By Swagato Ganguly
11 May 2016
For anybody reflecting on India-Pakistan relations, the abiding question must be that given the cultural similarities between India and Pakistan, why can’t they be friendly neighbours like the US and Canada?
One could interject, of course, with the bloody history of Partition, the subcontinent’s equivalent of the Holocaust. But that was 70 years ago. Youth on both sides of the border scarcely remember it today.
Israel and Germany are not at war today, notwithstanding what happened 70 years ago. Or, as Haqqani himself says, Mexico doesn’t transmit to its people today traumatic memories of US-Mexican wars in the 19th century.
Haqqani says he talks in his book about psychological factors in the relationship. This is probably the most insightful approach, because the answer can’t be in the realm of the logical. By cutting off its own nose to spite India, Pakistan gains nothing.
Haqqani says Pakistan has a ‘plebiscite or nothing’ approach, when Pakistan’s Gen Ayub Khan dismissed the dated idea of a plebiscite as far back as 1959. Since India is not powered by religion it stands or falls by its Constitution. It cannot, therefore, rip up its Constitution for the sake of holding a plebiscite in Kashmir.
The interview has a credible insider’s answer to a conundrum: by all accounts, India and Pakistan came close to resolving Kashmir in 2006-07. What happened since then to take us back to square one? According to Haqqani, when Gen Musharraf fell from power and a civilian government took over in Pakistan, its military leaders concealed the records of the proceedings between Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz, negotiating for India and Pakistan respectively. Thus the civilian government lacked the basis to proceed further.
In other words, military officers were unhappy with the proceedings but would listen if the deal was endorsed from higher up in the military hierarchy, ie by Musharraf who was Chief of Army Staff at the time (and who had worked through all possible options of wresting Kashmir from India, eventually realising the futility of the endeavour). They were, however, unwilling to let the civilian government carry on with the peace process.
Haqqani faults India as well – he seems to suggest that if the solution is psychological, India did not reach out at the right psychological moments that could have broken the vicious cycles the India-Pakistan relationship is caught up in.
Two conclusions follow. One, for the peace process to move forward, India needs to engage the highest echelons of Pakistan’s military leadership.
Two, India-Pakistan relations resemble a blood feud within the family. As we know, these are the most irrational and toughest to resolve. They require a great deal of therapy and reassurance.