This month both India and Pakistan will celebrate 70 years of their independence. Both the nations have a history of bloody wars, espionage, skirmishes, nuclear alienation and political rhetoric in the past seven decades. Pakistan’s policies towards India revolve around Kashmir, while India considers Kashmir a non-issue.
Peaceful engagement and bilateral negotiations process between the two countries has been taking place under the Simla Agreement 1972. Yet the two states always end up playing the blame game. As a result, constructive and result-oriented negotiation process still remains a dream. Pakistan accuses India of frequently violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement, sabotaging development activities in Balochistan and Karachi and facilitating dissidents and terrorists in Balochistan. Similar sabotage claims surface in the Indian media against Pakistan. Somehow, India has been successful in building the perception in the world arena that the Pakistan Army doesn’t want peace in the South Asian region and is part of the problem. India is constantly finding fault with our army command and accuses it of dictating Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir and India. The Pakistan Army is an important stakeholder in these two conflicts and there is no harm to take them onboard while planning peace-building efforts between the two countries.
Unlike other civilised countries of the world, the two nations are spending more time on discussing their past and present, and neglecting the potential for future cooperation and dividends for the common public. Hence, a deadly stalemate has emerged between the two countries, dimming hopes of peace and mutual coexistence. The rivalry between the two nations has gradually broadened its spectrum. A negative-sum game can be witnessed in Afghanistan, which has become a laboratory of strategic manoeuvring for the two countries in order to strengthen their influence in the region.
Though the people of the two countries speak like each other, eat like each other and live like each other, they still have built astonishing perceptions and prejudices about each other. For instance, for a common Pakistani, Indians are tormentors of Muslims, have illegally occupied Kashmir, have more poverty than Pakistan and built dams on Pakistani rivers to run them dry. For a common Indian, Pakistani men are extremists with long beards and multiple wives, while women are trapped in this setup and roam around in burqas; Pakistan is a ‘terrorist’ nation with frequent bomb blasts, assassinations and abductions.
The era of extremism and fundamentalism has started ticking anti-clockwise in the region. In the past, Pakistan had an extremist mindset considering non-state actors as strategic assets. However, in the last decade the country has moved away from this mindset. The scourge of terrorism and countless sacrifices of innocent lives have reshaped the security apparatus of the country. Now after three decades, it seems that India has decided to replay the episode of extremism, regional invasions and principle of non-coexistence for other religious and ethnic societies. Currently, Indian civil society is frightened to call for peace between the two nations with people considering religious extremist elements as true patriotism. The orbit of Pakistani politics is economy, governance and security situation in the country. However, Indian mainstream politics is now revolving around anti-Pakistan rhetoric, which makes the future of peaceful bilateral relationship between the two countries bleak.
It is a fact that there are many peace loving people in the two countries. Yet the bilateral relationship is waning by the day. The existing situation where India is now taking the lead in creating extremist mindsets, presents a pessimistic outlook for future bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. It seems that the two countries will remain rivals forever due to historic baggage and self-perceived stereotypes. The ultimate victims of all this realpolitik will be none other than the people of the two countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2017.
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