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Nuclear weapons, the greatest hurdle to India-Pakistan friendship

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    Nuclear weapons, the greatest hurdle to India-Pakistan friendship M.B. Naqvi [Karachi January 7, 2005] Over a year has elapsed after the much-publicised Jan 6,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2005
      Nuclear weapons, the greatest hurdle to India-Pakistan friendship
      M.B. Naqvi
      [Karachi January 7, 2005]

      Over a year has elapsed after the much-publicised Jan 6, 2004 accord
      between Indian PM AB Vajpayee and Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf to
      resume 1997's structured, eight point Indo-Pakistan dialogue for
      normalizing relations between their countries. Second round of the
      Composite Dialogue may be said to be limping along. Sad to say the
      deadlock remains intact. Not one Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)
      like Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service or Khokrapar-Munabao train
      link could be agreed upon. Latest failure is of the experts meeting
      in New Delhi on Baglihar Dam. The outlook is bleak.

      Ordinarily, the leaders of both countries desire peace; they have no
      reason to like wars that only cause destruction. Reasons for repeated
      failures in fence-mending need to be seen under four heads: First,
      the legacies of history hang heavy over the negotiators. It is not
      simply the last 57 years that have shaped the adversarial perceptions
      in these countries. Independence came through harrowing experiences
      of what remains the world's largest ethnic cleansing. That itself was
      a culmination of a hundred years of festering communalism.

      Secondly, some suspect that the desire to make up is superficial. The
      two are going through the motions of negotiating to strengthen peace
      and be civilized neighbours largely at the behest of the US. Consider
      the position of both countries. Both are strategic partners of the
      hyper power. Both are nuclear powers and a war between them can
      escalate into a nuclear holocaust. That easily possible war can upset
      the agenda of the US, whose advice can not be ignored. While it is
      possible to overrate the force of American advice, the sophisticated
      pragmatists of Islamabad and New Delhi are unlikely to underrate it.

      Thirdly, both countries are, after all, strategic partners of the US.
      It is therefore legitimate to assume they share ownership of American
      agenda in Asia. To that extent, an Indo-Pakistan modus operandi is
      their own need and not because the US is advising them to normalize.
      Whatever benefit or advantage Islamabad or South Block may expect
      from partnership with the US can be jeopardized by continued cold war
      between India and Pakistan.

      Fourth, one asserts that the objective being sought by these two,
      viz. normalization of ties, is inadequate; it is not attractive
      enough to overcome the legacy of the Hindu-Muslim deeply coloured
      hatred which has the basic orientations of Pakistan and India. To
      overcome this overhang of history, something stronger is needed: a
      people-to-people reconciliation at all levels. Look at the French and
      Germans today after only 40 years of specific reconciliation effort:
      they constitute the strong nucleus of the EU. Both are incomparably
      richer thereby. And yet they had fought three biggest wars: 1870,
      1914 and 1939. Their age-old enmity and disputes have been forgotten.

      A thoroughgoing rapprochement among peoples, from grassroots up, of
      India and Pakistan is a stirring vision; it can, given intelligent
      and modernist leadership, change the encrusted prejudices and
      adversarial perceptions fairly quickly. What will dissolve the old
      inimical perceptions is the effects of large-scale people-to-people
      contacts and their joint economic and cultural pursuits on as largest
      possible scale. Their people have thousand and one commonalities and
      once they start cooperating, the whole chemistry of Indo-Pakistani
      relationship can change with incomes growth. It is laughably simple
      and easy. No doubt, it seems a Herculian effort to those who have
      grown up - and have prospered - during long cold and hot wars.

      One has no desire to minimize the difficulties involved in the
      process of rapprochement between such inveterate adversaries. After
      all, the philosophies that inform these two states are diametrically
      opposed to each other. India, championed a formally inclusive secular
      and democratic Indian nationalism while emphasis of Pakistan Idea was
      on Muslims being distinct. Mr. Jinnah tried vainly to inform Pakistan
      Movement with secular liberalism. Jinnah is today idolised but his
      legacy is not his liberal ideas but the very opposite. Jinnah is
      murdered everyday in Pakistan when he is portrayed as an Islamic
      Saint; every dictator profusely venerates him but goes on torpedoing

      There are other difficulties. In pursuance of hateful politics both
      countries became nuclear powers. One is aware of the elaborate
      justification of the Indian Bomb, in violation of its traditional
      policies. The writer regards both Bombs to be directly linked with
      subcontinent's politics. It is American CIA inspired stories of
      Islamic Bomb in early 1970s that seem to have made Mrs. Indira
      Gandhi's annoyance through the 1974 PNE. As for Pakistan, it was
      frank; 1971's decisive defeat rankled and the Bomb was designed to
      offset India's superiority. Whether it does so or not is irrelevant

      The Pakistani Bomb has done great mischief. It made Ziaul Haq and
      Mirza Aslam Beg, Army chiefs in 1980s and early 1990s, arrogant; they
      said even the putative Pakistani Bomb has made Pakistan unassailable
      and they could do anything, even carry on a proxy war in Kashmir.
      Later India chose to become a nuclear power and proved its prowess on
      May 11, 1998. Pakistanis countered it with their own atomic
      explosions. A frightened world's perception was that the only place
      where a nuclear war can happen is the Subcontinent; the US advised
      talks. After much worsening of the situation during 2002, the two
      could see no alternative to normalization. Vajpayee indicated it in
      April 2003 and set the talkathon rolling in January 2004.

      Indo-Pakistani atomic weapons have greatly strengthened the
      hardliners on both sides. The hubris these weapons systems have
      created is the greatest hurdle in the way of India-Pakistan
      friendship. This huge hurdle is rivaled by another: These weapons
      have destroyed the trust between the two countries. Who can forget
      that these are Doom's Day weapons? There is no defence against them;
      all talk of missile defence systems is just that. Which government or
      general can trust an adversary that has nuclear tipped missiles at
      the ready; so long as Pakistan and India remain atomic powers, they
      will have to stay on hair trigger alert. Neither Islamabad can trust
      New Delhi nor vice versa. Even US good offices cannot remove the
      bleakness of outlook.

      One earnestly hopes this picture is overdrawn. The purpose is to
      underline the situation's gravity. Conscious decisions to reverse the
      trend are possible, in theory. Would the possible become actual? But
      this is predicated on great many acts of faith about atomic weapons.
      Their mischief cannot be undone by mere CBMs. Indeed, CBMs can be
      extraordinarily treacherous red herring; they implicitly assume the
      long-term presence of atomic weapons; they seek merely to reduce the
      risks of accidents, bad ways of deploying, storage and transportation
      of these weapons and hope to prevent unauthorized launches. CBMs,
      while being useful, are likely to create false optimism - and at the
      cost of making nuclear weapons permanent. These weapons are a
      difficult problem that is required to be solved.

      The two leaderships should have realized that Composite Dialogue is
      going nowhere nor can it succeed because of current premises.
      Provided they genuinely want peace, friendship and cooperation among
      South Asian peoples and are prepared for acts of faith in seeking
      true reconciliation while ignoring vested interests, it can be done.
      The intellectual effort involved will certainly be taxing. Are there
      leaders ready to pick up this gauntlet?


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