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Saturday, January 16, 2010 03:37:17 PM, Amulya Ganguli, IANS

Majority in India and Pakistan wants peace between both countries: Despite the continuous hostility between the two countries, a majority of the billion and a half people of India and Pakistan want to live as.... Read Full

Blessed are the peacemakers. But to be successful, their efforts have to be rooted in reality. This wasn’t the case with a recent seminar in New Delhi, which called for the resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue, because its timing was hopelessly wrong.


It wasn’t just that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari responded to the domestic pressure on him by taking recourse to the only way available to Pakistani politicians to boost their standing - adopt a strident anti-Indian stance. The Indian army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, too underlined the tense mutual relations by expressing concern about the infiltration into Kashmir.


The day after the call for peace, another seminar of economists in New Delhi described Pakistan as a threat to the world with a Pakistani representative, Riaz Ahmed Sheikh, confirming what is widely believed by saying that “all the subversive groups are still being secretly supported and helped by the former military generals”. The only caveat to this observation by critics will be that it isn’t the “former” army officers who are helping the terrorists, but some who are still in service.


Given this incestuous relationship between the state and the so-called non-state actors, it is hardly surprising that a London-based think tank has referred to the possibility of Pakistan “moving towards anti-Americanism and more Sharia law”.


Even the seminar on peace saw the Pakistani human rights activist, Asma Jehangir, say that the “Taliban and terror elements are forcing people to embrace their ideology…to subjugate the people to their brand of Islam.”


It goes without saying that the reason for their success is that Islamabad is not exerting itself with sufficient vigour to eliminate the “terror elements”. And the reason for their seeming reluctance has long been clear. It is that the Pakistan army regards the Taliban as a strategic asset against India.


Although the Americans have been trying to convince the army that India does not pose a threat to Pakistan - a fact which Zardari mentioned in his saner days before his latest declamation on waging a thousand-year war - the Pakistani establishment, which means the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has not been listening.


The establishment has long convinced itself that it alone is the bulwark against Indian expansionism which, it believes, will overwhelm Pakistan both culturally and militarily. In its view, such a denouement is unavoidable because of India’s larger size and soft power - Bollywood films and songs - unless the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are able to take what can only be called pre-emptive action by destabilizing India.


Since the establishment’s earlier attempts in this direction failed in 1948 and 1965 and then went horribly wrong in 1971 when Pakistan itself lost its eastern half, terrorism remains the only alternative in its hands. Since nuclearization of the subcontinent has ruled out wars, as in 1965 and 1971, the Kargil incursions of 1999, on the lines of the 1948 “tribal” invasion, was the last military option tried by Islamabad.


After its failure, Islamabad has been banking on jehadis to bleed India with a thousand cuts. Its urgency may have increased because of India’s growing influence in Afghanistan, which means that Pakistan may have to fight on two fronts if a war breaks out.


What is frightening is that a war is not as much of an anathema to the jehadis as it is to the rest of the world because of their apocalyptic mindset, which regards a war against infidels as a holy crusade and sees death as the gateway to paradise. This combination of nihilism and realpolitik makes the scene all the more frightening.


For the Pakistan army, the alternative - peace with India - is unacceptable because it will ensure India’s final emergence as the victor in South Asia with its widely admired multicultural democracy, vibrant cultural life and booming economy.


There is also the fear that Pakistan will be subsumed by such a development, like Bangladesh which has already taken the first step towards emulating India by replacing the Islamic tenets in its constitution with secular principles, as at the time of its formation in 1972.


The peaceniks, therefore, are waging a futile struggle. Unless civil society in Pakistan replaces the army as the dominant force in the country - as in all civilised nations - there is little possibility of the military and the ISI allowing a lasting settlement with India because, to them, it will mean signing Pakistan’s death warrant not only as an Islamic country but also as a separate entity.


The only way in which peace can be ensured is by Pakistan’s transformation into a genuine democracy, where the army will be under civilian control. Since democracies do not go to war, as is often said, India and Pakistan can then expect to live in peace and benefit from its dividends through economic cooperation and cultural exchanges.


It is worthwhile remembering that both in 1965 and 1971, military dictators ruled the roost in Pakistan. And, in 1999, Gen Pervez Musharraf’s misadventure in Kargil was launched behind then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s back. The peacemakers should concentrate, therefore, on strengthening democracy in Pakistan rather than indulge in issuing pious homilies.


Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at








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