Bilateral

Seven decades of hostility

Aug 16, 2017
70 years are a sufficient time to sort out most troubled relationships. This applies not just to couples who live that long, but to countries which have had relationships defined by conflict. But Pakistan and India have not yet learned to live with each other. In fact, their bilateral relationship continues to deteriorate with time — as does their ability to cause harm to one another.
 
Both countries continue to engage in that most toxic activity: defining oneself against their neighbour. Since the powerful hawks in both countries paint the very existence of the other side as an existential threat, and are currently directing the foreign policies of their respective countries, peaceful coexistence is very obviously a distant prospect.
 
Having already given up on the possibility of peaceful coexistence for the foreseeable future, it becomes even more worrying when the continued existence per se of the two countries comes into question. Sabre-rattling is all very well when it involves conventional arms, even if it can devolve into tragic wars, but nuclear-armed neighbours engaging in such brinkmanship is quite a new level of insanity. Unfortunately, there is a sizeable number of powerful men in both India and Pakistan who believe that a posture of nuclear hostility towards next-door neighbours is acceptable, even necessary.
 
Meanwhile, the proxy wars fought by the two countries in a bid to hurt the other’s interests in the region surrounding them continue to engulf other nations in the inferno of Indo-Pak hostility too. Afghanistan, in particular, has been wrecked by this process.
 
In the case of Pakistan’s rulers, a certain degree of discomfort and hostility towards its big neighbour was always understandable — if not justifiable. Pakistan’s rulers dispensed very early on with any pretense for secularism, and very soon called democracy into question too. India’s post-colonial rulers, though, made a very different promise, a far more ambitious and high-minded one.
 
Today, it can no longer be said that it is only Pakistan’s conflict with its own demons that drives Indo-Pak hostility. New Delhi now has an administration which is very much committed to becoming the mirror image of some of the worst elements from Pakistan. In fact, the current Indian government has proceeded at a breakneck pace both internally and externally, which even Hamid Gul in his wildest dream couldn’t have implemented in Pakistan.
 
Is it not perfectly justified, then, to worry that the stage is set for seven more decades of much the same — or worse? 
 
Daily Times, August 15, 2017

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