IN a rare positive development in Pakistan-India ties, New Delhi had on Thursday accepted an offer by Islamabad about building a new border crossing and road connecting their respective Punjab provinces, making it easier for Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit a religious site in Pakistan.
The corridor will connect Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur to Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district where the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib — the shrine of revered saint Baba Guru Nanak is situated. This is the first that India since the day the BJP Prime Minister was sworn into office has responded positively to a peace offer made by Pakistan. The offer to open the route was made by our Army Chief General Bajwa to the former Indian Cricketer Najov Sindhu at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s swearing in ceremony on August 18, 2018.
Prime Minister Modihas virtually snubbed Pakistan all these five years of his tenure every time we have tried to engage the champion of Hindutva in a sensible dialogue. But saner Indians seem to believe if we don’t get together sooner both would be at the mercy of the global powers.
According to Dr Ranjit Powar (The Misconstrued Percept of Nationalism—published recently on the Iqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education website)a nation can progress and thrive only if there is an environment of peace and goodwill with its neighbours.
“Citizens of countries like Pakistan and India must decide whom to pledge their loyalty to; the well -being of their nation or chest thumping, theatrical, pseudo- nationalist powers. It spells the difference between survival and hunger, illiteracy and poverty.
“Weak nations eventually find themselves at the mercy of the global powers. India and Pakistan must remember that it is just seventy years since they have thrown off the yoke of British imperialism.”
Dr Ranjit Powar is a psychologist who has served with the Indian Punjab Civil Services and earlier as a lecturer with the Punjabi University, Patiala. Besides writing as a freelancer, she works with NGOs for imparting employability training to high school students.
In foreign relations, national self-interests rather than hollow honor and empty pride dictate the decision-making process. Also, in world affairs, like in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. For example see how the decades’ old friends, the US and Europe, are drifting apart dictated by their respective national interests. And the Middle East is going crazy dictated by no one knows by what.
And of course strategic relations without the underpinning of strong economic ties have been known to have withered away when either of the two partners develop, dictated by changing self-interests, new or mutually opposing strategic interests.
India is very keen to reach the Central Asian (CA) markets. It is, therefore, safe to assume that even Modi’s New Delhi would not be averse to offer a mutually agreed Kashmir solution in return for access to CA via land route through Pakistan. This could herald the beginning of a mutually beneficial closer economic cooperation between India and Pakistan.
Had the decades-long Pentagon-GHQ strategic relations been buttressed by meaningful bilateral economic cooperation rather than keeping them solely dependent on defence cooperation the two—the US and Pakistan— would, perhaps, have survived the recent widening of the trust deficit between them.
So, let us also stop looking at the US through the eyes of our Cold War generation. Superpowers don’t have friends. They have clients. If we don’t wish to remain a client of the US anymore, we better not be on its wrong side as well.
The US is an imperialist country. Such countries make friends and enemies on their own terms and in their own self-interest and are not dictated by noble or altruistic sentiments in dealing with other countries, most of whom they regard as their chattels. The best way to deal with such countries is to keep mutual conflicts reduced to the minimum and maintain focus on issues on which the two can cooperate.
This way we could be in a position to encourage the US to leverage its increased understanding with the Indian leadership to help diffuse the nuclear flashpoint that the region has become because of the unresolved Kashmir dispute. Even for India to play ‘a central role beyond its borders’ it will first have to come to some kind of peaceful settlement with Pakistan on all the contentious issues plaguing their bilateral relations.