By Rida Zeenat
India and Pakistan since 1947 have been involved in hostile relationship because of various ideological, historical and territorial differences. The three major wars before nuclearization is a clear example of their rivalry. However post nuclearization both the states came at the brink of war but the conflict did not escalate, as both the states were rational enough to calculate the costs and benefits of a nuclear war.
Strategic stability in South Asian region is under challenge and the region in peril because of various threats and external factors. These include, the Indian hegemonic posture and its aggressive nature towards Pakistan, the point of reference here is to the Indian military’s Cold Start Doctrine, U.S. long-lived engagement in the region, particularly, in Afghanistan, Western discriminatory approaches to the region like Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal and efforts to accommodate India into the international non-proliferation regimes namely Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), Australia Group (AG), Wassenaar Arrangment (WA) and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) making India technology enabler state, removal of ISRO and DRDO from entity list which would further enhance India’s space and defence capabilities whereas Pakistan has been deliberately denied access to global technology market.
Indian presence in Afghanistan and also its activities near the Pakistani western border and U.S. reticence on it, Indian objection to Chinese continuous tilt towards Pakistan and continuous up gradation of military in both states resulting in never-ending arms race. Kashmir remains the prime source of conflict.
Moreover the bilateral conflicts and the complicated history, geographical proximity, Siachin, Sir Creek and violation of Indus Water Treaty by India add fuel to the fire. Despite all the above listed issues, the basic fact remains that 63 years of prolonged conflict has only led to destabilizing trends and increasing trust deficit between the two countries which has always hindered the ways to greater regional cooperation. Realizing this reality, now its time to look for vested interests, rather than conflicting ones, so that both bilateral and regional cooperation and success can be ensured.
The ongoing dialogue between both the states is a hope for regional peace. Both the states need to formulate a co-operative framework based on common definition of conflict. The resolution of prevailing conflicts can be achieved through the clear definition of nature of conflict. The definition of conflict in South Asian context is of significant value as there can be no progress or cooperation until and unless both the parties, India and Pakistan, agree on a common definition of the conflict. For instance, Kashmir which is a bone of contention between both the states is being considered as ‘internal issue’ by India whereas Pakistan considers it as an ‘international issue’.
Once both the states are on the common ground, it is advisable for them to move to resolve their issues at a faster transition aimed at achieving the end desired result whether it is relative peace or collective peace. The pre-requisites for the successful resolution of conflicts are the prevalence of political will and national consensus on part of both sides. Resolution of conflicts and strategic stability in the region will eventually bring the betterment of their populace.
India and Pakistan while resolving their issues need to identify and explore the various areas of cooperation. But there is dire need that both must have clear understanding of level of cooperation and need to assess how long and in what areas they are ready to have cooperation. India and Pakistan need to broaden their vision and should take measures to eradicate common threats point of reference here is to terrorism, on the basis of equality and mutual respect. They must look in what areas they can cooperate with each other for example, enhancement of trade routes bilaterally, can act as a stepping stone towards the betterment of their bilateral relations. This will increase economic interdependence between the two nations which would ultimately reduce the chances of conflict or war.
Both need to define the scope and limitations of level of mutual cooperation whether they are aiming for a specific agreement, a bilateral one or strategic agreement. Once they are clear about the scope, the work on agreements can be progressed.
Another important step in resolution of disputes is related to adoption of a framework or formulation of a mechanism to move forward. For such a framework or mechanism to be followed effectively, the contentious issues should be resolved whereas the difficult areas should be catered for. India is being given access to global high-tech and nuclear technology and likewise Indian market is open to global traders at a fast pace, more like an un-natural speed which is destabilizing the existing strategic equation in the region while putting Pakistan in a disadvantageous position. Pakistan should be given technological space as Pakistan’s economy does not support the fast modernization of its military capabilities at a speed the way India does. Therefore, such policies/approaches need to be conditioned inline with various arms control agreements between the two nuclear neighbors resulting in reduction of defence budgets and arms and force multipliers.
Other possible options to look for peaceful co-existence, India and Pakistan need to adopt multi-track diplomacy channel to overcome trust deficit among each other. There should be more frequent people to people contacts, media personnel exchange programs, student exchange programs, seminars, conferences and workshops, and mutual collaboration in tourism, traveling routes and other non-traditional security sectors must be evolved. This will help to eradicate or minimize the trust-deficit prevailing not only at the governmental level, but also at the grass root level. There exist certain regional cooperative organizations i.e. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) that need to be strengthened so that they can play a key role in future cooperation among the two nuclear neighbors.
The existing nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) in South Asia should be revived with a new momentum aimed at stabilizing this region. Both the nations must develop a path towards stability, reduced risks, and restraint to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation which can be done by strengthening already existing confidence building measures (CBMs) in order to eradicate the misunderstandings and false alarms to prevent catastrophic event. In this contemporary world where states are interdependent on each other both India and Pakistan must move from Border of Confrontation to the Border of Cooperation.
Growing trends of arms race in South Asian region need to be contained through the development of doctrinal and operational framework. There must be substantial reduction in defence expenditures in order to limit arms race in the region. India and Pakistan need to find the mutual ground to break the enmity for the larger interest that is peace and strategic stability in the South Asian region. Efforts should be made to have peaceful region and to overcome persistent challenges among the nuclear neighbours as peace is the only way forward.