British Foreign Secretary David Miliband may yet end up achieving the opposite of what he intended in India when he called for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute in the interests of regional security.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
Earlier this month, I wrote that the brief given to a South Asian envoy by President Barack Obama could prove to be the first test of the success of Indian diplomacy after the Mumbai attacks. At issue was whether the envoy would be asked to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan or whether the brief would be extended to India, reflecting comments made by Obama during his election campaign that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would ease tensions across the region.
It is interesting because it stands out in the feverish, and often involved reporting that has characterised media in both India and Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks. The author, Shandana Khan Mohmand, who is a doctoral candidate at the University of Sussex, says Pakistan must really accept the reality that it is not the equal of India, a belief that he thought had stunted its development
“We cannot win a war against it, we cannot compare the instability of our political system to the stability of theirs, we cannot hope to compete economically with what is a booming economy well on its way to becoming a global economic power, and we certainly cannot compare the conservativeness of our society to the open pluralism of their everyday life,” he writes.
Pakistan’s most beneficial economic strategy would be to get in on the boom next door in India, he argues. But for this, “we need to think outside the box – outside the two-nation theory, outside the box of the violence of 1947, and outside the box of the ill-conceived wars of the last six decades.”
Strong words those, and one that apply to both nations walled off from each other nursing their animosities over the years. As political commentator M.J.Akbar wrote in the Times of India, India and Pakistan aren’t neighbours, they are worlds apart. He believes the two fully turned away from each other after the 1965 war. ”Walls of regulation were raised to block knowledge, and then vision. If you do not see a neighbour, he is not a neighbour. There are no neighbours in the huge apartment blocks of Mumbai, only adjacent numbers.”
Is it any wonder then that a popular Pakistani comedian who made thousands laugh on an Indian TV show has had to return home after being threatened in a Mumbai studio? [Reuters pic of India and Pakistani border guards)
An Indian military presence in Afghanistan to put further pressure on Pakistan? That would be the red rag for Pakistan, and the end of its long struggle to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan against its much larger eastern neighbour.
Pakistan is dealing with multiple challenges all at once – its sovereignty and its very idea of itself as an independent nation state are tested in the northwest by both the Islamist militants and U.S. forces hunting them. To its east, the old hostility with India is back in full force following the Mumbai attacks. Then above all, some think the economic meltdown is a more serious risk to Pakistan’s survival than the threat of a conflict with India.
Pakistan and its nuclear weapons are back in the centre of the U.S. foreign policy frame as a steady stream of reports from think tanks and newspapers build the case for President-elect Barack Obama to recognise and act urgently with regard to the potential threat from the troubled state.
U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden held talks in Pakistan as part of a regional tour expected to focus on terrorism and tensions between Pakistan and India following the Mumbai attacks.
Shortly after the Mumbai attacks, I asked whether India faced a trial of patience in persuading Pakistan — with help from the United States — to take action against the Islamist militants it blamed for the assault on its financial capital. India’s approach of relying on American diplomacy rather than launching military action led to some soul-searching among Indian analysts when it failed to deliver immediate results. But is it finally beginning to bear fruit?
India continues to turn up the heat on Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks, declaring once again on Wednesday that all options were open to disrupt militant networks operating from there. And this, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said official agencies must have been involved in an operation of such sophistication, a serious charge by a head of government against another state.