The enduring India – Pakistan rivalry should end

In an interview with BBC Urdu, the former Pakistani ISI chief Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani opined that India is no longer a big threat to Pakistan. One may agree with him or not, the reality is both the countries are indulged in deep problems at the moment. The leaderships on both sides of the border may not be able to scapegoat their failures by starting a clash any time soon following the diversionary theory of war. The diversionary theory suggests that when leaders are worried about their own popularity at home, they divert the attention of the public from their own failures by indulging in a conflict with a foreign power. The internal chaos in India is too serious to start any false flag operation – and so is in Pakistan.

It is a mere utopia to dream of friendly relations – at least for many years to come. But there is always space to reduce the degree of hostilities and focus inwards. Militaries are trained to fight and fight they must for security. The problems start when the general public becomes hyper nationalist and start romanticizing the notion of war. Once xenophobic sentiments start arising, it is difficult to calm the public with sugary slogans of peace. Sentiments without rationale are brutish. They cannot help a nation progress, rather deprive it of any measure to calm down tensions with a perceived enemy. It is for the benefit of both nations – especially Pakistan – to collaborate with the neighbor for a durable peace and prosperity. Only a long-term collaboration between the two countries can help develop the region.

The development requires economic resources, peace loving population and sociopolitical stability. With a security dilemma between a garrison Pakistan and an offensive India, a big chunk of resources is utilized on defense that could alternatively be used on the people. Unfortunately, the very same people have also become obsessed with war without realizing its impacts. The problem of security is a manufactured one. It is not natural. Both are nuclear powers and it is not possible to win a full-fledged war by anyone without extensive damage to itself. It is in the benefit of both the states to have co-opetition. Coopetition is an analogy usually used to describe the relationship between business firms that cooperate and compete simultaneously. In this regard, worth mentioning is a research article co-authored by scholars from Pakistan, Sweden, and Finland (Raza-Ullah, T., Bengtsson, M., & Kock, S. 2014. “The coopetition paradox and tension in coopetition at multiple levels”. Industrial marketing management). The authors use a paradox lens to show that although cooperation and competition are two contradictory logics of interaction, yet they are interdependent and interrelated. The main point made is that for a long-term beneficial relationship, it is crucial to strike a balance between cooperation and competition. If one of the interactions, whether cooperation or competition, largely overwhelms the other, the relationship will likely dissolve and virtually no benefits can be attained. On the one hand, a significant level of cooperation allows the rival firms to access each other’s knowledge, resources, and technologies to develop profitable products and thus to achieve superior gains that are not possible alone. On the other hand, a healthy level of competition pushes individual firms to continuously innovate and thus be ahead of all competitors. In the Indo-Pak context, the rivalrous spirit (i.e., competition) between the two countries is too high whereas the level of cooperation is too low (or even non-existent) despite the fact that there are tremendous amounts of cooperation opportunities.

Going back to history, French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a plan to integrate Coal and Steel industries in Western Europe after the devastating second World War. Although it was not the only factor for a lasting peace in Europe but it did help set up a base for functionalism. For Pakistan and India to look forward to a perpetual peace, it is necessary to integrate the society. Functionalism suggests that instead of focusing on hard talks on sensitive issues, soft measures can be taken first to make way for resolving the difficult problems. Trade promotes peace. Most states that trade with each other have amicable relations. People-to-people contact creates harmony. Majorities at both sides of the border are concerned over the minority rights at the other sides – yet keeping the eyes close at home. Resolving this issue would definitely pave the way for more harmonious relations between the different communities. Kartarpur corridor is one step in that regard. Science has no religion or nationality. Both countries can collaborate a lot on science, especially in technological fields and medical grounds. Functionalism is often believed to work only in Europe. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. It can work in other parts of the world too. The political elites can always work together for the well-being of the people. The problems at home are affecting a huge population that does not deserve to suffer because of a prisoner’s dilemma between the nuclear archrivals.

Some may say that the problem of enduring rivalry is structural. The structure of the world is anarchic and it is difficult to attain peace in an anarchic environment. The increase in the defensive capabilities of India, even if their focus is not on Pakistan, are perceived by Pakistan as offensive which compels Pakistan to increase its own defense capabilities. That, in turn, raises feelings of insecurity in India and an unending security dilemma starts. States can see the capabilities of other states but it is hardly possible to accurately predict the intentions of other states. Hence, they remain skeptical of each other leading to the prisoner’s dilemma. The cost is very high to remain stuck in it for a long time but the benefit to come out of it is equally great. There is no abracadabra to fix all the prevailing crises with a magic wand. It will require hard efforts. But more importantly, an honest will.

M. Abdul Basit
M. Abdul Basit
The author belongs to Pakistan and writes on international relations and sociopolitical issues. Twitter: @AbdulBasit0419