Links Feedback Home Home
 Curriculum Vitae
 Topic-wise  Classification
 Published Work
 Papers Presented
 Newspaper Articles
Daily Times
The Dawn
Herald Magazine
The News
Journal - NGORC
The Friday Times
The Nation
The Express Tribune
 Guest Book
India Pakistan Relations:
Changing The Mindset
Dr.Akmal Hussain
Newspaper: Daily Times
Dated: November 21, 2002

As the time for the SAARC summit approaches there is renewed belligerence in the posturing by the bureaucracies of both India and Pakistan. It must be clear by now to both sides that war between two nuclear armed neighbours cannot be a rational means of dispute resolution. Yet both sides are locked into a mind set that is as afraid of peace as it is of war. Consequently a no war, no peace situation persists which continues to undermine the prospects of building a better future for their respective citizens. It may be time now to change the mind set within which the governments of India and Pakistan conduct their inter-state relations. In this article we will briefly indicate an alternative perspective through which the drift towards war can be replaced by the pursuit of peace.

South Asia is at a conjunctural moment in its history. There is growing awareness today of the tremendous human and natural resource potential that can be harnessed for overcoming poverty. There is a recognition of the possibility of articulating through regional cooperation the richness of its civilizational content as well as of its resources to become an influential voice in the new world that is taking shape. Yet, at the same time, there is growing evidence of the undermining of this potential through continued danger of inter-state war on the one hand and unsustainable development strategies on the other.

Can we grasp this moment and together devise a new path which will enable South Asia to enter the 21st century in peace, prosperity and with a new flowering of the rich civilizations that it encompasses? The time has come for moving out of the narrow confines of a mind set that takes military muscle rather than well being of its people as the emblem of state power; and which regards an adversarial relationship with the neighbour rather than regional cooperation as an expression of national commitment.

There is also an urgent need to move out of the narrow confines of a conceptual approach that takes GNP growth within centralized state structures as the emblem of development, the credit worthiness for new loans as a measure of economic health, and which regards people as passive recipients of the drops that are supposed to trickle down from such a process. As we glance back at the last four decades of South Asian development experience, generations of poor, mutilated by malnutrition, come into sharp focus. At the same time, the image of once verdant slopes of our northern mountains, and the fertile fields that nestled at their feet, begins to fade. A childhood image that is lost within a single generation at the onset of deforestation, salinization and desertification - processes unleashed by a growth mechanism that is guided by the hidden hand of the market, rather than the aspiration of our peoples to sustain life across generations. Yet even as the human and natural resource base is getting undermined, governments in South Asian countries are groaning under intolerable debt burdens arising mainly from the rising expenditures of centralized state apparatuses, and ill conceived policies imposed by international financial institutions.

The irony of increasingly sophisticated military apparatuses in South Asia together with continued poverty of the majority of the people and a huge debt burden has been given a devastating dimension in the case of India and Pakistan: This is the danger of war arising out of the long standing Kashmir dispute. The prospect of war of course has added horror in view of the fact that each country now has nuclear weapons capability.

It can be argued that continued increases in military expenditure are unsustainable both in terms of the added burden on the poor, as well as in terms of escalating tensions leading to a nuclear holocaust. As the largest country in the region it may be worth its while for India to adopt a long term perspective towards the Kashmir issue. If India were to take the initiative in resolving the Kashmir issue according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir it would constitute the best investment in the long term security of India and of the region. Such a gesture by India would change the perceptions of its smaller neighbours that it seeks hegemony in the region. It would thereby establish a lasting basis of durable peace defined by the equality of sovereign states seeking cooperation rather than conflict in the fulfillment of their national aspirations. Equally important would be the peace dividend that India and Pakistan could reap following a resolution of the Kashmir issue in terms of redirecting a large proportion of their existing military expenditure for the prosperity of their people. Rising military expenditure induced largely by tensions emanating from the Kashmir issue, does not increase in net terms the security of the respective states. This is simply because an increase in military expenditure by one country leads to a similar response by the other. While national security may not necessarily be enhanced by an arms race it is clearly endangered by the intensification of domestic poverty that results from it and increased social polarization associated with the perpetuation of poverty. To-day, as the armies of the two countries though disengaged, are still ready to pounce on each other, it is clear that war will have no victors. It may be time therefore to think of the imperatives of durable peace and sustainable development.

As we now look towards the future, an urgent need is felt today, for a new approach to development. A perspective within which people in their diverse locations can live in peace and acquire control over the decisions that affect their immediate existence; in which the autonomy of communities and states can be sought from the tentacles of an international financial system that is serving as a conduit for transferring real resources of the fragile resource base of the poor; a perspective within which production and economic growth is conducted to sustain life rather than serving to undermine it. In short, the question is, can we achieve a sustainable relationship between man, nature and growth?

The pursuit of such questions requires the people and governments of India and Pakistan respectively to re-experience the well springs of their own humanity. The challenge is to start a peace process that is predicated not on a myopic perception of state power but the vision of actualizing the tremendous human potential of the citizens of the two countries.

Designed & Developed By INTERSOL International