While China retains its close ties with Pakistan, it is keen on furthering economic relations with India. Amid this backdrop and the regional complications that have surfaced because of the Afghanistan crisis, neither India nor Pakistan can afford to ignore or defy external pressure and take the risk of waging a war against each other.
China may also be expected to play a similar role. India’s ties with China have improved remarkably in recent years. Pakistan has had close ties with China for a longer period. The latter is understood to have contributed considerably in Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation drive. While China retains its close ties with Pakistan, it is keen on furthering economic relations with India. Amid this backdrop and the regional complications that have surfaced because of the Afghanistan crisis, neither India nor Pakistan can afford to ignore or defy external pressure (from the United States, China and other powers) and take the risk of waging a war against each other.
Yes, India and Pakistan still retain differences over several issues. But nuclear diplomacy takes the lead, followed by changes in the post-partition phase, including communication revolution and regional developments in keeping the old “permanent enemies” away from the battle field. Had perhaps the two countries not decided to go nuclear and subsequently reach an understanding based on a deterrence pact, they may have still been involved frequently in wars or warlike skirmishes. They are not. The Indo-Pak nuclear diplomacy, put to test several times, has defied apprehensions raised earlier of their nuclear prowess heading for MAD. Indo-Pak tension stands fairly much lower in the scale of tensions in the region, with the Afghanistan crisis taking the lead. The Afghanistan crisis, initiated by the then Soviet Union’s intervention and aggravated by the United States’ moves, also casts a shadow on the diplomacy displayed by the countries. After all, war and/or aggressive designs by any power against another are also a sign of failure of its diplomacy. Where the Afghanistan crisis is concerned, it certainly reflects the failure of nuclear diplomacy of both the then Soviet Union and the United States. In contrast, the Indo-Pak nuclear diplomacy stands as a symbol of having succeeded in deterring the two from rushing towards a war with each other.
Realistically speaking, the fact that they have not yet exploited their economic interaction totally is a minor reflection of their being still a long way from entertaining friendly ties with each other. If Indo-Pak trade is increased, the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) gravity model shows that it “could expand from its current level of US$2.1 billion to as much US$42 billion.” The trade potential has not yet been substantially exploited with “high tariff and nontariff barriers, inadequate infrastructure, bureaucratic inertia, excessive red tape, and direct political opposition” acting as constraints. In addition, “Pakistan has not yet reciprocated most favored nation (MFN) status for India and maintains a fairly narrow positive list (of about 1400 items) on goods that India may export to Pakistan.” “Trade will of course not solve all the problems between the two countries, but it could be an important catalyst in the lowering of tensions, which certainly has to be in the interest of both India and Pakistan.”5
Certainly, it is as yet too early to regard India and Pakistan as “friendly neighbours,” but at least their ties are heading towards improvement, with the word “war” apparently erased for quite some time. Nevertheless, India remains on guard where its defence is concerned. While addressing the inaugural session of the two-day Combined Commanders’ Conference in the capital city, Prime Minister Singh asserted: “No country can make progress without ensuring its security and territorial integrity.” In this direction, he pointed out: “As our economy grows and our technological capabilities expand we must set higher standards for the modernization of our defence forces. It is not enough for us to keep pace with change. When it comes to defence capability, we must be ahead of the technology curve. Defence modernization, however, is a complex task. If it is to be effective it must involve the full chain starting with updating our war fighting doctrines to meet new threats to our security, preparation of appropriate staff quality requirements and creating a broad-based production and delivery infrastructure on the ground.” “The other integral part of our defence preparedness is border infrastructure. This involves not just our land borders but also ensuring appropriate coastal security. Several measures have been taken and are underway but it is important that all Ministries and Departments work in close coordination to ensure timely implementation of existing plans. It is necessary to approach this task with a sense of urgency,” he said.
The prime minister categorically stated: “Some of our toughest challenges lie in our immediate neighbourhood.” This line was followed by his stating emphatically, “The fact is that we cannot realize our growth ambitions unless we ensure peace and stability in South Asia.” In other words, he strongly ruled out options of India considering engagement in war with Pakistan.6
Despite their tensions over issues such as Kashmir being a long way off from being resolved, the two countries don’t fail to use opportunities to let the world know that they are moving towards normalising their ties. The same is suggested by the “mango-diplomacy” being engaged in by the two countries. It has become a “diplomatic” must during the mango season. This year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dispatched 20 kilograms of mangoes to his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani in May. The latter responded by gifting five crates of mangoes to the former in August.
Notes and References
- For some letters on Kargil, refer to <http://ww2.wpunj.edu/cohss/polisci/faculty/chadda/mcKargil.htm>; Global Security. “1999 Kargil Conflict.” <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/kargil-99.htm> (accessed 4 October 2010).
- Robert M. Hathaway. “Confrontation and Retrweat: The U.S. Congress and the South Asian Nuclear Tests.” Arms Control Today, January/February 2000. <http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_01-02/rhchart> (accessed 4 October 2010).
- Mohsin S. Khan. “Improving India-Pakistan relations through trade.” 19 April 2010. <http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2010/04/19/improving-india-pakistan-relations-through-trade/> (accessed 4 October 2010).
- PIB, Government of India. Excerpts of Address by the Prime Minister at the Combined Commanders’ Conference. 13 September 2010. <http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=65696> (accessed 4 October 2010). In addition, referred to several journals, official documents and websites.