The final solution to India Vs Pakistan conflict

The assumption here is that we want a final solution which ends the increasingly absurd conflict between India and Pakistan. The solution needs to be such that both India and Pakistan start focusing their energies and resources on things that matter to the well being of their desperately poor citizens– health, education, safety, employment etc, and not waste their money on bombs and fighter jets. This can happen only when the final solution results in peace and respect between these two desperate warring countries. Just accepting this as the final solution (Versus annihilation of the other as the endgame), suggests a different approach to resolving this conflict than how they have been approaching it till now.

Pakistan is burning itself up in trying to stake its claim on India’s territory and living in the past. India cant make up its mind on whether to play the victim or the aggressor against a much weaker Pakistan, both of which make it look terrible given its size. Both countries are trying to make a public display of the fight and hoping that someone watching will come to stop them or help them. But the world carries on with its own problems to give either any attention. There is no military solution to this, or we would have one by now.

With Modi reshaping India’s foreign policy, we are veering towards a more aggressive stance against Pakistan. Mr Narendra modi’s UN speech was bold and fresh and did show India’s spine. He took on Nawaz Sahrif’s UN speech and the Indian media erupted in its adulation of Modi. But with the media going overboard in its praise, I wasn’t sure if his speech was that good. Was it because he had paid for the journalists tickets with my Tax money to cover his USA visit that they felt obligated to make such a fuss about it? (How else would every single news channel in India send in a full news coverage team, when they dont bother to leave their studios for covering news within India). The purpose of the speech seemed more to connect with India’s domestic Audience than make progress in the mutual relationship. I saw too many empty seats at the UN, maybe that is the normal level of attendance, the world press barely mentioned his visit. Basically the world wasn’t quite paying attention, and it showed lack of any grand vision to resolving the conflict.

The central problem with Pakistan remains un-addressed, and it is not Kashmir. Even if Kashmir gets resolved, Pakistan will find a new issue. The DNA of Pakistan is founded on a hatred towards India – politically and militarily. Their military doctrine is based on causing harm to India, to extract revenge for the defeats they have suffered, and not of merely protecting Pakistan. Their Political institutions are poor and derive their legitimacy from creating this perception of fear against India. Taking an anti-India position helps the politicians position themselves closer to the powerful and unaccountable Pakistani military. Somewhere religion/ geopolitics/ politics all get mixed up in Pakistani politics and it can be tough to figure who to even talk to in this mess.

All this is in sharp contrast to how Pakistani citizens relate to Indians beyond the political brinkmanship. Anyone from India who has visited Pakistan or has met Pakistanis will always talk about how polite and loving Pakistani’s are towards Indian’s. Most of the conversations will even start with an apology at how badly the political leader behave with each other. It feels like two brothers who broke up on a bitter note, but still feel something for each other. The common long history of the subcontinent cant just be wished away. And this may even be the thread that India needs to be pick on to move towards the final solution.

The only path to the final solution is for Pakistan to have a change of heart. Such a change cant be forced, it will not come about by humiliating them, or by sulking, or showing who has a bigger missile. It can only happen by India showing willingness to engage, while factoring in that there are multiple actors involved here who will try their best to upset any goodwill that may evolve by positive gestures. Basically, the onus of taking the initiative lies with India, being the bigger one in the equation. India needs to learn a new way to engage with its estranged younger and bitter brother – be willing to make grand open gestures unconditionally. It needs to factor in betrayal by Pakistani politicians and military, but continue to reach out to the Pakistani People somehow. It needs to create an environment where the Pakistani citizen sees through the veil that their leaders keep on the relationship, the divisiveness and jingoism that is so easy to muster in a political rally and make everyone forget the poverty and economic misery that they live in.

Pakistan is in misery, and India can help. Lets keep the borders strong, lets definitely show spine when there is a transgression as India is doing now at the border, but start reaching out unconditionally keeping the big picture in mind which India is not doing enough of. We need to start binding Pakistan into an economic and cultural bond with India, in which a military conflict starts to look absurd. Given the low level of economic activity with Pakistan, they have nothing to lose by keeping the belligerent posture.

This is the only way to melt hearts – know our bigness, learn to forgive and to move on. But in the process India should also not act like a doormat. The sulking by India has to stop, the cricket teams need to start visiting each other, the cultural engagement needs to be encouraged no matter what the provocation. This however would be the wrong approach with China, as I wrote on the blog – How should India respond to Chinese Aggression.

So here is a wish going out that relationship between India and Pakistan heals, that we come together to alleviate the misery of the single biggest cluster of humanity on the planet, to take them out of poverty, and create an economic and cultural  ecosystem where we stand together as brothers again.

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