Change in Pakistan's Court
Image Credit: Muhammadoweis

Change in Pakistan's Court


What makes India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed neighbours who have fought three direct wars (and one indirect one) since 1947, like phosphorous and air: highly combustible when they come into contact? The answer lies in an acrimonious past and the painful baggage of history. Pakistan has never forgiven India—and probably never will—for dismembering it in the 1971 war. The Pakistani military establishment is painfully aware of the fact that Pakistan’s clout would have been much greater if Bangladesh hadn't been carved out of East Pakistan.

For about a decade through the early 1980s, the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment licked its wounds and laid low while Islamabad began to embark on its policy of ‘a thousand cuts’ by allegedly using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy against India. Fast forward to the present day, and the silly thing is that even now, Islamabad isn’t ready to give up its dangerously flawed policy, even though its own creations (the terrorists) have turned inward to commit almost daily acts of terror in Pakistan over the last several years.

In comparison, India has become quieter, with just two terror incidents to report in the whole of 2010: Pune and Varanasi.

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The reason why India and Pakistan have continued to remain in different orbits despite dozens of summits and hundreds of senior officials’ meetings is because of the fundamental difference in the approaches of the two sides to bilateral talks. Pakistan pursues a top-down strategy that favours taking up the most important issue (Kashmir) first and less important issues (‘less’ from its perspective) later. India, on the other hand, practices a more bottom-up approach—first tackling and sorting out less contentious and easily resolvable issues like Sir Creek, trade and more intensive people-to-people contacts—then going for the more prickly ones. That's why most bilateral talks between India and Pakistan end up as dialogues of the deaf.

India and Pakistan need to look at normalization of bilateral ties as a process, not an event and a marathon, not a 100-metre race. This hasn’t happened thus far, and is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. Full normalization of India-Pakistan relations isn’t going to be possible until the Pakistani military establishment’s mindset undergoes a major change. Anti-Indianism is in the DNA of Pakistani civil and military establishments.

Only Pakistan can change this. India cannot.

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