In optimism over India-Pakistan trade, a warning flag

May 13, 2012

In 1997, the business-friendly Nawaz Sharif was prime minister, relations between Pakistan and India were thawing and the two countries were trying to use improved trade  to put decades of animosity behind them. Or as the Indian journalist Salil Tripathi wrote at the time, “this sorry state of affairs may be about to improve – through commerce.” Then came the nuclear tests in 1998, the Kargil war and a coup in 1999, mass military mobilisation in 2001-2002,  the Mumbai attacks in 2008, and now, finally, we are here again.

Trade is the new/old panacea of India-Pakistan relations, moving ahead rapidly after Islamabad said last year it was ready to match India’s offer of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trading status. The Economist called it “a profound and welcome shift” that could eventually open up for India trade through Pakistan to Afghanistan and the markets of Central Asia and beyond. As trade increases, so the argument goes, India and Pakistan will build the trust needed to tackle their territorial disputes, while economic inter-dependence will reduce the risk of conflict.

The problem with this scenario is a dangerous mismatch in expectations between India and Pakistan. India sees improved trade ties as a useful end in themselves; Pakistan, in contrast, is looking for rapid progress on territorial disputes. That could be an academic argument, were it not for the fact that this mismatch echoes problems that have bedevilled relations since 1947. Even since their first war over Jammu and Kashmir left India with the more important parts of the former kingdom – the heartland Kashmir valley and control of the rivers on which Pakistan depends – India has been a status quo power. Pakistan, in contrast, has been fighting to change that status quo, nurturing Islamist militants to fight asymmetric warfare against its bigger neighbour, with lethal consequences for the region, and increasingly, for itself. With little or no progress on territorial disputes, the approach of improving trade ties while leaving the rest to a better day risks falling foul of the same cycle of violence.

So far, an agreement on Kashmir appears as elusive as ever. There has been no progress in resolving a boundary dispute in Sir Creek, which lies in the marshlands between Gujarat in India and Sind in Pakistan. And of most immediate importance, there is no change in attitudes to the Siachen region, a wasteland of mountains and glaciers high in the Karakoram beyond Kashmir, which since 1984 has been turned by  India and Pakistan into the world’s highest battlefield.  After losing 139 soldiers and their civilian staff last month to an avalanche, the Pakistan Army has appealed for talks on the demilitarisation of Siachen. India has rebuffed that call, officially reiterating its stand that Pakistan must first authenticate India’s higher and more advantageous positions before any military withdrawal. The Indian media narrative has taken an even harder line, with some suggesting that the Indian positions be permanently agreed as the boundary between Indian and Pakistani territory – thereby not only reinforcing the status quo, but also negating any possibility of a territorial compromise further down the road.

From an Indian point of view, focusing on trade first appears to make sense. With Pakistan’s economy struggling and relations chilling with the United States, it too stands to gain from better trade. As Sadanand Dhume at the American Enterprise Institute argued in a discussion on Twitter, Pakistan should stop seeing better trade ties as a concession to India.

“Pakistan hurts itself by seeing trade as a concession to India. Pakistan’s economy needs the boost much more than India’s,” he argued. “Robust economic ties will create constituencies for peace on both sides. In short, both sides would benefit from more trade even if neither budged an inch on Siachen, Sir Creek or Kashmir.”

With its growing political and economic clout, India sees little reason to make early territorial concessions to Pakistan, especially with the wounds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks still raw, and the man it believes masterminded those attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafez Saeed, continuing to play an active public role. And increasingly, it has the United States on its side – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a visit to India this month to renew pressure on Pakistan to tackle Islamist militants – a choice of location that irked many Pakistanis. In short, according to the Indian view, Pakistan should take what is on offer for its own benefit, and what is on offer right now is better trade.

Or as former Indian intelligence chief Vikram Sood said on Twitter, trade would be beneficial to Pakistan and should not be seen as a concession to India. But, he added, greater trade need not lead to a political settlement. “It is a mistake or a forlorn hope that trade will lead to political solutions.”

“Why must India make territorial concessions?” asked former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal in an op-ed this month. “The notion that India as the bigger and stronger country has to be generous with Pakistan is egregious. If this principle should dictate the conduct of international relations then China should be generous towards India on issues that divide us – which it decidedly is not – and the U.S., as the world’s most powerful country, should be making concessions to virtually all others – which it decidedly does not do.”

The United States does in fact make concessions to Pakistan (though it is certainly not seen that way inside Pakistan.) It is still willing to provide aid to Pakistan even while suspecting its army of encouraging militants to attack its soldiers in Afghanistan. It has not even begun to unleash the economic, diplomatic and military firepower it could bring to bear if it decided to get really tough with Pakistan. It does so not out of generosity, but to secure its own interests and because it believes, rightly or wrongly, that Pakistan would become too much of a danger to itself and others if Washington were to disengage altogether.

The risks of the Indian position is that by hewing too closely to the status quo it deprives itself of diplomatic flexibility, while also undermining the constituency for peace inside Pakistan - which includes the civilian government - and strengthening hardliners. Pakistan’s security establishment has always tended to respond with fury to any perceived Indian indifference to settling territorial disputes. A very rough analogy would be to compare Kashmir to a child in a custody dispute where India has custody and says there is nothing to discuss, while Pakistan reacts with spluttering rage.

India need not, and will not, settle its territorial disputes with Pakistan quickly. But it can show good faith by demonstrating a willingness to address them in the future, rather than simply waiting it out in the hope they will eventually be forgotten. It could, for example, offer to send joint teams of Indian and Pakistani scientists to Siachen (a ceasefire has been in place since November 2003) to investigate the impact of global warming and the war on the huge glaciers there - thereby acknowledging that both countries have a shared stake in the region.

A little warning flag went up this month when Pakistan cancelled talks on Sir Creek originally scheduled for May 14-16. It gave no official explanation, but Indian media interpreted it as a means of putting pressure on India to make progress first in talks on Siachen due on June 11 and 12 before Sir Creek is discussed. It was only a small warning flag, hardly noticed in the rising tide of optimism over trade, a bit like that little red flag on the beach that tells you not to go in the water.

But it was a warning nonetheless. Territorial disputes matter to Pakistan – as the smaller country, and increasingly worried about its water supplies from rivers that come through Indian-held territory, they matter more to Pakistan than to India (though India too can be fiercely territorial). As a Pakistani general once told me in Rawalpindi, “India can withdraw a thousand miles and still be India. We can’t afford to withdraw an inch.” Watch for more of those warning flags going up if we continue down the same track of increasing trade ties with no accompanying progress on territorial disputes.

31 comments

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I have advocated before that Pakistan adopt a policy of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons as a “last resort” against nations whose military attacks threaten its existence, and possibly against other targets as well.

Pakistan should adopt a stated policy to destroy the entire sub-continent if its existence is threatened, Not just India but also Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan et al.

If Pakistan is threatened, It will take all South Asia with it.

Posted by Pathozade | Report as abusive

> A very rough analogy would be to compare Kashmir to a child in a custody dispute where India has custody and says there is nothing to discuss, while Pakistan reacts with spluttering rage.

A much better analogy would be that India and Pakistan have custody of one child each (after all, Kashmir is divided today). India feels this is fair enough, and that it’s more important that the kids be allowed to play together than deciding where they will stay (“borders cannot be changed but they can be made irrelevant”), while Pakistan insists on having custody of both kids.

I’m sorry, but as the weaker (and weakening) power, some realism in Pakistan is long overdue.

Regards,
Ganesh

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive

Ganesh,
Do not forget it is Bunderstan(india)which is insisting having the both worlds itself.In real terms it never works.If bunderstan is serious,in peace,then must come to negotiation table and try to solve all the problems.And must stop calling Kashmir,as its attute ang.When you want,peace everythings must be openly considerd on the table,and when agreed upon,must be adhered to at all times.Must not be refused as agreed but when return to bunderstan,completly refuted as does bunderstani leaders after all negotiations.
For bunderstan,until it accepts the seperation and freedom of Pakistan since 1947,from the depths of its heart,it will not be able to create peace in the region.
Remember,we are two different nations and cultures and not the same people and culture as bunderstani leaders are always preaching from the top of their heads.We are two different peoples and will remain different at all times.

Posted by bahadur227 | Report as abusive

Ganesh,
Do not forget it is Bunderstan(india)which is insisting having the both worlds itself.In real terms it never works.If bunderstan is serious,in peace,then must come to negotiation table and try to solve all the problems.And must stop calling Kashmir,as its attute ang.When you want,peace everythings must be openly considerd on the table,and when agreed upon,must be adhered to at all times.Must not be refused as agreed but when return to bunderstan,completly refuted as does bunderstani leaders after all negotiations.
For bunderstan,until it accepts the seperation and freedom of Pakistan since 1947,from the depths of its heart,it will not be able to create peace in the region.
Remember,we are two different nations and cultures and not the same people and culture as bunderstani leaders are always preaching from the top of their heads.We are two different peoples and will remain different at all times.

Posted by bahadur227 | Report as abusive

The best settlement would be to declare the line of control as an international border and extend it through the Saltoro range and be done with it. Pakistan can keep Azad Kashmir and India will keep its side of Kashmir. India will also remove the special status given to Kashmir, which will then become a regular state within the union. Pakistan can go back and focus on its growth and progress and India can focus on its growth. Trade and commerce should continue long enough to establish peace and inter-dependency. In a generation, people would get used to peace and leave all the lunatic and ridiculous claims and strategies. This is the only path forward. Militancy has been tried and it did not work. Pakistan has to realize that it has no room left for dictating terms to others.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

unless India withdraws from Kashmir, demilitarise its borders with Pakistan and China, and pay compensation to the thousands of Kashmiri families who suffered at the hands of Indian military, their foreign standing and security needs shall never be assured in the 21st century. India and Israel stand together in their dilemma with their neighbours despite having powerful military machine with nuclear arsenal.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Unless pakis stop exporting terror across the globe. pakistan will be wiped out within this decade.

Posted by abdulmaliktalib | Report as abusive

Wish Rex Mionor had offered a solution to the return of those 40,000 and odd Hindu pandits too into the Pak-occupied Kashmir region. Just in case his formula finds takers (without much of a complaint) from both the sides.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

@maGIK
People who were forced out of their homeland by force or coersion must have right of return. Let us not even think of creating the second Israel state in Kashmir.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex, I’m afraid your parallel is wrong. Israel and Kashmir are two different issues if you could read history, a little deeper. If you do, you would know the difference between a state occupying another’s territory and a state trying to reclaim a lost property to a obnoxious squat.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

@maGIK,
India was not a state before 1947, since it was occupied by the Brits. who stole it from the weak mogul rulers? India is now the occupyer with its military might! The similarity is that both Israel and India are resting their case on history of thousands of years ago. The sufferings of the Peoples of the land need to be addressed first by those who have compassion for others in this global village!

Rex Minorr

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex, fair enough.

Let’s go back then to an age as ancient as 15th and 16th Centuries. That would address our concerns as to who occupied whose land and what price compassion was in the whole bargain.

Who started the Thirty Years War in the Holy Roman Empire? Why did men continue to fight even after Eighty Years War between Spain the Dutch was ended in 1648.

If man had been as kind as your favorite Mogul rulers, World War I, World War II, Cold War, Iraq War, Afghan War, Vietnam War, Indo-Pak War, Somali Civil War, Mexican Drug War, Iran-Iraq War, Indo-Pak war, Israel-Arab War and MaGiK Vs Rex war could have all been prevented.

Last but not the least, more lives were lost in the world in wars between two opposing sects of Islam.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

@maGIK

Your last but not the least assumption is faulty, though I do not know what is the purpose of this assumption?

I do not want to go back to 30 years war nor to other tragedies of the world. My feet ache when I walk on the ground where so many humans were put to sleep in unnatural circumstances. Neither Moguls nor the Habsburgers are my favourites, and I agree with you wars are preventable and usualy do not solve problems any way.

We have come a long way from the dark ages and with the presence of deadly loly pops today it is more than ever called for that human civilisation be protected more so in the 21st century and land grab and resources must no longer be the reason for war.

Re Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex
How come THE REX is so uninformed and unjust? Until 1983 there were no Indian soldiers in Kashmir and everything was peaceful from 1948 till 1983. And then Pakistan started its proxy wars and blood games by supplying jehad and guns to kashmiris which resulted in massacare of hundreds of hindu pandits, by your muslim brothers, and thousands more fled kashmir. And then India send its forces to Kashmir to restore humanity and dignity of Kashmiri pandits. Pakistan started the war and India merely responded but in your eyes it is India which should start demilitarisation?? What a sense of justice! Hindu Pandits still vander around in search of home which was taken away from them unjustly by kashmiri muslims.

And comparison of India and Israel confirms your uninformed and narrow minded attitude. Unlike Israel India HAS NOT expanded its borders or promoted illegal settlements beyond its borders since its formation. India has NEVER even tried to cross the borders preemptively which is very unlike Israel.

But then what else can be expected from an extremist muslim in whose eyes ALL non-muslims are criminals.

P.S.
Did Allah teach muslims to kill innocent children and rape women and behead men just because those people are not muslims??

Posted by 007XX | Report as abusive

@Rex
How come THE REX is so uninformed and unjust? Until 1989* there were no Indian soldiers in Kashmir and everything was peaceful from 1948 till 1989*. And then Pakistan started its proxy wars and blood games by supplying jehad and guns to kashmiris which resulted in massacare of hundreds of hindu pandits, by your muslim brothers, and thousands more fled kashmir. And then India send its forces to Kashmir to restore humanity and dignity of Kashmiri pandits. Pakistan started the war and India merely responded but in your eyes it is India which should start demilitarisation?? What a sense of justice! Hindu Pandits still vander around in search of home which was taken away from them unjustly by kashmiri muslims.

And comparison of India and Israel confirms your uninformed and narrow minded attitude. Unlike Israel India HAS NOT expanded its borders or promoted illegal settlements beyond its borders since its formation. India has NEVER even tried to cross the borders preemptively which is very unlike Israel.

But then what else can be expected from an extremist muslim in whose eyes ALL non-muslims are criminals.

P.S.
Did Allah teach muslims to kill innocent children and rape women and behead men just because those people are not muslims??

Posted by 007XX | Report as abusive

@Rex, the assumption: Religion was and is the opium of mankind as famously said by Karl Marx. War would be a no-goner on earth as long as man hangs onto this deadly addiction.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

maGiK,

In my reading, Karl Mar,of jewish faith by birth, experienced opposition from the believers and therefore turned on religion, being the opium of the people. No sir, the communist ideology came about since the social justice as imbedded in Ibrahimic religions, but admittedly were not being practiced in the dark ages. kings and barrons were the ruling masters of the people, who were leaving very little for the proleterians to feed their families and most of what the farmers produced went over to the limited ruling class. Social revolutions were needed, not communism and atheism which has cost the lives of millions who died in slaved labour under communism.

Love and ccompassion for the next is the lesson from the religion, not exploitation of the masses to benefit few from the selected class.
Today, we have a democratic order in Europe which is based on a socialist system, with the exception of the USA, and this has brought more prosperity and a better quality of life style and assures human rights more so than one envisaged in the communist states. This is not to say that current systems are perfect, but democratic Govts are under obligations to check and balance the incomes of poor and rich and maintain the social peace in communities.

Hav a nice day.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

//Social revolutions were needed, not communism and atheism which has cost the lives of millions who died in slaved labour under communism.//

@Rex, but atheism will always be remembered in the world for showing people some stark truths about astronomy, biology, evolution and the beliefs (both present and the lack of them in man’s life).

Thank you.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

@maGiK

Atheism is a new masche, a new chain, a denial which brings skeptism. Padagogy is how and why questions were addressed and followed theough, enriching humans with knowledge. we have come a long way with research and clinical tests sepecialy when we consider that humans have not yet been able on average more than 18 percent of human brain. potential. We need believers in the creator of the mankind and the universe, and people who abhors skeptism and conduct research and clinical trials to explore the stregnths and the abiliy of the human born not as an empty container but with a geist( mind and spirit) which has not fully be understood. We are the specie with two lives, one when we yre born and the second one after death. All in its own time. Evolution yes from a child to an adult, but not from an ape to a human? All we need is peace so that human resources can be directed to discover the stregnths of the hman brain capacity and not the lethal power of the weaponry?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex,
If you think the potential of a human brain average only about 18 percent of its full capacity what percentage of it makes people (esp the believers) to place their belief 100 per cent on a book supposedly written (or in many cases god-sent) thousands of years ago?

By evolution I didn’t mean man descended from ape. He descended from chicken. For the birds (if only you observe them carefully) live in a close-knit family, call the community when they got food and things to share, alert them when in danger, protect the mothers and children from external threats, help children grow up to decent adults, desist from copulating while brooding etc,. Exactly like how apes and human beings live on earth.

There’s only one life after all. To anyone on eath. Unless your belief in a dogma says otherwise. Nor there can be two deaths to a human being.

I have read the first ever discovery of a weaponry owes its origin to a religion. I still use fire. But only to cook food.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

@maGiK
God, freedom and immortality are insoluble by speculative thought, their existance can neither be affirmed nor denied on theoratical grounds, nor can they be scientificaly demonstrated. They are absolute by speculative thought!

Morality requires the blief in the eistance of God, freedom and immortality , because without their existance there can be no morality.

These are some of the thoughts of the German philosopher Immanuel Kannt who equaly could not use a more than a max. 20 % of his brain potential. Ofcourse, this he was not aware of at the time and therefore, not very detailed understanding of the divine verses in the scriptures. The non-believers are hard hit since they are not meant to believe, so is stated in scriptures, unless God wills it.

The scienists now for the first time in human history are trying to research the origin of earth, the methodology used in the bang? Are we able to decode the divne words with 20 percent of our current brain potential? I personaly doubt very much?
The weaponry was developed prior to the knowledge and acceptance of one God, the creator who demands obedience and worship.The rest of practices are no longer regarded as religions but customs and cultures and traditions and do not form the basis of human rights!

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex, well yes. I agree to what you said about Immanuel Kant. I believe the German philosopher was right when he said religion as a follow up to belief in god was natural.

But I belong to Voltaire school of thought; ‘if god didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent Him’.

I and Kant however have much in common as we (both) argue against the efforts by majority of religions in present day world to please god in ways other than conscientious adherence to principles of moral rightness such as horrible rituals, superstitions and dogmas.

I don’t argue against god either on empirical or non-empirical grounds. But I step out to question people’s blind faith in Him.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

maGik,

Voltaire was a controvertial individual. Was he a racialist and antisemit? He was anti-church but not anti religion per say. Judaism and Islam do not have church like institutions per say. People need Aufklarung, Voltaire was helpful, but should not try to reinvent religion. This battle was decided a thousand years ago and in the subsequent crusades. Let the people follow their culture, traditions and customs as long as they do not impact others who are not believers and do not believe in them. There is no such thing as bind faith; most people believe in their respective religions since they regard them as good. There is no politics or deceit involved in their attitude.

Re Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex, let me add to what you said about ‘people need Aufklarung’.

“Enlightenment was a desire for human affairs to be guided by rationality rather than by faith, superstition, or revelation; a belief in the power of human reason to change society and liberate the individual from the restraints of custom or arbitrary authority; all backed up by a world view increasingly validated by science rather than by religion or tradition”. – Dorinda Outram

Immanuel Kant too subscribes almost to what Outram said about 18th Century Enlightenment. I’m afraid there isn’t place for religion in the Enlightenment school, let alone someone (a religiously-enlightened perhaps) waging a last minute battle to ‘reinvent’ religion.

Religion will die a ‘natural’ death. Don’t worry too much.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

@maGiK

Your prophecy about religion is a denial of the knowledge which enlightened the mankind throughout the world, judaism, christianity and Islam is the reality and those you refer to are dead a long time ago and are likely to stay dead for a long time. Human rights are derived from the scriptures and science is now on course to explain in detail with their exeriences currently in progress at CERN, Switzerland to the coming generations, how the world came into being. Remember, science has never been static and is to continue the update in coming centuries. No religion is not going to die but mankind shall get closer to God the creator of the world, who controls its destiny.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

//No religion is not going to die but mankind shall get closer to God the creator of the world, who controls its destiny.//

@Rex, I appreciate your spirited defense of religion and mankind’s (never ending) journey towards god.

Let me take a short-cut to science, grow more trees and help restoring the fast-depleting Ozone layer up in the sky.

For that’s the CLOSEST man should travel to in order to take his daily ration of oxygen.

All the best.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

maGiK,
All along you were talking to a man of science, who also happens to believe in God!

Good luck.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex,

Ha, I’ve bumped on to the right person then.

A question has been nagging me and Steven Hawking (‘A Brief History of Time’ fame) and I’m checking if you got an answer. As you happen to be a man of science and a believer too. Read below.

“What lies north of North pole?”

Thank you.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive

Pakistan is in no position to negotiate. It’s as simple as that. US aid is drying up. The global economy is circling the rim. And the Chinese are being threatened with a severe slowdown. There is no white knight on the horizon for Pakistan.

So they’ll actually have to do what most countries do to get by. They’ll have to trade.

They are fortunate enough to have one of the world’s biggest markets next door. They can take advantage of it. Or starve. Simple as that.

As for concessions on territorial disputes. I don’t see it happening. The Indians would be stupid to cave now. Give in to Pakistan when it’s Pakistan that needs trade? Nope, they won’t. And once the trade starts, Pakistan loses all leverage, if it had any. Loss of trade will always hurt Pakistan more than India.

Undoubtedly, the Pakistanis will always resent the position they are in. But they made their bed. Now they’ll have to lie in it.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive

@maGIK

Sory, my reply got deleated. Last reports say that the Russian sumarines were located north of the North pole.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@Rex,

Yes, if that could help adding (on your CV) an additional qualification as Astrologer.

Posted by maGiK | Report as abusive