No, we have no choice but to trust Pakistan

Delhi’s attempts to make peace with Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks of November 11, 2008 have been viewed with considerable dismay by many Indians. But responding to 26/11 militarily or even in a diplomatically hostile way would have been counterproductive. It is clear that Pakistan’s rogue state-within-a-state intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence, was behind 26/11, and its purpose was to send out a message to the U.S.-led NATO alliance in the Af-Pak region. In organising the attacks, the ISI was itself behaving like a suicide bomber, threatening to get more concessions out of America and its allies. 26/11 was a spectacle in India for the benefit of the West to say, “Look, we are capable of doing this anywhere in the world.” The desired concessions are: containing India in Afghanistan, being allowed to show muscle to India, reducing the pressure to act against Taliban and splinter groups on its western border, and of course arms and aid.

When even the United States is handling Pakistan with kid gloves—throwing its weight behind Rawalpindi and Islamabad even in the wake of embarrassing WikiLeaks documents—what choice does India have? We have long given up our advantage over Pakistan by giving them an excuse to openly have nuclear weapons. In any case, as the American failure in Afghanistan and Iraq shows, the days of conventional military wars are gone. If we are to give up on Pakistan and say that trusting Pakistan is futile, it leads to inevitably to look at military options and diplomatic hostility that yield nothing because India is like the cloud that bellows but does not burst.

On the other hand, if we keep up trying to bridge the trust deficit with Pakistan, it can yield something. The concessions India managed from Musharraf are well-known: stopping infiltration into Kashmir, and coming close to resolving the Kashmir dispute. These may not have reached the extent India would have liked, because of Musharraf’s ouster but, were in recent history, very important steps. The behind-the-scenes negotiations with Musharraf showed that talking peace was possible between India and Pakistan, that not all Indo-Pak interactions would end up the way Agra and Sharm el-Sheikh ended. That is why we must take the recent spat between foreign ministers Qureshi and Krishna on the chin and move on with the business of peace. We have no choice but to trust Pakistan. As the buzzword in South Block goes, “trust but verify.”

Not trusting Pakistan would result in our being seen as the bullying big brother, and that doesn’t help in diplomacy. Pakistan’s army establishment has made it clear that, despite the AfPak war, it remains an India-centric force, using Afghanistan merely to gain what it calls “strategic depth.” If we consider trusting Pakistan a futile act, we’re giving into the hands of the hawks in Pindi rather than making alliance with the doves in Isloo. Doing so does not make us weak but clever.

Shivam Vij is a writer based in Delhi.


Yes, while peace is not futile, trust is.

Let’s begin with a bit of political trustworthiness calculus:
T = (CxRxI)/SO
“T”rustworthiness is a worthy goal, but not a prerequisite for peace. In the logic of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR had a long peace because of a nuclear deterrence policy that was based on mutual mistrust. While we peace-loving Gandhians might believe that Mutual Assured Destruction is quite M.A.D., the fact is Americans and Soviets have had fewer wars on their homelands than Indians and Pakistanis have had. And closer to the American motherland, even the love between America and England is not based on some sort of genetic altruism; just as the realpolitik of Obama and Cameron is based on mutual dependence and not mutual trust, the only real hope for the subcontinent is greater economic interdependence.

“C”redibility must increase for trust to increase. While in the past quarter century Indian credibility in terms of governance has gone up, Pakistan’s inability to consistently separate military influence from civilian leadership has lowered its credibility on the world stage.

“R”eliability must increase for trust to increase. Neither India nor Pakistan have been terribly reliable. A reliable partner does what they say they will do. Let’s consider two issues: water and nukes. At Independence, India promised to never turn off the Himalayan spigot that quenches the thirst of Pakistan; New Delhi committed to never deprive Pakistani farmers of water. But, as reported recently in a New York Times article about India’s plan to build the Kishenganga dam, in 1948 “an administrator in India shut off the water supply to a number of canals in Pakistani Punjab. Indian authorities later said it was a bureaucratic mix-up, but in Pakistan, the memory lingers. ‘Once you’ve had a gun put to your head and it’s been cocked, you don’t forget it,’ said [a] Pakistani lawyer” responsible for water cases. And while water is a powerful weapon, imagine having a nuclear weapon pointed at your head. Pakistan has consistently refused to vouchsafe an explanation for the dealings of A.Q. Khan, the so-called father of nuclear proliferation. If Islamabad is unable to reliably safeguard its nuclear know-how, then how can Indians rely on any treaties made with their truculent neighbor?

“I”ntimacy, too, must increase for trust to have a fighting chance. The good news is that because of sports and the arts, South Asians have had considerable intimacy.  But low credibility and reliability diminish the efforts of cricketers, actors, musicians, and writers.

We are left with the denominator SO, or “S”elf “O”rientation. To be sure, if  self orientation approached zero, trustworthiness would go through the roof. But the modern nation state is defined by its own self-interest; jingoistic leaders consistently proclaim “in our country’s best interest” to justify untrustworthy behavior.

While enlightened self-interest is both a cause and effect of peace, let’s not confuse peace with trust.

Dr. Rajesh C. Oza is a change management consultant.

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