Pakistan’s paranoia regarding India is unfounded

Pakistan’s brazen belligerence continues towards India in spite of the extension of an olive branch from time and again by India for good neighbourly relations.

Pakistan using terrorist groups as part of its security and foreign policy shows its obsession with India which it perceives as an existential threat. The ideology of Pakistan is built on twin pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. Pakistan never realised that as a nation state it should create its own history and move forward but lived with historical appropriation and distortions of the past. Pakistan could acknowledge its Indian heritage as well as the Muslim-ness of a majority of its population. Instead successive Pakistani leaderships and the intelligentsia preferred to build the idea of Pakistan on pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. But Pakistan’s paranoia regarding India is unfounded.

The relations with Pakistan have been defined by the Partition in 1947, the Kashmir conundrum and the military conflicts fought between the two South Asian neighbours. The relations have always been plagued by conflicts, hostilities and suspicion despite the fact that the two share common linguistic, cultural, geographical and economic linkages. Pakistan on her own asking got 23% of land mass and 18% of the population of undivided India. The notification of 14th. August declared India the Successor State. Pakistan groped in the dark for its legacy, cultural moorings and its existential history. Nations while living in the present do not forsake their history which continues as a guide for the future nation building. The new India could not escape the radical and toxic thought process of Pakistan. The chronic communal hostility became central to Pakistan-India narrative. India is always considered as a Hindu State and Pakistan as an Islamic nation. The claim to Kashmir by Pakistan on communal basis got support from the west. Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims and if the new State was not premised on Islamic Ideology and made a Secular State, the pre partition movement would have been termed as a waste exercise.The fundamental differences, imbalance in size and resources created a sense of hostility in Pakistan rulers. It is this mind set of Pakistan that led to trust deficit between the two neighbours. Currently Pakistan exerts to seek Parity with India that “amounts to collecting the dew.”

India and Pakistan, particularly Northern India and Eastern Pakistan, to some degree have similar cultures, cuisines and languages due to common Indo-Aryan heritage which span through the two countries and throughout much of the northern subcontinent which also underpin the historical ties between the two. Pakistani singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers have enjoyed widespread popularity in India, with many achieving overnight fame in the Indian film industry Bollywood. Likewise, Indian music and film are very popular in Pakistan. Being located in the northernmost region of the South Asia, Pakistan›s culture is somewhat similar to that of North India, especially the northwest.

The Punjab region was split into Punjab, Pakistan and Punjab, India following the independence and partition of the two countries in 1947. The Punjabi people are today the largest ethnic group in Pakistan and also an important ethnic group of northern India. The founder of Sikhism was born in the modern-day Pakistani Punjab province, in the city of Nankana Sahib. Each year, millions of Indian Sikh pilgrims cross over to visit holy Sikh sites in Nankana Sahib. The Sindhi people are the native ethnic group of the Pakistani province of Sindh. Many Hindu Sindhis migrated to India in 1947, making the country home to a sizeable Sindhi community. In addition, the millions of Muslims who migrated from India to the newly created Pakistan during independence came to be known as the Muhajir people; they are settled predominantly in Karachi and still maintain family links in India.

The Indo-Pakistani border is the official international boundary that demarcates the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat from the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh. The Wagah border is the only road crossing between India and Pakistan and lies on the famous Grand Trunk Road, connecting Lahore, Pakistan with Amritsar, India. Each evening, the Wagah border ceremony takes place at the Wagah border in which the flags are lowered and guards on both sides make a pompous military display and exchange handshakes.

 Hindustani is the lingua Franca of North India and Pakistan, as well as the official language of both countries, under the standard registers Hindi and Urdu, respectively. Standard Urdu is mutually intelligible with standard Hindi. Hindustani is also widely understood and used as a lingua franca amongst South Asians including Sri Lankans, Nepalis and Bangladeshis, and is the language of Bollywood, which is enjoyed throughout much of the subcontinent. Apart from Hindustani, India and Pakistan also share a distribution of the Punjabi language (written in the Gurmukhi script in Indian Punjab, and the Shahmukhi script in Pakistani Punjab), Kashmiri language and Sindhi language, mainly due to population exchange. These languages belong to a common Indo-Aryan family that are spoken in countries across the subcontinent.

Pakistan’s brazen belligerence continues towards India in spite of the extension of an olive branch from time and again by India for good neighbourly relations. Pakistan’s Kashmir rants echo always in United Nations Human Rights Council at Geneva and rakes up the issue at UNGA. India fiercely replies calling Pakistan as “Terroristan” and asserts J&K as its integral part. India is not willing to renegotiate Kashmir’s territorial status. The bilateral issues can be addressed through talks and negotiations.Recently last week Pakistan repeated its ritual rant on Kashmir at UNHRC Geneva and India rebutted with usual assertion.Abduction of two Indian high commission officials recently in Islamabad is yet another provocative act of Pakistan.

There have been military wars, continuing undeclared wars, numerous skirmishes and stand offs. Many successful attempts to improve relations through Shimla Agreement, Agra and Lahore summits, etc, have fallen apart. The relations soured after Siachen conflict of 1980, Kashmir insurgency of 1989 onwards and the Kargil war. Terror attacks on Indian Parliament in 2001 almost brought two nuclear nations to a brink of war. Mumbai terror attack of 2008 by Pakistani terrorists that killed hundreds, and its continuous support to terrorists in Kashmir to delegitimise the idea of India has soured our relations further.   Modi Government’s national narrative and diplomatic policy is central to isolate Pakistan from the concerned Countries especially the UAE, Central Asian countries and other relevant nations,with his unidirectional efforts, has succeeded. By now the world has acknowledged the stark truth that Pakistan is the sponsor of terrorism in Afghanistan and India and poses a serious threat to security in the South Asian region. As such no dialogue with Pakistan is the policy narrative of the MEA, PMO and the foreign policy experts.

 The US has always been helpful and concerned about the regional security in South Asia. US experts feel that India-Pakistan tensions will complicate and spoil US’ interest in the region. In India, the foreign policy experts wish to alert PM Modi on the implications of the close ChinaPakistan relations as Beijing is trying to remake geography by launching huge infrastructure roads and bridges on the borders. The recent Chinese incursions and stand-off is a testimony. Therefore, persistent and astute diplomatic engagement on India’s terms, at a comprehensive level with neighbouring nations in the region becomes important.

After the dissolution of the British Raj in 1947, two new sovereign nations were formed—the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The subsequent partition of the former British India displaced up to 12.5 million people, with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to 1 million.India emerged as a secular nation with a Hindu majority population and a large Muslim minority, while Pakistan with a Muslim majority population and a large Hindu minority later became an Islamic Republic although its constitution guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all faiths, later lost most of its Hindu minority due to migration and after East Pakistan was separated in the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Soon after their independence, India and Pakistan established diplomatic relations but the violent partition and numerous territorial claims would overshadow their relationship. Since their Independence, the two countries have fought three major wars, one undeclared war and have been involved in numerous armed skirmishes and military standoffs. The Kashmir conflict is the main centrepoint of all of these conflicts with the exception of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War, which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). There have been numerous attempts to improve the relationship—notably, the Shimla summit, the Agra summit and the Lahore summit. Since the early 1980s, relations between the two nations soured particularly after the Siachen conflict, the intensification of Kashmir insurgency in 1989, Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 and the 1999 Kargil war. Certain confidence-building measures — such as the 2003 ceasefire agreement and the Delhi– Lahore Bus service – were successful in de-escalating tensions. However, these efforts have been impeded by periodic terrorist attacks. The 2001 Indian Parliament attack almost brought the two nations to the brink of a nuclear war. The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, which killed 68 civilians (most of whom were Pakistani), was also a crucial point in relations. Additionally, the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by Pakistani militants resulted in a severe blow to the ongoing India-Pakistan peace talks.

Despite having started to reboot its diplomatic ties with the US to end the stalemate of the last few years, Islamabad’s relations with other nations have been on the downside because it lied to the world about the presence of Al Qaeda chief — Osama bin Laden — in Pakistan. The Americans nailed these lies by carrying out Operation Neptune Spear and he was found in Abbottabad near the elite military school in Pakistan and was liquidated. All eyes are on Pakistan and it has to come clean and stop breeding terrorists in its backyard and root them out.

US President Donald Trump has been voicing  his strong-arm policy against terrorism. Pakistan has to take it seriously if it wishes to get financial aid from the US. Financial Action Task Force is eyeing Pakistan. China removed the objection to put Pakistan on the grey list by FATF. Pakistan is being placed on global terrorist financing list from June 2018 onwards that would endanger its handful of remaining banking links to the outside world causing financial pain to its economy. Saudi Arabia has also removed its objection and now only Turkey is supporting Pakistan. President Trump has said it is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who breed, support and finance terror groups. The Trump administration has charted a new South Asia policy in which it has sought a larger role for India in Afghanistan and in South Asia and has put Pakistan on notice.

Pakistan’s temper tantrums and petulance responses have not convinced the US and other nations. Pakistan has to take a hard look at options. It has to play tough against Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-eTaiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Haqqani Network and all other similar groups. The Afghan government suspect the newly surging ISIS in Khorasan and other terror groups are getting support from Pakistan and are allowed free operations from its soil, raise funds, march in raucous rallies and openly support terror export to other countries, including India, with the help of handlers in Pakistan.

From almost on the brink of war in the beginning of the year to the opening a peace corridor for Sikh pilgrims in November, the two nuclear-armed neighbors, India and Pakistan, remained largely on the edge in 2019.  In February, following the militant attack in the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir that killed dozens of soldiers, New Delhi carried out airstrikes in Pakistan, igniting a military stand-off.A day later, Islamabad retaliated by dropping shells inside Jammu and Kashmir, near military installations and shot down an Indian jet. It also arrested an Indian pilot, who was released later as a «goodwill gesture» in order to put relations back on the track.

 But, the gesture failed to calm nerves. In a fresh wave of border clashes along the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto border that divides the disputed Himalayan valley between Pakistan and India Kashmir, dozens of soldiers and civilians were killed from both sides.

The year also saw the two countries fighting a legal battle in the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national facing death sentence in Pakistan. The perennial enmity deepened further, after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi government, not only revoked the special status of Kashmir but also divided the Muslim majority state into two centrally administered territories. The move angered Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties by expelling Indian envoy from Islamabad.

The whole year, especially February fared badly in terms of relations between the two countries. At one point, they were on the verge of war,» the events that unfolded in 2019 have made it one of the worst years in the relations between the two countries. India›s military muscle display was unprecedented when its jets crossed not only the LoC, but the international border between Pakistan and India. It almost pushed the region close to a full-scale war»but nuclear deterrent and diplomacy prevented war.Hawkish elements in the Pakistani establishment wanted a tit-for-tat response. But the saner elements led by the top military leadership prevailed and «It was International diplomacy that refrained India from launching a large-scale invasion despite having a numerical advantage in terms of conventional war. world cannot afford a nuclear war in South Asia.But the  continuing clashes along the LoC and innocent Indians/civilians killings in Kashmir by terrorists where Pakistan is directly aiding and supporting terrorists and playing an elephant in the room may turn into a bigger conflict.

Experts believe that there is no possibility of any change in the relations between the two countries.  They don’t see any change in the current situation in the near future until unless there is a major change either in India’s policy. Chances are scanty for both. The opening of a historic peace corridor to allow Indian pilgrims visafree access to Sikhism›s holiest shrines in Kartarpur is a confidence building measure and may bring hopes of normalization of relations.

PM Modi is advised to know that he may not be able to transact any big issue with Pakistan because it wants business on Siachen and Sir Creek, which in turn is always demurred. India does not buy any formula on Kashmir, as it firmly believes terror and talks cannot go together until and unless Pakistan brings to the book perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai killings and other killings in Uri & elsewhere.The territorial status of Kashmir is not negotiable. Thus, the only issue that can find an agreement is fighting the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) by mutual efforts,improve trade relations and other economic development schemes but that too will take some time.

Conducting frequent talks at different levels, which do not yield satisfying outcome, is part of diplomacy. India and its Prime Minister are to be seen as a participant in the process of buying peace with even the hostile neighbouring countries to promote his credentials as a moderniser internationally. No foreign policy or diplomacy of a nation state runs without engagement and dialogue with other countries. The BJP and Sangh Parivar have to change their political narrative from the emotive right-wing rhetoric to a tolerant and moderate political discourse, backing up the Prime Minister’s diplomatic effort. Only then the PM can focus on the prospects of resolving the bigger issues of the country.

Ashok Bhan is Senior Advocate practising at Supreme Court of India and a Geopolitical analyst