Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution organized one-day seminar on May 29, 2014, in collaboration with Department of Political science, Lahore College for Women University, Lahore, titled as “Pakistan-India Cooperation: A Way Forward”. The key speakers were: Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi, renowned Political Scientist and Defence Analyst and Dr. Shabbir Ahmed, Assistant Professor in Department of Political Science, Punjab University, Lahore. Prof. Dr. Sabiha Mansoor, Vice Chancellor Lahore College for Women University, Lahore welcomed the guests. Ms. Sabah Aslam, Executive Director, Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) concluded the seminar.
The seminar was well-attended by students of Political Science, International Relations, and Pakistan Studies, faculty members, scholars, young researchers, and media persons. They patiently listened to the speakers and actively participated in question answer session. The speakers gave a fresh input on the on-going debate of Pakistan-India relations, especially after the political change in India through May 2014 elections in which Mr. Narender Modi’s politically right and religiously oriented party BJP, has emerged as victorious. With the emergence of Mr. Modi, various questions are raised regarding nature of future relationship between Pakistan and India.
The guest speakers, while keeping in view global and regional imperatives, were optimistic about the future cooperation between India and Pakistan and agreed that it is high time two nations learned from past and never allowed it to damage present and the future cooperation between the two.
The key objective of the seminar was to address those questions that arise out of new situation developed because of domestic political change in the two countries and the changing regional and global dynamics. It was aimed to make the participants develop a rational discourse about the changing circumstances in international relations and especially about the on-going debates about the future of Pakistan-India Relations. The seminar also aimed to engage students to apply their knowledge in understanding new situations in international affairs.
Prof. Dr. Sabiha Mansoor:
The Vice Chancellor of LCWU, Prof. Dr. Sabiha Mansoor welcomed the guests and appreciated the IICR Team for organizing a seminar on the right occasion and topic. She said nobody wants war, everybody is pacifist and our new generation has more inclination towards peace and cooperation. There is a greater need for enhancing cooperation between Pakistan and India. Two nations have already drained their resources on defeating each other militarily. There is urgent need to turn the pages of history and write a new chapter of cooperation.
Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi:
The key-note speaker at the seminar Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi, a renowned Political Scientist and Defence Analyst, said that the relations between the two nations have always been shaped by domestic politics. Dr. Askari said, whenever there is debate on the subject of Pakistan India Cooperation, it give rise to so many controversies since the subject is part of the domestic politics. And the recent visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to India for witnessing oath-taking ceremony of Mr. Modi, has received mixed reactions in different quarters including Media. We need to keep emotions aside and try to understand the nature and delicacy of the problem. You have to deal with India, BJP, and Modi without negative reaction, you have to acknowledge the success of Modi, whether it is good or bad decision of electorate.
The emergence of political right and religiously oriented party in India has generated much reaction in Pakistan. It is believed in some quarters of media that BJP has won the elections on the basis of hatred against Pakistan. Mr. Askari, while rejecting such discourse, explained that it was internal task of economic welfare and poor performance of congress that have contributed in the success of Narender Modi. He said, “BJP’s Past has nothing to do with elections”. He agreed that there are extremist elements in in India i.e RSS, but on other hand there is much support of corporate sector to Mr. Modi, which will not want any war/conflict. Mr. Askari stressed that, Mr. Modi has got image problem, it is in his interest to develop good relations with Pakistan; and to recover that he invited SAARC leaders including Mr. Sharif in oath-taking ceremony. To Mr. Askari, this was a positive development which has “unfrozen the frozen dialogue process”. However, there is a diplomatic challenge for them in finding a middle ground
when both states follow a different approach towards resolution of dispute. Another challenge is to make the resumed dialogue more sustainable.
There is a challenge for Mr. Modi to develop his positive image and creating balance in internal ethnically and religiously diverse India.
There are two ways to deal with the problem between India and Pakistan. First is delving into past; but problem is that the discussion on both sides is similar. Both the nations carry with themselves the baggage of historical grievances, with a charge sheet against each other. To Mr. Askari, this is ineffective way and is the major cause of stalemate. The second approach, which Mr. Askari advocated is to learn from past and move forward. “You cannot to be the prisoners of past”, said Dr. Askari, “You have to draw lessons from history and take steps cautiously and lead the situation in positive direction”
Dr. Askari underscored that the effectiveness of foreign policy depends on the internal strength which comes through firstly having political and societal harmony; that is what the social and political nature of conflict is, such as terrorism which has social and political dimension, and secondly having sound economy. Dr. Askari stressed that without sound economy you cannot make foreign policy effective. He believe that independent economy automatically widens the foreign policy options, and wide options in foreign policy matter a lot in securing national interest, which are achieved through internal strength. During cold war era some major power came to help you as part of global politics but today there is no such situation where some external power may come and rescue you.
Mr. Askari suggested Pakistan needs to diversify its foreign policy and do away with dependence on external powers through building internal social, political and economic strength. Pakistan’s challenge is internal, that is of economy, terrorism and other social problems; if it deals with them successfully, it can deal India as well. Modi’s challenge is his image and Indian global aspirations, which would be achieved when he develops good relations with Pakistan
He suggested Pakistan should continue its policy of dialogue. He pointed out that both nations want to resolve their problems but unfortunately there is a difference of approach. Indian approach to the dialogue based on single issue and Pakistan’s on multiple issues is the real challenge for diplomacy. He warned that single issue relationship would not work for dialogue. If multiple issues are taken into account like Kashmir, Sir Creek, water, movement of people, and economy, there will be likely progress on some issues and some issues will further thinking and deliberations.
He suggested that carry on those issues which some amount of progress. Through diplomacy the difficult and frozen situations are resolved, and there is a diplomatic challenge to harmonize Pakistan India Relations. He said Pakistan needs to wait for few months as the new government in India fully establishes and hope that has developed out of Pakistani PM’s visit to India to take a concrete shape. However, to Mr. Askari, there are challenges attached to this hope.
Answering a question on MFN, he said giving access to Pakistani Market is separate from giving India corridor to Afghanistan. Pakistan will have a right to stop goods from India. On
another question, Mr. Askari suggested that, Pakistan needs to understand Indian Political System and design foreign policy keeping in view internal contradictions of India
Mr. Shabbir Ahmed:
Another speaker Mr. Shabbir Ahmed, Assistant Professor in Punjab University, stressing on future he said he is seeing a good future of Pakistan-India cooperation. Emphatically, Mr. Shabbir warned, “If you look at the past, you can’t move forward, you have to bury the past.” He pointed out imperatives that lead to future cooperation between two nations. Firstly, issue of terrorism brings two nations closer because both have suffered at the hands of terrorist. There is coincidence of stance on it. Secondly, both are now democratic nations, and the democratic principle both sides make them less feasible to go for war. Thirdly, global politics is supporting cooperation; it is moving from traditional security towards non-traditional security; it is focusing on socio-economic development. Fourthly, Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif share the same vision, both represent corporate sector. Fifthly, war is not an option for both to resolve the issues, probably it was in1960’s, but now it is not since both are nuclear states. Pakistan is an important regional state, and regional politics would impose certain concerns. Finally, vision of founding fathers, especially Quai-i-Azam, is based on peace and friendly relations with neighbors. He envisaged the relations between India and Pakistan same like that of US and Canada. Mr. Shabbir set European history of conflicts and its transformation into cooperation and as an exemplary point.
Ms. Sabah Aslam:
While concluding the session, the Executive Director of Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR), Ms. Sabah Aslam, said that the relationship between India and Pakistan are marred by the deep scars dating back to Partition of sub-continent with animosity embedded in the memory lane of both nations. What started from the skewed Radcliff award has developed into wide gulf furthered each time by military show downs, proxy, media and lately water wars.
More so, she pointed out that we have tried traditional military and non-military means already which appear to have not worked so far. Media efforts, cultural exchanges, enhanced business, relaxed trade and sports etc. must continue, as these help in defusing tension and increase interdependence which is an important step in enhancing prospects of reconciliation. However, it must be realised that such efforts cannot progress well, if these are one sided. The euphoria and efforts of years must not be allowed to die down by imprudent acts. If Pakistan’s water is stopped, interference by India in Baluchistan and support to anti – federation forces continues, and if Pakistan interferes in India, how can the relations between both improve?
To be fare both need to sit and listen to each other’s’ grievances, and take steps to address the genuine ones, she suggested. Both the countries have paid enough of human and economic costs. As said by the PM Nawaz Sharif, one and a half billion people’s lives, their future and progression are dependent upon the progress both leaders make on the peace process. She stressed that there is a need to detach the process from past and make a fresh beginning. Words, Jargons and terminologies are not important. What is important is to move forward and not look back to the dark alleys. Neither India and nor Pakistan are in a position to solve the problems by military or economic war, which would at best bring stale mate and devastation.
While highlighting the considerable potential for trade in the entire South Asian region, Ms. Sabah said that regional integration is only possible when the two nuclear powers would be together as trade partners. It would open new venues of cooperation for South Asia. In fact, regional integration is a key for economic growth and intra-regional trade and would also produce considerable economic gains for South Asia.
Hence future of both Nations lies in resolving the bilateral disputes through negotiations, while staying within the broad parameters of partition and taking care of each other’s legitimate concerns. Both the leaders owe this to their people.
She thanked all the participants for taking keen interest in the seminar and active involvement in the discussions. She said she had been greatly indebted to the gratitude of whole Department of Political Science and wished great future to young researchers and students.