Seducing Pakistan

Make serious efforts to woo Pakistan’s corporate sector... Vigorous use of India’s soft power resources can bridge the trust deficit.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent reference to his Pakistani counterpart, Yousaf Raza Gilani, as a “man of peace” has been greeted with scathing criticism. But it has been on predictable lines. One wonders what harm has been caused by his
India-Pakistan experts tend to be on the short fuse; as prime-time TV debates show, you utter one soft word about a Pakistani leader, dead or alive, and they pounce on you with the ferocity of a tiger! We all know what happened to L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh when they dared to make some laudatory references to Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The narrative of the naysayers to dialogue with Pakistan runs as follows: Pakistanis hate India, even children are taught hatred against India in madrasas; one can’t find a single Pakistani who doesn’t have an animus against India; Pakistan has been flouting the UN resolution on terrorism by aiding, abetting, training and sending across terrorists on our soil — the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Army have been part of hatching and execution of terrorist attacks on India, including the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks; Pakistan hasn’t brought the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice though India has given ample proof of their involvement; Pakistan foments violence in Kashmir and pursues terrorism as an instrument of state policy; former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore and summit with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Agra didn’t result in any peace dividend; it is the Army and ISI chiefs who call the shots in Pakistan, so no purpose is served by talking to the civilian government; Pakistan has been opposed to greater cultural and people to people contacts with India; it is the hub of international terrorism and is fast sliding into a failed state etc. etc. etc...
But how does the suspension of dialogue punish Pakistan? Will it hasten the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of the 26/11 crime? Will it lead to dismantling of training facilities and arrest of known terrorists in Pakistan? Will it facilitate a solution of the Kashmir problem and return of peace and normalcy in the Valley? Will it erode the dominance of the Army and the ISI in Pakistan? Will it strengthen the hands of the civilian government in Pakistan and support democracy? Will it strengthen political stability in South Asia? Will it promote good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan? Will it serve our broad national interests and enhance our international image?
An honest answer to all these questions is an emphatic no. We can’t change our geographical location or wish away Pakistan. We must learn to live with Pakistan with all its failings; post-Partition baggage of animus and bitterness against India included. We aren’t Pakistan’s largest trading partners or investors or source of defence supplies or financial supporter. In a nutshell, the suspension of dialogue doesn’t hurt Pakistan; other countries aren’t going to follow suit; Pakistan won’t be so isolated as to beg for peace with India!
We have defeated Pakistan four times comprehensively. Has it made us more secure than earlier? India is not the US; she can’t mount US-like surgical strike that killed Osama bin Laden; she can’t undertake drone attacks and selectively kill India’s most wanted on Pakistani soil; India can’t go on a hot pursuit without risking a full-fledged war with its neighbour, and there is no way India can annihilate a nuclear Pakistan even when on the verge of collapse!
Since 1947, every major conflict between India and Pakistan has been followed by the resumption of dialogue. So, instead of keeping the dialogue on and off why not let it continue uninterrupted in spite of the cycle of ups and downs in relations? The naysayers will dismiss this suggestion as capitulation to Pakistan. It will encourage Pakistan to inflict 1,000 cuts with impunity, they will claim. But is there any other option except dialogue? Have the naysayers ever come up with any plan, short of a dialogue, which will resolve the Kashmir problem, stop terrorist attacks from across the border and result in normal and peaceful relations with Pakistan?
What can we do? Continue and sustain dialogue and convince Pakistan of transformational positive fallout from peace with India on the one hand and real possibility of the Frankenstein of terrorist infrastructure created by them eventually destroying them on the other hand. Greater mobilisation of international public opinion against Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism. Nudging Pakistan’s major trading partners: China, EU, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran to counsel her to make peace with India for her own survival and prosperity. Make prudent use of the carrot of our bourgeoning market and huge investment prospects. Make serious efforts to woo Pakistan’s corporate sector and make them vested stakeholders in peace with India. Vigorous use of India’s soft power resources — films/film stars, music, fashion, cricket, writers, academics — can, over a period, bridge the trust deficit at people-to-people level and goad the decision makers to take the plunge and transform decades of hostility in to neighbourly peace. Focus on new age, middle class, educated Internet savvy, Facebook/Twitter using youth of Pakistan whose dreams and aspirations aren’t too different from their Indian counterparts and encourage them to be catalysts of change. Invite 5,000 Pakistani college students every year to interact freely with Indian students and see for themselves what is happening in India.
The generation of Pakistanis that saw the Partition is long gone. But the generation that witnessed the break up of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh and India’s role as a midwife is 40 years old. Many of this generation can’t forget and forgive India for the loss of East Pakistan; wounds haven’t healed, not yet.
Yes, the Army and the ISI control levers of power in Pakistan. But currently, the US-Pakistan relations are on the brink. Turmoil in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Libya must be a cause of concern for Pakistan Army’s top brass; the power of unarmed, non-violent people passionately and fearlessly demanding their rights might have not gone unnoticed.
While exploring prospects of peace in every possible way, we must not lower our guards: sharpen intelligence gathering and nip terrorist attacks in the bud, while maintaining a degree of nuclear and military superiority over Pakistan to discourage it from precipitating any crises on the border.

The writer is a former secretary in the ministry of external affairs

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