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India-Pakistan Peace Talks
Peace And State Power
Dr.Akmal Hussain
Newspaper: Daily Times
Dated: Thursday, June 5, 2003

Last week we articulated in these columns, the logic of peace in terms of the material welfare and security of the citizens of both India and Pakistan. While the interests of the people should be expected to induce political leaders to move in the direction of peace, yet history shows that whenever they have done so, they have been constrained at some point in the peace process by the perceived imperatives of State power. Therefore it may be pertinent in this article to point out the sense in which the logic of peace also holds in the context of State power.

The military-bureaucratic establishment even in India, which is supposed to be a full-fledged democracy, let alone in Pakistan which is a fledgling democracy, can be expected to think in terms of purely State interests rather than the interests of the people. Indeed military and bureaucratic establishments everywhere tend to view the proximate imperatives of State power as being synonymous with the ultimate interests of the people. An antagonistic relationship with another State is therefore part of the paradigm of State power. This is particularly so in states such as India and Pakistan where the military-bureaucratic establishment not only influences foreign policy, but draws its institutional identity to some extent through an adversarial relationship with the neighbour. Consequently in the India-Pakistan context, the peace process can only be sustained when the military-bureaucratic establishments in both countries come to accept the proposition that peace is an imperative for the preservation and development of State power itself. Let us explain our proposition.

Consider, India. There are four reasons why its enhanced influence and power as a State requires peace with Pakistan: (1) If it is to sustain its trajectory of high economic growth and emerge as a global economic power in the next two decades, it needs to invest in peace with Pakistan. This is because India needs cooperation with Pakistan to meet its energy needs, and an environment of regional peace to increase domestic and foreign investment, all of which are important determinants of rapid economic growth. (2) India has successfully established a heavy industrial base for a domestic technological change capability. To translate this technological capability into the development and continuous up-gradation of its strategic military weapons against China and other major powers, huge financial resource are required which are currently being dissipated by the expensive low intensity conflict in Kashmir. (3) Peace with Pakistan is essential if India is to quell the internal tendencies of Hindu religious fascism that feed on the India Pakistan conflict and threaten the institutional integrity of its State apparatus as much as Indian democracy. The former is a danger in view of the significant Muslim minority presence in the Indian armed forces. The latter possibility was illustrated when Mr. Modi (the architect of the internationally condemned Gujerat pogrom earlier, against Indian Muslims) during his recent, successful election campaign in Gujerat, sought to win votes from the Hindu extremists by claiming that he was pitted against President Musharraf ! (4) India needs to resolve the Kashmir dispute within a comprehensive peace agreement with Pakistan in order to avoid charges of massive human rights violations by its military forces in Kashmir. There is little doubt that military coercion against civil society in Kashmir weakens Indian democracy and undermines its quest for a permanent seat in the Security Council.

Consider, Pakistan. Here again there are four reasons why peace with India is now necessary to preserve and enhance State power: (1) Growing poverty and tendencies of religious extremism constitute grave threats to national integrity. The former is a long term and the latter is an immediate threat to the State, and yet the two feed off each other. Tendencies of religious extremism threaten Pakistan by weakening the writ of the State. They also undermine the investment climate and thereby constrain Pakistan's attempt to build a modern and prosperous State as envisaged by the Quaid-e-Azam. (2) The recently achieved financial stability and a marginal improvement in GDP growth can by no means be expected to reduce poverty. There is a relationship between the level of income inequality in a country and the level of GDP growth necessary to reduce poverty. Given the current income inequality, a GDP growth rate of about nine percent per annum is required to make a significant impact on poverty. Reducing poverty is necessary to achieve social cohesion and national integrity. (3) There is a view in the bureaucracy that the recent marginal increase in GDP growth from 4.2 percent to 4.9 percent last year and the expected 5.3 percent next year, provides sufficient financial space to increase military expenditures and maintain the current conflict with India. This is a flawed argument for two reasons: (a) Even if Pakistan were to achieve 5.3 percent GDP growth next year, it would not be sustainable because given the current dependence on the crop sector to generate such a growth rate, the increasing frequency of bad harvests makes agriculture based growth inherently unstable. (b) Even if a five percent growth rate could be maintained through a miraculous series of good harvests, nevertheless at such a growth rate, current poverty levels will persist. Consequently sooner or later the politically uncomfortable question will be posed that existing levels of military expenditure need to be reduced to direct resources towards poverty reduction.

A high GDP growth rate of 7 to 9 percent at Pakistan's full economic potential is necessary for financing military expenditures at a level that can enable the technological up-gradation necessary for a credible conventional and nuclear deterrent. It is clear that a high GDP growth cannot be achieved without peace with India. In Pakistan, domestic law and order is to some extent linked with tensions on the border with India. The sharp increase in domestic and foreign investment in Pakistan required for a high growth economy necessitates external and internal peace. (4) At the same time if Pakistan is to reap the benefits of being the gateway to Central Asia and West Asia, it needs a modern infrastructure of roads, railways and ports that are integrated with the development of infrastructure with the rest of South Asia. Thus, Pakistan's quest for overcoming poverty, achieving national integrity, preserving State power and maintaining a credible military capability requires peace with India.

We have argued in this article that India and Pakistan have reached a moment in history when the logic of peace is drawn as much from the imperatives of State power as the aspiration for public welfare. Will their respective State apparatuses and their political leaders have the understanding to grasp this historic moment?

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