December 27, 2017

Time for an icebreaker: on India-Pakistan relations THE HINDU EDITORIAL

Time for an icebreaker: on India-Pakistan relations THE HINDU EDITORIAL

In the late 1960s, shortly after the India-Pakistan war, the official in the Ministry of External Affairs handling the Pakistan desk received a strange request during his meeting with the new Pakistan High Commissioner. “I hope that you would deal with Pakistan as a foreign country,” the High Commissioner told the slightly puzzled Indian official, explaining that the familiarity of Indian officials with both language and culture of Pakistan ran counter to Pakistan’s desire to build their identity as a newly sovereign nation.
Time for an icebreaker on India-Pakistan relations THE HINDU EDITORIAL

Two years apart

While the two countries had been physically partitioned, and borders and check-posts now controlled people from crossing over, the ‘intellectual partition’ of India and Pakistan had not taken place at the time. Decades later, it would be hard for a Pakistani envoy to make such a complaint. India and Pakistan are not just foreign countries for each other, they are practically alien, with little to engage on in various spheres. The “intellectual and emotional partition” of the two countries is even more stark today, exactly two years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Lahore to attend his then counterpart, Nawaz Sharif’s grand-daughter’s wedding. To begin with, Indian and Pakistani societies have learnt to look away from each other culturally. The process of this partition, which began in the 1950s, when poets and historians began to construct separate histories, is now complete, as Pakistani students learn a language more Arabic than Urdu, of a polity that begins in 1947, and about an ancient history that relates to foreign invaders from the country’s west more than the shared history with its east. On the Indian side, contemporary cultural linkages have been severed, with Abida Parveen and Ghulam Ali no longer able to perform in India, Pakistani actors barred from work in Indian films, and a television network stopping the very popular telecast of Pakistani soap operas. Sporting events are fewer, and there is little “healthy rivalry” when Indian and Pakistani teams do meet: instead a defeat becomes a national disgrace, while a victory is celebrated as a quasi-military conquest. Visas are still granted for pilgrimages on both sides, but for all other travel they are tightly controlled and granted as exceptions to the rule. Seldom have two countries which share language, idiom, music and religion been this closed to each other, including in times of war. Bilateral trade, which had developed a low but steady normal, could be reduced even further now: as Indian development of Chabahar port in Iran circumvents Pakistan by sea, and an air cargo corridor to Afghanistan replaces land cargo entirely. Effectively, India is willing to double its trade costs and spend billions of dollars extra in order block out Pakistan, and Pakistan is willing to risk its trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, but won’t allow Indian trade to Afghanistan come through Wagah. The only increased ‘trade’ is that of ‘trading fire’ at the Line of Control (LoC), where Pakistan attempts to push in infiltrators over the LoC into India under covering fire, and Indian troops fire back, taking also a high toll for civilians on both sides. After the 2003 ceasefire had been implemented, villagers on either side of the LoC had returned to their homes and rebuilt schools along the area. Most of that peace has been undone by the past few years of ceasefire violations, according to a study by the United States Institute of Peace called “A Line on Fire”. From 12 ceasefire violations (CFVs) on both sides combined and one civilian casualty in 2006, 2016 saw 51 dead in about 900 CFVs. The data for this year has surpassed those numbers, which includes four Indian Army soldiers killed this weekend. Yet, neither side gives credence to claims of the other. Even after the surgical strikes of September 2016, Pakistan’s government refused to accept India’s detailed account of the cross-LoC action. The discourse on terrorism is even more divided. After the Mumbai attacks of 2008, Pakistan admitted in public statements at least that the perpetrators of the attacks would be brought to justice. Yet in the past three years, the Mumbai trial in Rawalpindi has all but ground to a halt. The Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is out on bail, while 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, out of custody last month, plans to stand for elections in 2018. On the Pakistani side, there’s growing belief that India funds groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as insurgent groups in Balochistan. Mr. Modi’s public support for the Baloch insurgency during his Independence Day speech last year did not help. The fate of Kulbushan Jadhav, whose release from Pakistani custody in other times may have been decided by mutual negotiation and a possible exchange of personnel, is now in the hands of the International Court of Justice.

Difficult calendar

While both India and Pakistan have recently appointed new High Commissioners to Islamabad and Delhi, respectively, there is very little hope of any fresh initiative at this point. Pakistan heads into its electoral process in a few months, once the Senate elections are done in March and a caretaker government is put in place. By the time a new Prime Minister is in place there, the Indian general election campaign will begin to roll out. Given Mr. Modi’s recent attack on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for meeting the new Pakistani envoy at a dinner during the Gujarat campaign, and suggesting collusion between the two, it is unlikely that the political atmosphere would allow for even diplomatic niceties to be maintained. Yet, for a number of reasons, it is even more necessary for both sides to stem this intellectual partition today. India has long opposed “third-party interventions”, but the lack of dialogue with Pakistan is imposing just that, with every dispute between the two countries now being taken up at global forums: the United Nations, Financial Action Task Force, International Court of Justice, and World Bank for the Indus Waters Treaty. Second, with the U.S. drawing India into its Afghanistan policy, and China’s stakes in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the subcontinent is becoming an area of contestation by players bigger than both India and Pakistan. Even in Afghanistan, their interests are being increasingly defined by the coalitional arcs being drawn: with the U.S., India, and Afghanistan ranged on one side; and Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the Taliban on the other.

The alphabet soup

India’s decision to stay out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet in Pakistan has also complicated its standing as a regional leader. While alternative arrangements such as The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) initiative and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) represent some parts of the region, they cannot replace the whole, and the region becomes easier to fragment, as China has managed to do by making inroads into Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Finally, re-engagement will inevitably follow disengagement at some point, and the growing distance between the people of both countries will be much more difficult for their governments to bridge in the future. Even without bilateral talks, the two sides can explore simple engagements on the environment, medical tourism, energy pipelines and electric grids in the interim. In a world where connectivity is the new currency, and multiple alignments are replacing polar geopolitics, it is hard to justify the disconnected space that New Delhi and Islamabad are hurtling into.

 LEARN VOCABULARY FROM THE HINDU EDITORIAL 

1) Intellectual
Meaning: Possessing a highly developed intellect.
Example: “You are an intellectual girl, like your mother”
Synonyms: Intelligent, Clever
Antonyms: Stupid, Illiterate
2) Envoy
Meaning: A messenger or representative, especially one on a diplomatic mission.
Example:”The UN special envoy to Yugoslavia”
Synonyms: Representative, Delegate
3) Stark
Meaning: Unpleasantly or sharply clear.
Example:”His position is in stark contrast to that of Curran”
Synonyms: Blunt, Bald
4) Invaders
Meaning: A person or group that invades a country, region, or other place.
Example:”It is a country that has repelled all invaders”
Synonyms: Attacker, Raider
5) Rivalry
Meaning: Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.
Example:”There always has been intense rivalry between the clubs”
Synonyms: Competitiveness, Competition
6) Pilgrimages
Meaning: A pilgrim’s journey.
Example:”He wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela”
Synonyms: Trip, Journey
7) Seldom
Meaning: Not often; rarely.
Example:”Islay is seldom visited by tourists”
Synonyms: Rarely, Infrequently
Antonyms: Often, Frequently
8) Cargo
Meaning: Goods carried on a ship, aircraft, or motor vehicle.
Example:”Transportation of bulk cargo”
Synonyms: Freight, Load
9) Infiltrators
Meaning: A person who secretly becomes part of a group in order to get information or to influence the way the group thinks or behaves.
Example: The infiltrator was identified and killed.
10) Troops
Meaning: Soldiers or armed forces.
Example:”UN peacekeeping troops”
Synonyms: Soldiers, Armed forces
11) Ceasefire
Meaning: A temporary suspension of fighting; a truce.
Example:”The latest ceasefire seems to be holding”
12) Casualty
Meaning: A person killed or injured in a war or accident.
Example: “The shelling caused thousands of civilian casualties”
Synonyms: Victim, Fatality
13) Surpassed
Meaning: Exceed; be greater than.
Example:”Pre-war levels of production were surpassed in 1929″
Synonyms: Excel, Exceed
14) credence
Meaning: Belief in or acceptance of something as true.
Example:”Psychoanalysis finds little credence among laymen”
Synonyms: Acceptance, Belief
15) Perpetrators
Meaning: A person who carries out a harmful, illegal, or immoral act.
Example:”The perpetrators of this horrific crime must be brought to justice”
16) Insurgent
Meaning: A person fighting against a government or invading force; a rebel or revolutionary.
Example: “An attack by armed insurgents”
Synonyms: Rebel, Revolutionary
Antonyms: Loyalist
17) Collusion
Meaning: Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy in order to deceive others.
Example:”The armed forces were working in collusion with drug traffickers”
Synonyms: Conspiracy, Connivance
18) Niceties
Meaning: A fine or subtle detail or distinction.
Example:”Legal niceties are wasted on him”
Synonyms: Subtlety, Nuance
19) Contestation
Meaning: The action or process of disputing or arguing.
Example:”Ideological contestation over social policy in the European Union”
20) Coalition
Meaning: The joining together of different political parties or groups for a particular purpose, usually for a limited time, or a government that is formed in this way.
Example: Government by coalition has its own peculiar set of problems.
21) Alignments
Meaning: Arrangement in a straight line or in correct relative positions.
Example: “The tiles had slipped out of alignment”
22) Hurtling
Meaning: Move or cause to move at high speed, typically in an uncontrolled manner.
Example: “A runaway car hurtled towards them”
Synonyms: Speed, Rush
Antonyms: Go slowly

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