Pakistan, India and America

March 30, 2008

India and Pakistan turn into good friends, and America is kept at arms’ length. Is that possible?

Diplomacy like politics is the art of the possible, and if you listen to the new voices emerging from Pakistan, there is change blowing in the wind as it makes the transition to civilian rule after nearly nine years of military leadership.

Taj Mahal 2006 photo/Jayanta ShawTo stop the extremism and intolerance that is sweeping Pakistan, it must turn away from the Middle East and instead look to its east to rediscover a gentler, yet immensely vibrant heritage that took root in India through the centuries, Pakistan’s The News argued in an extraordinary editorial urging the country’s new leaders to respond to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh call to transform relations into the “best ever”.

“Despite all the attempts to deny this, the reality is that Pakistanis and Indians share a great deal in common — from cuisine to wedding traditions, and of course a great deal more. Rather than tearing ourselves away from this past, which is so much a part of our present, it should be warmly embraced,” it said.

To be sure, there is an element of rebound here and it’s more the fraying relationship with the United States that is driving Pakistan into the unlikely embrace of India, rather than any new-found love for its bitter rival, as the Daily Times said, warning that forging a new relationship with India while dumping America wouldn’t work.

“From the editorials written by the newspapers one comes to the conclusion that whereas the American nexus has become anathema, Pakistan’s good relations with India are a part of the new vision.” it said.

“Somehow, it is presumed that normalising with India will get rid of our problems at home. It is also assumed that getting rid of the American friendship and its implied slavery will benefit us on the basis of our earlier normalisation with India.” But taking on America would only damage Pakistan and give it less leverage in negotiations with India, it added.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh/B. MathurOn the other side of the border there are equally insistent voices calling for faster normalisation of ties. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is hoping to make a visit to Pakistan, a rare event by an Indian leader, at the earliest opportunity. The two sides are trying to put some agreements in place so that it doesn’t look like an image-building exercise, one for a new leader and another facing elections in India that could be as early as this November.

But of course, mirroring the sceptics across the border, there are voices of caution in India too. A day after Singh said he would try to transform relations with Pakistan, his security adviser M.K.Narayanan warned that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence continued to support militant groups that had carried out attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

And those with longer memories point out that the installation of a civilian government in Pakistan historically has not been a portent of improved bilateral ties, mostly because of the need for politicians to appear strong on national defence. As an army general President Pervez Musharraf was less vulnerable than civilian politicians on that issue. The Indians are aware of the history.

So is it going to be a real detente? Or are the neighbours condemned to uneasy ties, prisoners of history?

25 comments

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It is important to focus on the economic potential of better relations and in the synergy in several sectors for cross-border trade and investment which bodies like the SAARC Chamber can have a role in highlighting.
See my article last week in Financial Express:- http://www.financialexpress.com/news/Tra de-potential-between-India-Pak-is-untapp ed/288281/0

Posted by ARIF ZAMAN | Report as abusive

Inspite of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s claims that Pakistan was part of middle East, it has in fact always been part of S. Asia. Indian civilization began with the Saraswati-Indus civilisation. It is also not just the US and India involved in Pakistan. China supplied nuclear blueprints and vi N. Korea, missile technology to Pakistan to destabilize India. Pakistan must realise that its true interests lie with open-democratic India and not with totalitarian China which tests its own N-bombs in Muslim areas and suppresses Muslim protests etc.

Posted by Sutapas Bhattacharya | Report as abusive

I dont know what you have been smoking, but whatever it is please stop, you are hallucinating. India and jihadistan, friends ? where will all the suicide bombers go ?

Posted by aryan | Report as abusive

As much as I’d like to believe, I don’t see Pakistan and India having good ties in the near future. The core dispute of the future of Kashmir has been successfully shoved under the rug by India. Until that issue is resolved, there cannot be lasting peace in the region.

Indian claims itself to be a “secular” country but its record of persecuting minorities ever since it’s birth in 1947 has been despicable to say the least. The Golden Temple massacre of 1984 in which over 500 Sikh civilians were murdered by the Indian Army, the Babri Mosque incident of 1992, in which the 16th century Babri Mosque was teared down by Indian extremists, the Gujarat Pogroms of 2002 in which over 2000 mainly Muslim civilians were massacred by Hindu fanatics, are all recent events that fly in the face of a “secular” India.

If India does not respect the rights of it’s own people, how will it respect the rights of its neighbors?

Posted by Dawood Khan | Report as abusive

Sanjeev ji,
Congratulations for possessing such a clear mind. Indeed as we the Pakistanis try to transform our country into a democracy we cannot deny the fact that we have learnt quite a lot from India on virtues of democracy. India remains to this day a beacon of hope for those who confront the Orientalist notion that the people of the East are only part human savages totally unworthy of democracy. Yes, you surely do have some problems of your own but who does not. Again with a few exceptions your country has proven the plus points of keeping religion away from the business of the state. One really hopes that the new government in Islamabad takes the peace process to its culmination point, of course with the help of New Delhi. India and Pakistan are two countries that can reinforce each other’s defenses and this can happen if and when their mutual relationship is developed on the pattern of Simla declaration independent of any third party interference. The talk and ambition of becoming a regional or global hegemon is good if we you can carry new set of morality to the international system. But even apart from that what is important is peace in our very neighborhood for only that can relieve the states of undue expenditure on defense and help them ameliorate the lot of the poor. My best wishes are for your enlightened intellectuals like you and the peace process. Best of luck.

Pakistan must approach relationships with India on a level playing ground and approach the events with the position of strength. Doing anything other than the above would allow India to use Pakistan as a market for its cheap goods and would suck Pakistan further into a culture that is dominated by Bollywood.

I think India and Pakistan should forget about the past and join hands to present a formidable opposition to Uncle Sam

Posted by sapna | Report as abusive

I wish that Pakistan and India form a loose federation to have special relations in development projects, trade, and even defense. The synergy resulting from this partnership will be of mutual benefit.
Pakistan is not a part of the Middle East. There is very little in common between Pakistani and Arab culture. Those Pakistanis who have visited or lived in the Middle East knoe fully well that Arabs, especially Saudis, Kuwaitis, Emiratis and Libyan consider Pakistanis to be inferior to them.

Posted by Mohammad Iqbal | Report as abusive

[...] what about this editorial in the News in Pakistan ?  As this blog post suggests, the world may be changing if India and Pakistan get closer to friendship, while [...]

There will be no problem between these two countries if they both become somewhat Rich. Till the time they look for help around and compete for loans and arms this is a distant dream no matter which govt. comes into power.You know what!! a Well fed crowd is more tolerant.

Pakistan, trying to be democratic after long history of dictatorship has to make a choice, to make friends with democratic India or Communist China !!

Posted by Sue | Report as abusive

f India does not respect the rights of it’s own people, how will it respect the rights of its neighbors?

- Posted by Dawood Khan

so do you call Dictatorships in Pakistan through out it’s history as “respecting rights of their own people ?”
let’s not even go as far as neighbours !!

Posted by Sue | Report as abusive

I think India and Pakistan should forget about the past. and Start new friendship for batter work.

Dear Sanjeev,
You write, “To stop the extremism and intolerance that is sweeping Pakistan, it must turn away from the Middle East and instead look to its east to rediscover a gentler, yet immensely vibrant heritage that took root in India through the centuries….” does this include the regular bride burning murders from materialistic and dowry greedy husbands/in-laws, murder of unborn and newborn female babies because they are just that by same. I believe India has an immensely vibrant heritage as you say, but a gentler one to be looked upon by Pakistan… maybe not the best choice of words / country. Education of the masses of basic common decency towards fellow countrymen/women might be a good start. Oh, and perhaps less influence of the false granduer of ‘Western materialism’ might also help. May you succeed in helping achieve a better outcome for your country.

Posted by Conscientious Observer | Report as abusive

nice to listen everyone here so openly.I think onething very very important is,we,Pakistan and India, should atleast realise now that Uncle Sam is using both of us so wisely and we cant do anything as we are still far behind to compete the uncle conspiracies..we should do respect eachother to have respect from eachother,,thats our power..we are the great Asians

Posted by saif ur rehman ghalloo | Report as abusive

The India-Pak peace process was perhaps one of the only part of the Musharraf legacy that Pakistanis did not dump with the rest of him over the last year. It’s worth thinking about. After all it was so associated with him. Evidently, Pakistanis believe the peace process has some intrinsic value. But Pakistanis also think that India continues to hanker after Musharraf, that the Indian government does notlike to do business with Pakistani democracies, and vibes better with military rulers in Islamabad. India must come out with some strong signal that it supports Pakistan’s new democratic government.

Posted by Nirupama Subramanian | Report as abusive

It is in Pakistan’s interest to not rely too much on any country, including the US and India. The debate over how South Asian Pakistan should be (or is), and how much it needs to lean towards acquiring a Middle Eastern identity is a futile one. Indeed many outside observers in recent years seem to acquaint Pakistan with the Middle East which is simply not true.

The strong links and bond with India are inevitable due to the long shared history and cultural and even family connections. This is something which needs to be cherished and to help each other develop.

At the same time Pakistan’s close connections with the Middle East due to religion and geographic proximity are a fact which cannot be denied. And it is not just the Arab culture but also Persian (the court language of the Mogul emperors.) which has had a strong influence on the region.

Pakistan holds the potential to becoming a great strategic economic powerhouse through developing closer ties with not just India and the Middle East, but also Central Asia. However in order to attain all this, peace in Afghanistan is fundamental.

There is no such thing as India-Pakistan friendly ties. Pakistan doesn’t even understand the geopolitics of the region. Here’s the situation. China’s wants control over the Indian Ocean through Pakistan. Pakistan air space is controlled by the US for obvious interests in the entire oil-rich region (under the name of fight against terrorism). If Pakistanis were really smart, there would be a revolution within Pakistan to join a secular India. What I don’t understand why both sides keep fighting over Kashmir when forming an Indian Union is of utmost importance given the geopolitics of the region.

Posted by Ram | Report as abusive

Let us call a spade a spade pakistan is for all practical purposes a punjabi muslim country,despite its grandiose claims of representing muslims of the subcontinent it was prepared to go to genocidal lengths in 1971 bangladesh and 1973 in baluchistan to protect its punjabiyat.
And to all my over enthusiastic fellow indians please get this into your mind right from childhood they are taught about the glories of islamic conquests and the inevitability of the subjugation of the kafir(u and me),these people don’t want to live with us in peace they want to rule us.unfortunately for them in this day and age diplomacy and advanced technology has neutralized the power of well built hordes prepared to die as they found out in 1971.But still we must never lower our guard they talk peace when they are weak and jehad when they are strong will we never learn?

Posted by Shantanu Chatterjee | Report as abusive

I, being a Pakistani, am extremely ashamed of Musharraf. The parliament should expel him from the position of President immediately. I don’t see why national interests of a rogue communist authoritarian state like China to be more important than the the security of all countries in South and Southeast Asia. Musharraf has allowed China to build a deep sea port in Gwadar and as if this was not enough he is allowing China to build rail and road links into Pakistan under the name of trade.

History is being created as we speak and if we spinelessly bow down in front of a belligerent regime of China, I have no doubt that it would be opening up the way for Chinese invasion into Pakistan for our natural resources. I hope Pakistan does not become the “next Tibet” to be occupied or rather peacefully liberated by China in a few decades.

The best solution is a Free Tibet and a Free Xinjiang. The world should give them a chance and a helping hand to come out extreme oppression at the hands of the Communists. It is possible only with a unified and coordinated attack by the whole world on diplomatic, military, economic fronts.

language of babies…

Most of the civilizations in sub continent reside in Pakistani area such as Indus civilization and Harrpa and list can go on. Most of the people in these civilizations were immigrant from Central Asia or West Asia, which means simply that most of them were non-Indians. And obviously this is applies to Pakistanis in general also. Pakistani culture and especially Urdu language is a non Indian entity.

Taj Mahal was also build by Mughals who were Non-Indians and Urdu transformed from Pakistan. Pakistan is more sophisticated in its language and culture then India. Our ancestors brought civilization to India for example beautiful Islamic buildings, Ittar (perfume) Urdu language and manners.

We should learn a great lesson from Mughals who tried hard to mix Indians and Muslims but at the end they end up evaporating. Every Pakistani knows today that Urdu language is in great threat from Indian channels.

Finally, India’s history belongs to outsiders always remember.

Other reason that we should not watch Indians movies because of Kashmir is a political one. We should watch embrace every culture and society movies and shows including India’s but not at the cost of Pakistan’s own culture and language.

Posted by Javed | Report as abusive

Pakistan and India do have a lot in common. The two countries are so close together the people should be coming together and stop the quarrel. They are all humans. We all want to live and be happy at the same time. The fact that the Indian Prime minister is traveling to Pakistan to try and resolve matters is astounding. It’s about time someone tried to negotiate the situation. The two countries need to take into consideration the opposing sides ideas and thoughts. Both sides of the argument need to be considerate of the other. Pakistan is a small country and India is fairly large. It would be beneficial to both countries if India would join forces with Pakistan instead of fighting. Though both sides have hurt the other, the Indian government has been closed minded to the needs of the people of Pakistan. They have forced them out of India, condemned their religion of Islam, and tore them apart. Families were brutally murdered, and degraded; businesses were burned down, children were killed. All these things should be taken into consideration when negotiating a solution. It is not about whose image looks better; it is about justice, respect, honesty, and loyalty. The land of India and Pakistan are basically joined together. They are neighboring countries and they should be able to get along. The two countries should have a meeting with the representatives from India and Pakistan only. They should not have any outside influences at the meeting. Having outside influences will not only cause tensions, but it is completely unnecessary for them to be there. The problem started out with India versus Pakistan, and today, presently, the problem is still between India and Pakistan. I believe that Pakistan is more ethical in this argument. They didn’t have choices because they are a smaller country. Their religion is Islam in Pakistan and the majority of the Hindu- Indian population didn’t agree with the Islamic views of the Muslims that resided India. This problem has caused much heartache and has led to more fighting. It has to stop here. I agree with the title of the blog. It’s now or never.

Realtions b/w India and Pakistan should be kept friendly. As there will be nothing but spilling of blood by any war. Btw, if India can so easily accuse Pakistan of Mumbai bomb blasts, then Pakistan could also have accused India of the last three-day Terrorism in Karachi, but it was not. Without evidence this is being said so. Also, there could have been an Indian Union if Hindus respected Muslims. Our cultues and teachings of our religions are completely different. Muslims are a separate community, we cannot merge with Indians; more particularly, Hindus.

India did not even give any chance for the Kashmiris to vote. How would they have treated Muslims of Pakistan if a Union would have formed? I know, not all people are against Muslims. But there are Extremist wings in any community. If they cannot be controlled, no two nations or communities could merge. Specially Two nations like the hindus and muslim with completely different beliefs and teachings.

Once in a TV debate a pakistani had remarked that “if we can be friends with India where was the need for partition” this is Pakistan for you.

Posted by Sharath Chandra | Report as abusive