May 26, 2014 was a historic day in Indian politics. On this day the fifteenth Prime Minister of India was sworn in. Pakistan’s Prime Minister personally attended the ceremony. Later, there was also a meeting between the two prime ministers. This event holds out great hopes for many people, for they believe that this may be a fresh beginning which will give a new direction to the relationship between India and Pakistan.
Optimism is good, but in practical life it is reality that always prevails, and not optimism. The experience of the past is enough to make us believe that the problems between India and Pakistan cannot be solved by conventional methods. Now is the time to rethink the whole matter. It requires a creative formula. A creative formula is never based on idealism: it can be based only on pragmatism. Practically speaking, pragmatism is the only option in this regard.
India and Pakistan have tried to solve their problems through wars, track-two diplomacy, through the so-called internationalization of the issue, and so on. But, all these have failed to give the required result. Now we need a fresh outlook.
What I mean by a fresh outlook is not ‘fresh’ in the complete sense of the word. It is, in fact, the revival of a wise formula initially suggested by an eminent economist from Pakistan, Dr. Mahbub ul Haq. But it didn’t prove to be acceptable to the Pakistani people at that time. He was forced to leave Pakistan and settled in New York where he died at an early age on July 16, 1998.
His formula was based on the delinking policy, which means the delinking of political and economic issues, and on the notion that trade should not be held hostage to the Kashmir dispute. (Indo-Pak Relations: New Voices for Peace, Rita Manchanda, Journal of Peace Studies, Vol. 3, Issue 14, January-February, 1996)
The delinking policy in this regard means putting controversial issues on the negotiation table, and opening up all other relationships such as trade, education, free intellectual activity, business, industry, tourism, and so on.
Life is full of problems at the individual, social and international levels. The best and wisest course is to not allow problems to become hurdles in the path of development. It is good to try to solve the problems, but in practice, it is not a good option. The better option is to observe the principle of differentiation, that is, leaving aside the controversial issues and opening all doors to avail of other opportunities, without any restriction.
This concept is justified by reason. A successful example of this formula can be found in the post-Second World War era of Japan. After WWII, there was a problem like that of Kashmir between the US and Japan. This centred on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which had been occupied by the US after the war. Japan adopted the same delinking policy with regard to this island and diverted its energies toward post-war development. The result was miraculous: within thirty years Japan emerged as an economic superpower of the world.
In 1947 Pakistan came into existence on account of the two-nation theory. But in reality, these two nations ended up as two conflicting neighbours. This nature of Partition made two close neighbours into two distant neighbours, as described by Kuldip Nayar in his Distant Neighbours (1972). Now the question is not how to try to completely end the problems, but how to stay as good neighbours, in spite of the problems. The only practical formula in this situation is the delinking policy that was successfully adopted by Japan.
This issue is not an isolated one. It is very much related to the development of both the countries. It is a fact that due to this situation, both India and Pakistan have been engaged in several wars. This is not good for either of the countries. At present there is a Cold War-like situation between the two countries. This situation between neighbouring countries is disastrous in terms of the outcome for both. Reason tells us that if the ideal is not possible, then we have to opt for the pragmatic solution. Therefore, it is in the best interests of both the countries to bring an end to this unwanted situation. The above solution is based on this logic.
After Independence, the first requirement for both countries was to develop themselves on world standards. However, this hasn’t happened to date. For example, in both countries there is not a single university that measures up to international standards. This is the basic problem. Because of the situation that existed between the two countries, after Independence both were forced to enter into an arms race. Consequently, they spent huge amounts from their budget on defence which they should have spent on their development. A permanent settlement should be brought about between the two countries, if not on an ideal basis, then on a pragmatic basis.
(The author is an Islamic scholar and the founder of the Centre for Peace and Spirituality International)