By Humayun Gauhar

Should one treat the symptoms so that the disease becomes tolerable or cure the disease so that the symptoms go away: that is the question. India and Pakistan are taking the former route. Thus the disease will not be cured. That danger will remain that it will flare up again one day again.

India’s response to this formulation is disheartening. One feels that one is barking up a sapling rather than a tree. It seems that one is ahead of time, maturity and understanding on both sides.

Indians need to get over themselves and their poverty-hiding overblown ‘economic miracle’ and their recent alliance with America’s China-centric geo strategic obsession that will only damage it in the long run as it has Pakistan and much of the rest of the world. It took Abbotabad and Salala for us to get over our geo-strategic ‘importance’ that is actually a curse. It finished our six-decade long crush on America a crush that is actually mental colonization.

India will get over itself when the hollowness of its ‘economic miracle’ is exposed and they see abject poverty and human degradation around them, caused not least by their bad blood with their entire neighbourhood. A legless economy based on services, assembly and reverse engineering of foreign goods is inevitably shown up one day.

Peace is the only option, but only a peace that is acceptable to all protagonists lasts. That is honourable. Else it is not peace at all, only an illusion of it – a diplomatic ceasefire. India and Pakistan are champion self-illusionists. Illusions evaporate fast. Disputes are the music that makes us dance to the tune of the hegemon.

Pakistanis are a very optimistic people. Any India-Pakistan meeting and they feel that peace is at hand, which shows that we are basically a peace-loving people. Which makes our lack of peace at home ironic, but that is another subject. So when the Indian foreign minister came for talks this week we went through naive excitement for the umpteenth time. The only outcome was an easier visa regime and agreement to talk more. Good, for people should realize that crafting peace from intricate and emotional disputes is a long process in which progress is made inch-by-centimetre.

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But we should realize that treating symptoms does not cure the disease. We think that if we tackle the symptoms first the disease will either go away or be submerged in the plethora of growing mutual economic self-interest. Were that such was the case. See how Quebec has raised its head again violently and how Scotland is inching towards independence peacefully. Peace in the subcontinent will not come until the people of Kashmir are happy with their lot.

It bears repetition: India’s state terrorism begets and reinforces freedom struggles that it calls non-state terrorism. Blaming Pakistan deflects attention from its state terrorism. Sure Pakistan gives the Kashmiri freedom struggle succor as any adversary would, like India did East Pakistan’s ‘Mukti Baheni’. But it was our own state terrorism against the Bengalis that was the root cause. India took advantage, as any adversary would.  If Pakistan were to ignore Kashmir the struggle might lose some of its teeth, but only for a while. It will soon grow new ones.

The revolt in Kashmir is a creation of Indian intransigence that Pakistan takes advantage of. State terrorism begets non-state terrorism. Non-state terrorism will remain no matter how many treaties you sign while brushing core issues under a carpet dyed with blood and woven with the weak threads of bilateral trade, tourism, film production and cricket matches. As long as state terrorism persists non-state terrorism will continue. Period. I cannot understand why the world cannot comprehend such a self-evident truth.

India is a large country with a small country mentality. Pakistan is a relatively small country with a big country mentality. Our complexes come from the millennium-long Muslim rule over India – we cannot forget that Muslims once ruled over the Hindus and Hindus cannot forget that Muslims once ruled over them. We should realize that eventually all became Indians, regardless of religious persuasion. Our enmity was caused by Britain’s divide and rule policies. Both should have disabused themselves of such complexes by now. India, I feel, is beginning to get out of this mindset but it will not be totally eradicated until future generations of both countries, less burdened by stories of slavery and Partition, are at the helm. Land and population sizes don’t matter, the human condition does. That the majority of our peoples live in abject poverty makes us puny. By that measure – and the human condition is the only relevant measure – Singapore is a much bigger country than either India or Pakistan. Its real resource is the high quality of its leadership and its better human capital. By these measures, India and Pakistan are pathetic.

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Strong and wise rulers on both sides can bring detente. Neither Zardari nor Manmohan Singh can be accused of either strength or wisdom. Cleverness, yes; strength, hardly; wisdom, not a jot. Only strong and wise leaders can ‘sell’ an inevitably compromise-laden agreement to their peoples without their patriotism being questioned.

It is anomalous where real power lies in both countries. In Pakistan internal security, defence and foreign policies are in the purview of the military and intelligence agencies – as it is in America too. The rest is with Pakistan’s ceremonial president because he is also co-chairman of the ruling party by virtue of being Benazir Bhutto’s widower – a constitutional anomaly for he is a partisan president. Regardless, that is where his power comes from. In India, an Italian catholic lady is leader of the ruling party only because she is Rajiv Gandhi’s widow. That is where her power comes from. The military leaderships of both countries have to be on board in any deal. That’s realistic. While our army’s role in policy-making is well known, the Indian military’s role is camouflaged.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh belongs to the small Sikh minority and is keenly aware that he has to go the extra mile to ‘prove’ his patriotism in the backdrop of the Sikh rebellion for an independent state, the storming of the Golden Temple and the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Pakistan’s prime minister is in office at Zardari’s pleasure – and now a hyperactive Supreme Court’s pleasure too.

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Should we forget Kashmir the core issue and the UN resolutions requiring a plebiscite there? Or should we sort it out first? Or, should we put it on the backburner and normalize relations in other areas – what India calls ‘Confidence Building Measures’? Kashmir will not let us forget it as long as a freedom struggle rages there. It will continue raging whether we support it or not. As long as it does, the sword of Damocles will keep hanging for it takes only one madman on either side to start a nuclear conflagration. Best to do all three simultaneously, what Musharraf and Vajpayee called a ‘Composite Dialogue’, and hope for the best. What is needed is statesmanship on both sides and lots of guts. Leave it to functionaries and you will continue nitpicking for another six decades.

India and Pakistan should stop tussling over an America-free Afghanistan and arrive at a mutually acceptable understanding. Afghanistan may not want either of us anyway. As if killing ourselves over Kashmir isn’t enough, we cannot go killing ourselves over Afghanistan too.

America wants peace for its own reasons. It realizes that war between India and Pakistan could be another World War in which the US and its traditional allies will suffer unacceptable multi-sectoral damage, regardless of what happens to India and Pakistan. What it actually wants is to free India from ‘Pakistani sniping’ and make it its South Asian watchdog, free to focus on creating an economic and military bulwark against growing Chinese economic and military might.

The conundrum is that while America wants India-Pakistan normalization, it doesn’t want them ganging up either to form a South Asian Economic Association that has the seeds of becoming another giant. China and even Russia could come into the fold. Can you then imagine what a ‘monster’ the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with the South Asian Economic Association could become? Soon energy-rich Iran and the Central Asian states would want part of the action – and Afghanistan too. America won’t like that, but then what America wants and what it gets are two different things.