There is a lesson for Pakistan in the recent visit of President Barack Obama to India and the back-slapping warmth with which he was received by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And there is hope, too, for us in the perceived increase in the understanding between Washington and New Delhi as a result of the visit. The lesson is too simple to miss. In foreign relations, national self-interests rather than hollow honour and empty pride dictate the decision-making process. Also, in world affairs, like in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. That is perhaps, why a man who was refused the US visa in 2005 for his alleged involvement in the massacre in Gujarat state was not only allowed to pay a state visit to the US when he became his country’s prime minister, but his invitation to the US president to attend India’s 66th Republic Day ceremonies was also accepted readily. On the other hand, India played host to the president of a country whose law-enforcement agencies only months before had insultingly strip-searched one of its female diplomats for committing what in India’s view was not such a serious transgression of the law. So much so that India, out of pique, had started investigations into several American institutions in New Delhi, forcing the US ambassador to India, an exasperated Nancy Powell, to resign before the completion of her tenure. Both the US and India, in their national self-interests, seemingly swept their respective complaints against each other under the carpet and let pragmatism rather than futile emotions dictate their foreign policy decisions.
And the hope? This is again not a very complicated proposition to understand if we temper Pakistan-US relations with our national self-interest rather than see Washington’s moves that it makes for promoting its own global self-interest as a conspiracy to force us to accept Indian hegemony in the region. The US is an imperialist country. Such countries make friends and enemies on their own terms and in their own self-interest and are not dictated by noble or altruistic sentiments in dealing with countries, most of whom they regard as their chattels. The best way to deal with such countries is to keep mutual conflicts reduced to the minimum and maintain focus on issues on which the two can cooperate.
Once, when in the early days of Pervez Musharraf’s rule, the media was lamenting almost on a daily basis that Pakistan was suffering from global isolation because of military rule, the dictator invited a group of senior journalists for a briefing on the issue and claimed that because of four reasons, Pakistan can never be consigned to isolation. His four reasons: 1) Hub of fundamentalism; 2) Hub of drug-trafficking; 3) Borders with China and; 4) Nuclear arms. This was clearly a disingenuous argument. All these four reasons are negative and because of three of these, Pakistan is being treated as a pariah by many countries. And even on the matter of sharing borders with China, it is interesting to see what Beijing is offering to India on the occasion. In a message to the Indian president on India’s Republic Day, his Chinese counterpart expressed China’s willingness “to make concerted efforts with India to lift their strategic cooperative partnership oriented to peace and prosperity to a higher level”. An article on January 26 that appeared in the Global Times and People’s Daily, pointed out: “As both are emerging powers, which have the huge potential of being important forces in the international community, China and India should see more space for cooperation instead of contention.”
So it is by exploiting the common grounds, like eliminating terrorist safe havens from our soil and helping Kabul establish peace and stability in Afghanistan, that we could be in a position to encourage the US to leverage its increased understanding with the Indian leadership to help diffuse the nuclear flashpoint that the region has become because of the unresolved Kashmir dispute. Even for India to play ‘a central role beyond its borders’ with almost half of its population still writhing below the poverty line, it will first have to come to some kind of peaceful settlement with Pakistan on all the contentious issues plaguing their bilateral relations.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2015.
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@Yo2Da2: You are quite right in regard to spats between disparate groups such as the French/English etc. However, I do wish to emphasize that the reason I became involved in this article regarding spats between India/Pakistan is that I am concerned that serious problems, not least of which are the LOC and economic ones, will not be satisfactorily resolved as a result of the spats, and may continue into the distant future. Obviously, problems exist everywhere, but it would be pleasing if some of the more pressing ones in the sub-continent could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Thank you for your comment.
@Arnold Layne: Arnold, don't be so tough on Sexton. He is simply stating his opinion and perspective. I have agreed with many of his comments on other this and other blogs and respect his measured and rational arguments. And I tend to agree with you about perceptions in the U.S. about Indians and Pakistanis. India has been in the consciousness of Americans (at least educated and well-read ones) for a very long time (18th century). The presence and visible accomplishments of the three million strong Indian diaspora in the US gets them lumped with other "model" minorities from East Asia and has a positive halo effect on all South Asians. And many of these people are beginning to make a difference in their ancestral home country. The large and still growing population erases a lot of economic gains and progress. The disparity in incomes and living standards has to be a top priority. Yes, untrammeled nationalism and chauvinism is not a helpful thing. Maybe in the past, many Americans could not tell Indians and Pakistanis apart - even South Asians cannot. But since 9/11, people can tell who's a Muslim (and Pakistani) by their names and who is not. Maybe Mr. Blake can confirm this, but I do remember his mentioning that he emigrated to the West (US, Canada, UK, Australia?) from Pakistan decades ago.
@Sudhir: I think because ET and Dawn offer lots of interesting and diverse opinions and make it easy to respond. By comparison. Indian English-language newspaper sites are not so lively or interesting. (Outlook and the Hindu maybe exceptions.) Anyway, my congratulations to ET (and Dawn) for providing such forums, and letting readers from everywhere (including India) see that a rational discourse and search for truth is encouraged. It keeps hope alive for a peaceful and progressive Pakistan. Zindabad!
@Rex Minor: Enough of this blaming colonialism (especially the British one) for all the ills ailing Pakistan. Not all periods of different colonialisms were the same. Indian (especially educated ones) have examined all the colonialist episodes, learned from them, and progressed. The last colonialists (the British) connected India to the modern world of reason, modern education, science and technology, and modern democratic systems. This legacy is getting stronger by the day as was on display on January 26th. What did the colonialists prior to the British do except leave behind a corrosive and irrational medieval mentality, lots of nice monuments to death, war and an alien desert people. The British gave India its independence and left while their antecedents did not (and did not leave). For proof look at Pakistan where the British and Islamic legacies are constantly at war with each other, and the latter, at least judging from the last umpteen years, seems to be winning that war for hearts and minds. Maybe not the hearts and minds of rational, educated English-speaking readers of the Express Tribune and Dawn; but of the vast unwashed majority who continue to enact the "ceremony of innocence" like the Shia mosque bombing and the Peshawar school massacre. . .
@basil: I don't think all "evil" acts in India are blamed by Indians on Pakistan. Only certain ones (such as terrorism) for which there is other explanation (such as Maoists or Indian Mujahideen). (Of course there are certain hard-core groups in both countries who blame everything on each other - "conspiracists".)
@Arnold Layne: Dear Arnold, I think you misread me, or just misunderstood me. I was not giving my personal views on India and Pakistan. I would be quite happy living in either country. The people I have met are intelligent, easy to get along with and the women are very elegant. My niece is a case in point. However,I was basically pointing out that the childish spats between some Indians and Pakistanis are just that; childish, that Westerners cannot really understand why they indulge themselves in this way, but at the end of the day are not really interested. This would be no different from the lack of interest Indians/Pakistanis have in Russia, China or Iceland. You might also note that I was replying to someone doing an unnecessary putdown on Pakistan.
@Sexton Blake: You say "from a Western point-of-view the vast majority cannot tell the difference between either..." This is not true. Most people in the West can and do know the difference between India and Pakistan. You may be keeping the company of those who are ignorant, uninformed, or merely bigoted. To people like you, anyone from South Asia is the same.
Your other comments on not wishing to live in either of these countries is unbecoming. For those who have traveled and lived the world over, it is not just a matter of sewage and living standards. Few places in the world are as hospitable as Pakistan or India. It is a tragedy that people from the West cannot look below the surface and see the enduring values and humanity of this region. Given enough money it takes a few years to fix the sewage system and build toilets. But it takes centuries to build humanity and human connections. And humanity is not the same as human rights. It goes far deeper. There is not much of it to see in the rich West. Most people in the West are sad and depressed and possess no human connections. Most of those I know crave for spirituality. You can't manufacture that with technology, even though you can manufacture sewages.
@Vakil: Dear Vakil, The ongoing childish spats between Indians and Pakistanis are just that; childish. It may or may not be news to you, but from a Western point-of-view the vast majority cannot tell the difference between either, and even if they could would not wish to live in countries suffering from severe poverty and living in appalling conditions without bathrooms or decent kitchens. The other thing Westerners cannot understand is why you have been arguing, from the top down about a small piece of land for over 60 years, and why grown men in magnificent uniforms keep taking pot shots at each other at the LOC.. Then again Western Governments act in similar childish ways too, but at least they provide sewage. At the end of the day India and Pakistan need each other, and the sooner they start working at improving their relationship the better it will be, and particularly so for the more than half billion people doing it very tough. Do not let nationalist fervor get in the way of problem solving at the political and economic levels, with the latter requiring obvious and urgent attention.at the lower end of town.
There is only one reason why Indians post on this Pakistani web site - to feel good about themselves.
The author seem to forget that for the western world, there is not much difference between the peoples of India and Pakistan ,both of whom have suffered the colonisation of two centuries under the British and are still living with the inferiority complex. Any of their leaders who are prepared to collaborate with the Imperial America and its ideals will have the appropriate treatment. Pakistan has suffered its credibility because of the duplicy followed by their Con master Mr Parveu Musharaf.
@ Vakil I agree with you that Pak does not need to be obsessed with India, likewise India and Indian shouldn't be obsessed with Pak.Fact is that in India every evil act in India is blamed on Pak.A person who says that noone cares about what happen to the western part of the border shouldn't be visiting Pakistani site in the first place!
We don't want to admit that the mess we are in is created by our military establishment by adopting a rotten defense strategy known as strategic depth: to secure our western border by Taliban/ pro- Pakistani govt. in Kabul and eastern border by militants ( JuD, LT etc.). Our this policy is main reason for our isolation in the world community.So, instead of blaming external forces for our diplomatic isolation we have to look inward and put our house in order first.If we don't correct our course, history will not be kind.
"...it will first have to come to some kind of peaceful settlement with Pakistan on all the contentious issues plaguing their bilateral relations." Peace with Pakistan, though not mandatory, certainly is most desirable. Those below the poverty line in india have never attributed their condition to lack of peace with Pakistan, but due to successive governments bad policies n neglect ...
"........Even for India to play ‘a central role beyond its borders’ with almost half of its population still writhing below the poverty line, it will first have to come to some kind of peaceful settlement with Pakistan on all the contentious issues plaguing their bilateral relations. ........"
Are you sure Sir, you may not need to eat your words sometime in not too distant a future? You have ruined an otherwise excellent piece of writing by inserting this not adequately thought through assertion.
@Vakil: The fact that you came to a Pakistani news site tell a lot about who is obsessed. Go write your comments in American newspapers.
@Paul: What editor wants to say is that even with all those issues between USA and India the two countries shook hands with each other and got down to do business with each other keeping their national interests in mind.
While starting sensibly in his expression, the writer in the end again suffered with dementia of nuclear flash point, Kashmir, Indian poverty etc. It is a typical problem needing treatment?
It is quite obvious from this write-up and the other one on ET that Obama's visit has rankled Pakistan. This author though has his finger on the pulse when he writes of Musharraf's disingenuous arguments which exacerbate the concerns of the world community of Pakistan being an international migraine, a bawling infant that seeks parity with India when none exist.
Moving on to where this article is wrong, firstly Modi's visa was disallowed by the previous administration of George W. Bush on the advise of USCIRF and the politics behind that is well-known. It would please Pakistan to know that Pakistan is on the list of Tier 1 countries of Particular Concern by USCIRF. Secondly, Modi was never held responsible for perpetrating the riots and the Supreme Court has exonerated him from any culpability. To rake the visa issue again and again when the US itself no longer brings it up is unjust to India and Modi especially when the US itself had no locus standi in the case of Modi to begin with.
Devyani Khobragade's matter has been water under the bridge for sometime now. Indians and our government responded to what we perceived as a slight by the US especially in light of her strip search. The previous Ambassador from the US to India who orchestrated the exercise has now been replaced by the first Indian American Ambassador to India. Moreover Devyani herself has been suspended from her post by the Modi government.