Talks that may create history -- by Muhammad Ahsan Yatu Back   Home  

Invitation to Pervez Musharraf is a well-planned affair, and the Indians have chosen a perfectly right time for it. If a graph between development and time were plotted for India and Pakistan, it would show that India has been moving upwards, on a favourable self-built gradient, slowly during its first forty years and speedily afterwards: Whereas Pakistan has been moving on an unfamiliar slope, built by the others; sometimes impressively but often depressingly. Thus, the graphic lines would apparently carry no information that is not known before. But graphs do not speak for past and present only, they also tell us about the probable future. So, the point, where the descending line of Pakistan and ascending line of India would meet is of utmost importance. It would be a point in time that would be so critical for both the countries. The fact is that the lines have already met and that point in time has arrived.

Indians have reached a stage, where they would like to come out of self-containment and the containment imposed on them by the Americans. They are eagerly looking for westward opening via land. It would ensure them sustainability and even further enrichment to their economic growth, through the access to raw but rich markets of Central Asia. They would also find an easy and cheap solution to the increasing demand of energy; and that would be another major benefit to them. If it happens now, it would push them a decade ahead within a couple of years. Not happening so would certainly slow down their movement on the rising gradient. If it were delayed and delayed, then the others would come in, and would consolidate their position. With the passing of time, the Indians would lose enormously, and they are quite clear about it.

Pakistan has perhaps reached a stage from where it cannot afford further slide downwards. Presently it is living entirely on external (American) help, and that is not even enough to keep it afloat. Impact of structural reforms in economy has brought the undesired results. It was a squeeze methodology and it had to bring down the growth—because it was applied on an unformed economy, which was also in recession. Finance Minister’s pleasant predictions notwithstanding, the situation would remain the same in the coming years. Given the economic instruments that we are working with, which includes shortage of resources, skill, and knowledge, no amount of reforms can enhance a GDP growth of 2.6% to required 7% in the indicated time period. The primary sectors of agriculture and industry are not performing to their full; hence all the dependent sectors are suffering. To revive them, we need at least two billion dollars in addition to what we are spending on them now. The money has to come from somewhere. Not more other than the routine rescheduling assistance would come from outside. The money won’t come from inside either. Not much is in the pockets of the people, and nothing is left with the State after debt servicing and defence spending. Though essentially required, the defence spending cannot be curtailed drastically and suddenly, as it is now being consumed mostly in salaries, pensions, relief, welfare and logistics. So, we have to get money from somewhere. If it doesn’t come, then the poverty would increase further. Presently 40% of population is living below poverty line. If it reaches 60%, then it would become irreversible and this point needs serious attention of our policy makers.

So, both countries are in a situation that demands resolution of conflicts. Indian invitation is based on related calculations and it is part of a well-thought out strategy, and they are absolutely serious about it; and no one should doubt their sincerity. Similarly the fact that the General is clear on the politico-economic affairs of Pakistan needs to be appreciated though; it is unfortunate that he seems to be the lone educated voice in the ruling hierarchy. And that can be inferred so easily from his recent speech, which he made before a gathering of Scientists, and wherein he explicitly said that we are short of required resources and knowledge. This is a reality that no ruler, no scientist, no writer and no Pakistani has ever admitted. Perhaps none knew about it or those who knew kept on hiding it due to vested interests.

How the two countries can become conflict free? Answer to the question would form the real agenda for the Delhi Summit. Westward opening is the requirement not only for India, but also for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact the latter two need it more if they have not decided to live with the bare minimum (primitivism) forever. It would fetch Pakistan billions of dollars through Gas Pipe line Projects and transit trade. But the trade route won’t open unless India and Pakistan act together. Indians will have to use their relationship with the Central Asian States, Russia and Iran, so that the Northern Alliance is brought to the negotiating table.

Accordingly Pakistan will have to use its influence on the Taliban to soften their rigidity. The exercise should lead to formation of a moderate government in Afghanistan, in which the Taliban would certainly have a good share. And that would ensure a Pakistan-friendly rule in Afghanistan. Even otherwise all that the regional countries would like to happen, is emergence of a moderate Afghanistan, and how close it remains to Pakistan would not worry them, particularly, if the trade route opens and the economic activity begins. Contrary to normal perception the Chinese will also welcome such development.

On Kashmir any solution that would bring peace should be acceptable to all. Not much can be changed on ground through militancy or through talks. It is possible only through a war, but another war between India and Pakistan is a closed chapter. Not due to so-called nuclear deterrent, but due to compulsions of economy. Indians would not like to waste their achievements, and Pakistan would not afford to fight with a bad economy behind. Yet the matters must not be left as they are. Kashmiris need to be saved from the kind of intellectual and physical destruction that Afghans faced. Thus, more authority to Indian Kashmiris in self-governance is one solution and one option, the limits of which should be explored; and that would require the inclusion of Indian Kashmiris in the dialogue. It may not happen during the coming short visit of the General, but the two leaders can chalk out the modalities of how sooner they would talk again, taking Kashmiris also with them.

How America would react to the situation and to the new relationship between India and Pakistan is a point to ponder over. Now it is no secret that America was behind the Indo-Pak enmity. Armitage has recently said all about it. Would America tolerate a great connection extending from Bengal to Russia? If the two leaders reach a peace agreement covering all the above subjects, then it should mean that the Americans have given their blessings. The reason for that could be the same old American desire of reducing the Russian influence in the region. They might be willing to do it at any cost. Through break-up of the Soviet Union and through promotion of religious militancy they have failed; by encouraging the combined Indo-Pak entry into Central Asia they may succeed.

If somehow solution of two major issues requires more time, then the two leaders should agree to halt the active confrontation, and the work on Gas Pipe line from Iran to India should begin; and that would surely pave the way for ultimate peace. Let us hope that the Indo-Pak leadership would succeed in creating a kind of relationship that may, one day, de-monopolise the world politics.

This article was published in I am tired of reading to the Pak media's boosting Pakistan.. this article has a different view. Read it.