Challenges facing India-Pakistan relations

Published: January 28, 2014
Email
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

In Pakistan today, there is practically a cross-party consensus for having better relations with India. More significantly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has invested considerable political capital in promoting this agenda. Te military leadership that traditionally has been opposed to rapprochement is now supportive of this policy in light of the changed threat scenario and emerging geopolitical and strategic imperatives. In contrast, the response from New Delhi has been lukewarm, with one exception — to promote trade and commerce with Pakistan. Although at a personal level, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh favours broad normalisation of relations, he is politically constrained and too preoccupied with domestic challenges to give relations with Pakistan any priority.

Nonetheless, both countries, at least on matters of commerce, now stand committed to move on a fast track. Recently, when the commerce ministers of India and Pakistan met in New Delhi, they took some important decisions to establish normal trading relations and undertake liberalisation and facilitation measures. Important among these was the one to keep the Wagah-Attari border functional round the clock, introduce containerisation of cargo and provide Non-Discriminatory Market Access on a reciprocal basis. The latter is meant as a stop-gap arrangement to overcome the psychological barrier associated with the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) acronym. In March 2012, Pakistan moved from the ‘Positive List’ to the ‘Negative List’ and placed 1,209 items out of over 8,000 product lines that could be imported from India. In addition, the business community of both countries has stepped up their interactions and an exhibition of Indian goods is planned for the middle of next month in Lahore, which is likely to be attended by the Indian commerce minister.

Perhaps, what many are unaware of is that India-Pakistan trade is still below the 1947 and 1965 levels. This should serve as a reminder to the leaders of both countries that unless there is progress on a broad front of issues, it may be difficult to sustain progress in trade and commerce.

The fragility of the relationship could be gauged by the recent volatility on the Line of Control (LoC) that lasted over a year and only stabilised when the two prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh, met on the sidelines of the UN to cool the tensions. This clearly demonstrates that the situation on the LoC is symptomatic of the overall political relationship.

The conduct of the two militaries is crucial in moving towards an enduring, positive relationship. It seems that the Indian military has become a major determinant in India-Pakistan relations. Recent aggressive statements against Pakistan by the Indian chief of army staff and the army’s veto on any agreement on Siachen, other than maintaining the status quo, reflect the increasing role of the military in political affairs and reinforce the assumption that the political leadership in India is yielding space to men in uniform. This may well be a consequence of the increasing role of the military in Jammu & Kashmir and in the Maoists-led insurgencies. This seems ironic, as while in Pakistan, the army, which has historically been a dominant power, is distancing itself from politics, the Indian military is gradually asserting itself.

Progress on major issues — Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek — is unlikely. In any case, with the Indian elections as close as May 2014, no major policy decisions are expected. The election results should be completed within a month. Probably by September 2014, the new Indian government will be in a position to define its relations with Pakistan and no progress can be expected until then. Much would depend on which party wins but with the Congress party’s abysmal performance, the BJP seems to be the front runner, with Narendra Modi, the current chief minister of Gujarat, as the prospective prime minister.

Modi is a hardliner and carries a stigma of the horrible massacre of Muslims in February 2002, in which over 1,000 Muslims died. But having improved the economy of Gujarat and known to be business-friendly, he has the full backing of India’s corporate world and right-wing political parties. Modi is, however, very divisive and controversial. The world will be closely watching him for his treatment of minorities and conduct of relations with India’s neighbours, especially Pakistan.

Modi, during his election campaign, has stated that he will follow a decentralised foreign policy and will consult the states. The idea seems far-fetched and is a reflection of his lack of experience in foreign affairs. In all likelihood, his foreign policy will be dictated not as much by a nationalistic agenda but more by the compulsions of moving the economy. It will take Modi at least two years to give any serious attention to relations with Pakistan and that, too, if he is genuine about it. Nevertheless, Pakistan will have to pay a lot of attention to the new political realities of India.

The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party has introduced another new element in Indian politics. Its anti-corruption crusade led to the party capturing power in Delhi and the forecasts say that it might win between 50 to 60 seats in the Lok Sabha. It is to be seen to what extent the emergence of a third political force will transform the internal political dynamic of India and affect its attitude towards Pakistan and other neighbours. Interestingly, the party leader, Arvind Kejriwal, has expressed his desire for friendly relations with Pakistan.

Elections in Jammu & Kashmir this year is another major event that will be closely watched by Pakistan for its fairness and representative character. Any effort to manipulate the elections by New Delhi will create unrest among the Kashmiris with sympathetic reverberations in Pakistan.

The role of India and Pakistan during the pre- and post-withdrawal period of the US forces from Afghanistan would also be critical. The general prognosis is that there are slim chances of any reconciliation between Hamid Karzai and the Afghan Taliban, which could lead to a civil war. It would be in the interest of both countries to cooperate in promoting stability in Afghanistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th,  2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (33)

  • Jan 28, 2014 - 11:19PM

    Thank you sir – I was always conflicted growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s and 1990’s – I would always wonder why Pakistan is sending armed rebels into Kashmir leading to deaths and displacement of population – if only someone had explained it like you did – sympathetic reverberations in Pakistan. Masterful!

    Recommend

  • harkol
    Jan 28, 2014 - 11:55PM

    over 1,000 Muslims died.

    Officially accounted figures are 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. The lopsided killings indicate there were more Hindu thugs on the streets than the Muslim ones.

    This was most atrocious, but not unheard of in India. Many communal violences have left 100s dead in past 60+ years. However in Gujarat there wasn’t a single communal riot after 2002.

    So, while people rightly condemn Modi for failing to ensure the safety of citizens (not just muslims), he has done a commendable job for past 12years.Recommend

  • Mohd tarekh
    Jan 29, 2014 - 12:25AM

    Elections in Jammu & Kashmir this year is another major event that will be closely watched by Pakistan for its fairness and representative character.

    First try to hold free and fair election in Papistan….Then please lecture the biggest democaracies of the world…this is not funny at all..

    Recommend

  • Anjaan
    Jan 29, 2014 - 1:01AM

    India’s Pakistan policy is independent of who is in power. The people of India are united on the issue of relations with Pakistan. Modi coming to power will have no bearing on this issue.
    The Indian military asserting itself in security matters, not politics, is a welcome development, as far as the people of India is concerned. The aurhor’s comment that Indian military is interfering in politics, is a wrong statement.
    After 4 wars and over two decades of terrorism from across the borders, it would be foolish to expect Indian political and military leadership to agree to any change in status quo on the territorial issues.
    Therefore, trade and commerce would be a good first step to build trust, which is close to nonexistent.
    Recommend

  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Jan 29, 2014 - 1:01AM

    Pakistan has no credibility on the negotiation table. Pakistani government promised numerous things but never delivered one. e.g. MFN, Liberal Visa regimen, Mumbai terror trial etc etc. This has led to a fatigue in India. Moreover, India has bigger fish to fry and Pakistan is left to its own implosion.

    Recommend

  • rasgullah
    Jan 29, 2014 - 1:39AM

    No action against mumbai perpetrators, then how can one believe the Pakistani government?

    Recommend

  • Jan 29, 2014 - 2:27AM

    China and the US have quite frosty diplomatic ties, but enjoy the world’s largest trade relationship. Similar things can be said for the Japan-China trade relationships, and those between Western Europe and Russia.

    Trade relations are actually more people driven, and exploit the mutual dependencies/relationships between populations. Once the economic logic of Indo-Pak trade establishes itself, normalizing ties will become a lot easier.

    Recommend

  • Cool Henry
    Jan 29, 2014 - 5:33AM

    Enable normal trade and travel relations between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. See all problems get resolved in a hurry.

    Recommend

  • Avtar
    Jan 29, 2014 - 6:12AM

    India should give up Siachen in exchange for Pakistan accepting LOC as a permanent border.

    Recommend

  • faraz
    Jan 29, 2014 - 11:09AM

    We should all recognize that Afghanistan is a tragedy. Even more, attitude of Afghans towards Pakistan is unthankful given that Pakistan supported Afghans for so many years burdening the economy – the ripples can be felt even now. The worst, Afghans shaking hands with India purposefully to damage Pakistan. This is not tolerable given we all understand true motives of Indian presence in Afghanistan.

    Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jan 29, 2014 - 11:20AM

    Both the countries have different priorities and must concentrate on those. Where India wants to go and where Pakistan wishes to go are opposite directions, they will be better off going their own way with few expectations. India is totally opposed to any kind of terrorism more so with religious or ideological baggage attached, any sponsorship of the same from anywhere can have consequences.
    No one in Pakistan leave aside elsewhere knows who is running the country or who decides Security and Foreign Policy. Those who do the talking cannot execute as seen from the MFN fiasco and many other issues. The region will be better off if both countries keep their mouth shut and leave talking to when conditions are conducive. Solving peoples issues within should be their priority.

    Recommend

  • Jan 29, 2014 - 12:28PM

    “Elections in Jammu & Kashmir this year is another major event that will be closely watched by Pakistan for its fairness and representative character. Any effort to manipulate the elections by New Delhi will create unrest among the Kashmiris with sympathetic reverberations in Pakistan.”

    People in Pakistan think Elections are Games in India. There is nothing which is more fairer than Elections now. With the introduction of modern techniques and procedures, there is hardly any flaw.

    Election Commission is Constitutionally independent and not at all toothless.

    That is not to say past elections have not been rigged. But, in this modern era, with the current way things happens, its nearly impossible.

    Recommend

  • Sid
    Jan 29, 2014 - 2:32PM

    The real challenge is that Pakistan has set itself a nation goal beyond its means. Despite Nuclear weapons, economic, militarily or soft power parity with India, winning Kashmir from India or forcing India to a favorable negotiated outcome are pipe dreams.

    The Pakistani elite estimate the National power based on dictum like one Muslim soldier is equal to four Hindu soldiers. When such intellect applied to matters of statecraft, what you get is a not only a failed policy, but a vortex.

    Having invented huge amounts of men and material in rivalry with India, Pakistan has nothing to show for it other than than loss of Bangladesh, stunted economic growth and terrorism. But the emotional investment is such that Pakistan can’t walk back, throwing good money after bad is the best policy for any ruler of Pakistan.

    All India wants is Pakistan punish those who committed crimes against humanity in Mumbai. Any civilized society would punish such monsters, but for Pakistan the simple act of allowing criminal law to take its normal course is too big a price to pay for friendship for India. Clearly Pakistan is not serious.

    Recommend

  • Al-Bakistan
    Jan 29, 2014 - 6:00PM

    I don’t think we’ll see peace in our lifetime. This will only end with some tumultuous change in the status-quo of one or both nations. Recommend

  • observer
    Jan 29, 2014 - 6:34PM

    @Sid. Totally agree with you. If Pakistan does not bring those who committed the crime on 28th.Nov.2008 in Mumbai to book, India should never shake hands with those whose hands have blood on them. Either come clean, or do not come at all. India has to stick very firmly. This is the message that Pakistan has to understand, in a manner that they will never ever forget, and India has to make very sure that this is done. All the masterminds, all those who have trained, financed, provided support, whoever and wherever they may be should be brought to trial. This is important not only for India but importantly for Pakistan. To show earnestly that Pakistan is one state, not a state within a state. This will put to rest the “non-state” actors, explanations, excuses to rest.
    India and Pakistan have to unite, for the betterment of their populations, the sooner the better. Recommend

  • Rakib
    Jan 29, 2014 - 6:59PM

    Author alludes to the increasing role of the military in political affairs of India. Indian Army was always assertive in matters of security though general public almost never came to know of it. Even Indira could not get her own way with Manckshaw reg timing of war in 1971; a fact that the Field Marshal revealed only in 1999. That apart, if Indian Army appears to be the villain that prevents resolution of certain issues it’s because the politicians precisely want it to appear so. There is not a word on Indo-Pak matters that Indian Military would speak aloud that is not vetted beforehand by the Ministries concerned. Recommend

  • True Pakistani
    Jan 29, 2014 - 7:30PM

    “Elections in Jammu & Kashmir this year is another major event that will be closely watched by Pakistan for its fairness and representative character.
    First try to hold free and fair election in Papistan….Then please lecture the biggest democaracies of the world…this is not funny at all..”

    @Mohd tarekh, Indian troll, stop using Pakistani name. Pakistan was made for Muslims and we have a full right to bring fairness and representative character to Indian elections to give Indian Muslims their full due. Don’t preach hatred against Pakistan. Live and let live in peace.Recommend

  • Udaya Bose
    Jan 29, 2014 - 8:39PM

    The author is simply restating the timeworn Pakistani position with some spin.
    A) If there is a general consensus in Pakistan about ‘better relations with India’ then why is there a ‘psychological barrier’ on granting straightforward MFN? Why beat around the bush?
    B) The Indian Army’s stand on Siachen has been known for long. Demarcate the Actual Ground Position Line on maps which are exchanged and then effect a withdrawa. We all know why Pakistan does not agree – its Army has lied to their nation on the AGPL and would lose face. Political influence of the Indian Army is a moth-eaten red herring.
    C) Jammu and Kashmir has had atleast two successive credible elections. The first brought to power a party sympathetic to the Pakistani position. It lasted its whole term. We don’t need a Pakistani certificate on elections in India. When less developed countries want assistance on holding credible elections, they seek the assistance of India’s renowned Election Commission. Do they ask for Pakistan’s help?
    D) India’s foreign policy has for long had a nationwide consensus.It doesn’t matter who comes to power, India’s interests always come first.
    E) What is really required is for Pakistan to stop trying to be too clever by half – whining about imagined ‘lukewarmness ‘ on India’s part whilst being intransigent on all issues – the latest example being stopping of cross-LOC trade because a driver carrying drugs was arrested.
    It does not appear to us in India that Pakistan truly wants good relations with India, it is only taking a tactical position due to mounting internal problems.
    When Pakistan is actually ready for a fair and balanced relationship only then matters will progress.Recommend

  • its ok
    Jan 29, 2014 - 9:10PM

    @True Pakistani ………how the name is pakistani, my one friend is having same name.Recommend

  • Murthy
    Jan 29, 2014 - 9:11PM

    Elections in Jammu & Kashmir this year is another major event that will be closely watched by Pakistan for its fairness and representative character. Any effort to manipulate the elections by New Delhi will create unrest among the Kashmiris with sympathetic reverberations in Pakistan.” The writer has had no opportunities to know what is meant by “fair elections” given that Pakistan has been under dictatorship and seen sham elections most of the time in its independent existence.Recommend

  • Dina Warrier
    Jan 29, 2014 - 9:23PM

    @True Pakistani:
    “we have a full right to bring fairness and representative character to Indian elections to give Indian Muslims their full due”
    You know why Muslims in Kashmir are suffering? Because Pakistan decided to act as their self-appointed chowdhary.
    And now you want to extend the concept to the Muslims in rest of India too. Didn’t you fail miserably in Kashmir?Recommend

  • Lt. Gen. MMS V (Retd)
    Jan 29, 2014 - 9:39PM

    I have no doubt that the writer of this piece, a retired Lt. Gen. of the Pak Army, has his heart in the right place, and has an open and clear mind. I never miss anything that he writes. But he has ruined this otherwise excellent piece of writing with his completely misplaced, baseless, and speculative observations about the Indian Army. It is understandable, as it could happen to anyone who has seen the working of Pak Army closely, and has seen nothing of the Indian.

    May I, who has closely observed the working of the Indian Army from its highest echelons, assure dear General Talat that the Indian Army has only as much influence on the Indian Government as the British Army or The US Army have on their respective Governments, and that it has never enjoyed or even desired the kind of power the Pak Army considers its birthright.

    Regards,

    MMS VRecommend

  • Indignant
    Jan 29, 2014 - 10:04PM

    @Rakib: The difference between Indira Gandhi and Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw in 1970-71 was only with the timing of the war since Sam felt that it would be difficult to travel quickly in Bangladesh while the monsoon was in full swing. Indira Gandhi wanted immediate action while Sam wanted to wait for a few months. Ultimately he was proven right. They however never disagreed on the need to take action.

    Interesting to see you twist history. I wonder how many of your other history lessons are similarly wrong.Recommend

  • kamal
    Jan 29, 2014 - 10:05PM

    Everything can be discussed but Pakistan has to understand that Kashmir is integral part of India.Forget about any Indian or Pakistani leader ,even if our GOD tells us to do away with Kashmir we will change him as well.We will live with Kashmir and will die with it.And if we die nobody will be left to celebrate victory..Recommend

  • Komal S
    Jan 29, 2014 - 10:34PM

    Over the last 5 months the same voices in Pakistan have stopped talking about action on Mumbai culprits. Unfortunate thing is current Government in India have also forgotten Mumbai.Recommend

  • True Indian
    Jan 29, 2014 - 11:28PM

    @Lt. Gen. MMS V (Retd)

    What clear language and beautiful words! Only from a finest soldier with the finest mind. We salute you and all fellow soldiers, Sir, for your services to defending Indian people.

    Recommend

  • Rakib
    Jan 29, 2014 - 11:58PM

    @Indignant:
    In which way does your post challenge my operative statement:“Indian Army was always assertive in matters of security”? Sam was assertive (not submissive, not aggressive) when it came to his specialisation which was warfare & did not want to pander to an arrogant-PM’s hubris that demanded on 21st April 1971 itself that Indian Army walk immediately in to East Pakistan. Sam went to the extent of poking mild fun at the PM in the cabinet meeting by wondering whether she had read Bible & was imitating: God said let there be light and there was light!? Do read up the speech he delivered (while releasing the book “Liberation and Beyond: Indo-Bangladesh relations” written by J N Dixit, former foreign secretary) before indignantly arguing & getting personal..

    Recommend

  • Rakib
    Jan 30, 2014 - 12:38AM

    @True Pakistani: (Pakistan was made for Muslims and we have a full right to bring fairness and representative character to Indian elections to give Indian Muslims their full due.)

    Whether Pakistan was made for Muslims or not, Muslims were certainly not “made” for Pakistan. Elections in India are watched by many outsiders & you are welcome to do so too; & comment is free. But, what “fairness & representative character” can you actually “bring” to an Indian election? What “full due to Indian Muslims” can you guarantee when you need to still work some more with your own? While I do respect your right to express concern for humanity, particularly Indian Muslims, & understand your natural anguish if something bad happens to them (thank you), this habit of Pakistanis to pretend to be spokesmen of Muslims everywhere is quite absurd. One should learn to leave what one has already left.

    Recommend

  • Ramesh Powar
    Jan 30, 2014 - 9:45AM

    @True Pakistani:
    Pakistan was made for Muslims and we have a full right to bring fairness and representative character to Indian elections to give Indian Muslims their full due.
    Isn’t Bangladesh a living testimony to the way you ensure fairness and representative character in your own elections, and of your ardent desire to give your fellow Muslims their full due?

    Recommend

  • wonderer
    Jan 30, 2014 - 11:53AM

    @Ramesh Powar:
    @True Pakistani:

    Reference: My earlier reply to you gentlemen, just posted.

    A fuller version of the video, including Musharraf’s reply is available on this link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sY5PKks38E

    Recommend

  • Mubashir
    Jan 30, 2014 - 2:56PM

    @It Is (still) Economy Stupid: India broke its promise by denying the right of self determination to the people of J&K according to UN resolutions. Now you claims Pak lost its credibility and what will you say about India?
    @ rasgulla: The Mumbai perpetrators are in your country, go and catch them; who is stopping you.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Jan 30, 2014 - 11:02PM

    @True Pakistani :”(Pakistan was made for Muslims and we have a full right to bring fairness and representative character to Indian elections to give Indian Muslims their full due.)”

    Oh the irony. Pakistan was made because you did NOT expect that Muslims would get a fair share in India. In any case, despite all your puffery, Pakistan has no say or right about how Muslims will be treated in India, nor do I believe do the Indian Muslims look to Pakistan for any protection. The source of protection they rely on is India’s secular constitution, India’s media and civil society (largely Hindu) that is committed to secular values and would not support unfair treatment to any community based on religion including Muslims and of course India’s legal system that does respect the constitution..

    As for transparency and fairness of elections and a Pakistani passing strictures on Indian elections – well that is certainly interesting to say the least.Recommend

  • truthbetold
    Feb 1, 2014 - 8:54AM

    @True Pakistani:

    ” Pakistan was made for Muslims and we have a full right to bring fairness and representative character to Indian elections to give Indian Muslims their full due. “

    You are correct that Pakistan was created for all the Muslims of pre-partition India. Why then Pakistan shut its door for Indian Muslims? Since you have such compassion for Indian Muslims, would you agree that Pakistan should open its door to any and all Indian muslims who feel they don’t have “full right for fairness and representative character” in India?

    Also, I am sure you will be compassionate enough to open Pakistan’s doors to the 400,000 stranded Behari Pakistanis in Bangladesh who have been waiting for over 42 years to be repatriated.

    Recommend

More in Opinion