Global Pressure can help limit Pakistanby OPINIONEXPRESS.IN August 30, 2019 0 comments
With our neighbour negating bilateralism, only global pressure can help limit its nefarious abilities so as to establish relative peace between India and Pakistan
US President Donald Trump overcame his mercantilist instinct to “mediate” in the India-Pakistan muddle and reason was restored in the debate, albeit temporarily, given his whimsicality and penchant for “deals.” The initial hoopla to “mediate” was unnecessarily created by an over-enthusiastic Trump, who rode roughshod over the deliberately-calibrated position articulated by previous presidential regimes in deference to “bilateralism” as the preferred means to address India-Pakistan differences.
Trump had waded the perennially short-of-facts-and-sensitivities into the sub-continental quagmire and incredulously stated that he “would love to be a mediator”, without realising the inadvertent twist that such a reckless statement was affording. Soon, the revert to “bilateralism” as the strategic framework was clarified by the bumbling-fumbling US President on the sidelines of the G-7 summit as he restored America’s position by stating, “I have very good relationship with both the gentlemen (Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan) and I’m here. I think they can do it (resolve the issue) themselves.”
Part businessman’s braggadocio and part his genuine sovereign concern to keep the Pakistani establishment in good humour — given the tactical urgency to solicit Islamabad’s help in extricating itself out of Afghanistan — Trump had almost acceded to the Pakistani aspiration of “internationalising” the India-Pakistan differences instead of insisting on “bilateralism” between the two disagreeing parties as was maintained by the US for long.
The immediate battleground for the Indo-Pakistan war of words is essentially on the disagreeing framework of a possible peaceful solution ie, should it be conducted in a “bilateral” manner as India thinks appropriate or should third-party “mediate” as is the wont on Pakistan? Legally speaking, there ought to be no ambiguity as the last-standing agreement between the two sovereigns, overriding all previous understandings, is the Simla Agreement (1972) that unequivocally states that both countries will “settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.”
The Simla pact also captures the essentiality of “non-interference” in each other’s internal affairs and conducting hostile propaganda — features that have unilaterally been violated by Pakistan with its proven support to insurgencies and terror groups in India, with Kargil emerging as the apogee of its misadventures and machinations. Today, despite much posturing to the contrary, having been found guilty on 32 counts of the total 40 parameters related to terror financing, Pakistan has been put on the “enhanced blacklist” by the global watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This backdrop of sovereign immorality, incorrigibility and duplicity is what underlies the Pakistani aversion to “bilateralism.”
There are various reasons as to why Pakistan abhors “bilateralism”. Conceptually and practically, the deliberations that are conducted in a “bilateral” framework are implicitly more focussed, nuanced with historical perspective and sensitivities and above all, lead to the fastest possible resolutions.
Ironically, the efficacy of “bilateralism” is what haunts the Pakistani narrative. Peace with India is the ultimate delegitimiser of the troika in Pakistani establishment ie, military, politicos and the clergy. The entire edifice and rationale of the Pakistani state is based on a regressive, competitive and flawed concept of “two-nation” theory that militates against the tenets of inclusivity, secularity and prosperity of the Indian state.
The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 destroyed the foundational raison d’etre of Pakistan. This was a deep wound that dangerously questioned its military and the ruling politicos of that time and, thus, germinated the seeds of the third vector of the Pakistani establishment ie, clergy, to inter-mingle, mutate and atrophy the societal-political-cultural moorings of the state. Post 1971, for Benazir Bhutto to Zia-ul-Haq as also subsequent regimes over there such as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) [PML-N] and now Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan, the underlying, accompanying and unsettled fixation to “even” with India by keeping the fires burning is a predominant national instinct.
“Bilateralism” works on reconciliation, confidence-building steps, gradualism — all of this is an anathema to the very existence of the Pakistani troika/establishment. The third-party “mediation” allows the much-needed obfuscation, escalation and pandering to unrelated emotions that keep the issue “live”, thus necessitating the relevance of each of the elements of the Pakistani establishment. Third-party mediation is also sought via friendly and leverage-able countries and organisations who can provide the much-needed tilt in the battle of positions.
Resorting to pitching the Kashmir issue within the precincts of an organisation like the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) by default allows Pakistan to posit the same from a narrow religious lens and emotion as opposed to the reality of historical facts, agreements and any other societal lens. On the other hand, the Constitutional construct of India auto-rejects religiosity as a basis of difference, preference or concern. Equality of all, irrespective of their race, religion or region, is the Constitutional guarantee.
“Internationalising” the Kashmir issue is the only unifying aspiration for a nation that is deeply polarised, combusting and enfeebled (financially, socially and economically). However, Pakistan has not been able to replicate the wounded sense of “Palestine” as the comparable actions of the Indian state and Israel in addressing their respective concerns have been starkly different. With all its systemic flaws, occasional mistakes and missteps, India has always sought, invested and aspired for “peace.” This legitimises the larger Indian narrative.
Globally, there is an increasing amount of plain-speak, impatience and intolerance with roughish duplicitousness that naturally lends itself to isolating nations that still insist on carrying on the tracks of the past.
The recent retraction of Trump to re-suggest “bilateralism”, the haunting silence of the Arab Sheikhdoms towards the rote Pakistani pitch on Kashmir and the unrelenting pressure on Islamabad by multilateral organisations like FATF, are all symptomatic of the times that be.
Unfortunately, there is a parallel need to sustain the skeletal-structure of governance in Pakistan as it is, as the alternative to this can be far worse than the one that exists today — Libya, Iraq, and Yemen are cases in point of dismantling imperfect structures.
Thus, it is only the collective global pressure to “manage” the Pakistani establishment and limit its nefarious abilities that can usher in relative peace as the existing issues are foundational, existential and regime-sustaining.
(The writer, a military veteran, is a former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry)
Writer: Bhopinder Singh
Courtesy: The Pioneer