengagement from their issues of contention, and cooperating in mutually beneficial areas has evolved into a lasting peace. The intervention of the world community, especially the World War II rebuilding efforts of the US, the establishing of the United Nations, and the European Union have brought about these adjustments in attitude.

LEADERSHIP

Unfortunately, India and Pakistan have not seen powerful leaders in decades. Pakistan especially with its military controlled political machinery mostly acts in military strategic interest. The world community can help by trying to persuade Pakistan to move to a genuinely democratic state. The Indian government should also be chided into respecting the human rights of Kashmiri Muslims and refrain from the increasingly common departures from secularism. This can be done through education campaigns and diplomatic carrots and sticks.

The military budgets of both nations are booming. According to one estimate a mere 5 per cent reduction in the annual military budget of the two countries would release about 2 billion US dollars which could go a long way in fulfilling basic social needs of the people in the region [Das 2000].  Mounting international pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may convince them to reduce military expenditure in return for lucrative trade deals. Both the monies previously tied up in the defense budget and the aid could be used for public goods such as education and healthcare.

SAARC (SOUTH ASIAN ASSOCIATION OF REGIONAL COOPERATION)

Europe, East Asia and South America have seen large trade gains and thus an increase in interdependence following the maturation of their respective regional economic associations (EU, ASEAN and Mercosur). SAARC, which India and Pakistan both joined in 1986, is on the other hand a weak body and an underused diplomatic instrument.

 India and Pakistan have a very tenuous trading agreement, limited to a few hundred goods. When an initial trade agreement was made in the late 1980’s, trade increased from $33 million in 1990-91 to over $100 million by 1992-93, showing the potential of increased economic openness. Both governments admit the presence of a large amount of informal smuggling of goods across the borders, amounting to about $320 million a year, which represents much lost revenue for both countries [Das 2000].

 Paul O’Neil then the US Treasury Secretary had observed increasing Indo-Pak trade during his trip to the subcontinent. International initiatives in SAARC, a ready-made mediating table can be used by influential persons to give assurances to both sides and bring them into the world economy [The Hindu 2002].

 Organizations of businesses that stand to gain from increased Indo-Pak trade, such as the National Shipping Corporation of Pakistan and the New Delhi Chamber of Commerce are already acting to put pressure on their two governments [Das 2002]. International support should be given to bodies such as these and efforts should be made to legalize goods that are currently traded illegally and therefore are lost sources of revenue.

TOURISM

Many Himalayan areas that are currently off limits to tourists due to the ongoing conflict are rich in eco-tourism possibilities. Opportunities abound for hiking, rafting and wildlife watching. The area is also ripe for cultural tourism. Our history can now help the Indo-Pak border region, as it contains relics of the Silk Road, the invasion of Alexander the Great, the missing years of Jesus Christ and is the font of yoga and other spiritual disciplines that are growing in popularity in industrialized states.

Official warnings, an unstable political environment and a lack of facilities have kept tourists away. Aid packages that promote the construction of guesthouses, training of guides, and promote active interaction and expansion of the Indian and Pakistani ministries of tourism, can go a long way towards removing these deterrents. Encouraging private business to invest in hotels, roads and the upkeep of attractions by giving out loans and securing investments will also promote growth of tourism.

EPISTEMIC COMMUNITIES

By encouraging college students and researchers and promoting grants for archaeological surveys, historians and other preservers of information, organizing conferences, journals, web-portals and databases for Indo-Pak interdependence will help form a stronger worldwide epistemic community that can promote Indo-Pak relations. A strong Indo-Pak issues epistemic community currently exists. Although very necessary, it tends to concentrate much of its resources on nuclear disarmament, Kashmiri self-determination and other problems that are extremely difficult to solve. Perhaps it is time for academics to tackle some “softer” non-security debates.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION AND FUNDING

  • Research organizations that encourage Indo-Pak commerce such as the National Shipping Corporation of Pakistan, the New Delhi Chamber of Commerce, and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry to determine if they have intervention tactics that can be built upon.
  • Find out what goods are currently being illegally traded between Indians and Pakistanis.
  • Collect journalists, academics and intellectuals interested in Indo-Pak affairs for a conference that focuses entirely on points of cooperation. This could be held on neutral SAARC territory such as the Maldives or Nepal.
  • Promote research being done on Indo-Pak relations that concentrate current security studies.
  • Publicize the current formation of an epistemic community that is working towards Indo-Pak cooperation on all issues. This could be through opinion editorials, talks with journalists, and college classes.
  • Petition the JBIC to fund further research.
  • Encourage student projects to find other examples of successful intervention of institutions of cooperation in seemingly unsolvable international conflict.
  • Initiate dialogue between Indians and Pakistani expatriate groups in the US and other western countries.
  • Help strengthen SAARC by studying the reasons for success underlying the European Union and translating these successes for SAARC use.

CONCLUSION 

A recent news article states:

“India has been hinting in recent weeks that if Pakistan ends its no-trade policy with India, it would be ready to lift many of the diplomatic measures it had put in place after the attack on Parliament on December 13.”  The Hindu, November 19, 2002.

The current environment is thus fortuitous in nudging India and Pakistan in promoting the mutual benefits that will come to both nations if they begin to cooperate in other areas.

The Kashmir conflict is an embodiment of stubbornness by both nations with no solution in sight. If India and Pakistan can begin to cooperate in economic, technological and social areas, some of the stubbornness, mistrust and lack of understanding of the other can be diminished. Increasing interdependence might eventually point both states out of the zero-sum territory they currently find themselves in. Promoting this cooperation will require the persistence of all of us – Indians, Pakistanis and citizens of the world.

Concluded.

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