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Project India?

Here’s my agreement with Shekhar Gupta (“A new Project Pakistan”; Indian Express; August 8): I would not just want a green card or H-1B to migrate.

Written by Ejaz Haider |
August 12, 2009 3:17:01 am

Here’s my agreement with Shekhar Gupta (“A new Project Pakistan”; Indian Express; August 8): I would not just want a green card or H-1B to migrate. I would like all of Pakistan,population and territory,to up and leave. Why take territory along? Because it’s great land,but in a lousy district.

In a decent neighbourhood,perhaps somewhere in Europe,Pakistan would be a Big country. Next to India? Canada to the US,or worse,Mexico to the US — now,Egypt to Israel,forget the irony of size in that case.

Here’s the good news. India does want to live in peace with its neighbours,not just Pakistan. The bad news is it wants peace only on its own terms.

But let’s be more specific about India’s case: Pakistan is trouble; a rogue state with a rogue army that wouldn’t let India “leverage its many newfound strengths”. There is “longing” in India over how to solve this Pakistan problem; how to leave it behind or aside “or,in a more perfect world,even [take it along as a partner,not adversary”. Not possible,perhaps because Pakistan is configured in the wrong way.

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Corollary: Pakistan is congenitally bad. Dilemma: that,if accepted,would also mean India can do zip,zilch and zero to make Pakistan right. In the real world does such reasoning make policy? No.

Notice the emphasis. Pakistan must do this,that etc. The onus of change is on Pakistan. India and the world have to find some way of getting Pakistan to behave,realise the folly of its actions,maybe throw it some crumbs,toys for its uniformed boys,development money and so on.

Deconstruct this,shall I? India sits there,sage-like,shaking its head over the misconduct of a small brash boy who is always too big for his boots. Sometimes it is about the folly of Partition; at times it is about the ideology of Pakistan; now it is Pakistan’s military-bureaucratic combine and its hold over that country. India also has a Pakistan problem because Pakistan has a Kashmir problem.

Shekhar Gupta is spot-on when he talks about “creative thinking”. Let’s try it.

How about India begin to put Pakistan’s “perfidious” behaviour in a “context” given that Gupta himself has identified the “burdens of history” which impact further the tyranny of geography and in turn create more bad history?

Putting things in context is generally accepted to be helpful for problem-solving. For,at least in a moment of realisation,we can also feel the feathery touch of empathy.

Gupta’s “impatient” American interlocutor was right when he said that “‘the Indians only talk to us about five LeT guys who were caught infiltrating last week’ rather than engage on what to do with Pakistan”. He was implying just this. LeT is not the problem because it is operating — or is made to — in a context. Change the context and LeT will disappear. But no,it is much easier to talk and talk incessantly about LeT because that can dodge the real issue(s).

Of course the context can be changed in many ways,not all of which can be benign. India could kick Pakistan’s backside and alter the ground realities once and for all. But if that is not possible — and as a student of military affairs I don’t think it is,at least in the near future — then perhaps a new approach,more benign and fruitful for both sides,may be in order.

Should this approach,however,be based on an Egypt-Israel model; can it be? I have grave doubts. Gupta has been a Pakistan hand for a long time. If he almost laments that there was no Hosni Mubarak “parked in the closet” to replace Pakistan’s Sadat,then I am not too hopeful about those in India who haven’t had much of an opportunity to visit and/ or study Pakistan.

There is also a contradiction here,one deeply ironic. On the one hand the perfidy presumably flows from the military-bureaucratic combine. On the other the democratic transition is supposed to have first thrown out a Sadat,then blocked the way of a Mubarak and,resultantly,by that logic,thwarted the Egypt-Israel-like peace that was almost reaching fruition.

India does have a Pakistan problem but it is not about the “nature of Pakistani society and Establishment”; it is because India has an India problem,not just in relation to Pakistan but vis-à-vis all its neighbours. It follows the realist model for itself and seeks Lockean cooperation from others. That is what needs to change before we can be creative and think of new ways to partner each other even in an imperfect world.

The writer is Op-Ed Editor ‘Daily Times’. The views expressed are his own

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