Why our approach to Pakistan is messed up.

Pak Army's foreign policy


I think our approach to Pakistan is messed up. Here’s why I think so.

Pakistan is not our equal.

Not economically. Not in population size. And certainly not in the way they conduct affairs of the state. Pakistan now stands teetering at the edge of a precipice. India, on the other hand, has a much brighter future notwithstanding our many flaws. They should not be treated as an equal. If you can believe me, I don’t mean this in a dismissive, contemptuous way. I mean it as a matter of fact. A junior minister of state in external affairs should be deputed to engage with their foreign minister. Our external affairs minister should engage directly with their President, and none less. Our Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition should not comment publicly on or engage with anyone from that country.

I support the position of our Prime Minister when he recently remarked that the recent provocations from Pakistan deserve no more than a tactical response, that we should not indulge in jingoism, and that the matter of how we deter the Pakistani army is best left to professionals in the Indian Army. In contrast, I found Ms. Sushma Swaraj’s “Get me 10 heads for one” response deeply disturbing and alarming.

Never get into a fight with a country which has nothing to lose.

At times, it may be tempting to engage in one-up-man-ship. What we have to remember is that by doing so, we’re going out of our way to keep an irrelevant nation in the public eye and thus make it out to be more important than it really is. In other words, there’s no gain for us. It’s all upside for them. Don’t stoke a dying fire.

The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.

Pakistan works pretty hard to earn our anger. In return, we must offer our indifference. We must stop putting every act of theirs under the microscope and agonizing over it. We must stay focused on fixing our ownselves, and moving quickly ahead in this very competitive global economy. The best “revenge” – for those who tend to like this sort of a thing – is one that will be served someday when Pakistani people wake up and realize that we’ve left them miles behind in the race to prosperity. Those obsessed with things like “honor” and “izzat” should remember that it takes more courage to walk away from a fight than to get into one. Patriotism is not about having a misplaced sense of honor or a narrow view of the world or flag waving and chest thumping. It’s about being a committed citizen and taking the time to understand complex issues, how they intersect and doing what’s what’s best for the country and making your opinion heard in a constructive manner. In my opinion, Pakistan should cease to be a voting issue for Indians, and anyone who attempts to make it one should be discouraged.

There is no such thing as Pakistan.

There are the Pakistani people. There are the politicians. There is the Pakistani army. There is ISI. There are many niche centers of power, controlling narrow domains. None of them are in control. It’s impossible to negotiate when there is no decision maker on the other side of the table. We have to recognize this and understand the difficult job that our government has, when it comes to dealing with Pakistan.

They are people like us too.

Perhaps, a way forward might be one that involves building direct bridges to the Pakistani people and creating economic opportunities for them so they, over time, have something to lose by harming our interests. Pakistan is like this evil twin of India, separated at birth and adopted and raised by a gangster. In many ways, their people have suffered more than us. I refuse to believe that an average Pakistani wakes up in the morning and looks for ways to destroy us. I think the average Pakistani is like the average Indian. He/she just wants a good job, a hot meal and a peaceful life. An “economic version of Aman ki Asha,” which promotes free trade and collaboration – as much as it sounds like a fairy tale – might not be a bad way forward if we’re willing to be patient for at least a couple of decades.

Heck, we don’t have be nice to them, if we don’t want to. But we really ought to stop obsessing about them and move on.

What’s your take?

Also read: O Pakistan, Whither Goes Thou?

  • http://harshasrisri.wordpress.com Su

    A sensible post. But it takes a lot of rational thinking to put this matter into the 100 crore Indians’ minds. Until then, Pakistan will be seen as an evil next door bully.

    • http://whatho.in whatho

      Thanks man! At some level, this is not such a complicated decision, if you put emotions aside.

  • Zephyr

    Srini, that was one of the best articles I have read on the Pakistan issue. We are indeed making them into something bigger than what they are and them obsessing about them. Loved the para about indifference and also about the 'evil twin' analogy. Sharing this!

    • prema

      Hi Zephyr,

      The bit about the evil twin is fine where stories are concerned and is a very simplistic view of our neighbour. Much like a recalcitrant child, never growing up or behaving in a mature manner. It’s high time we stopped having this very self indulgent view about them.

    • http://whatho.in whatho

      Thanks Zephyr. I truly believe that we have other more important and urgent things to take care of, vis-a-vis wasting our energy on them at this juncture in time. Thank you for sharing!

  • prema

    Hi !

    I agree with most of what you say here except the part of the people to people connect, Aman ki Asha , cultural exchanges etc etc.That is complete bunkum ~ for the simple reason that Pakistan does not keep to it’s side of the bargain. It is a dishonest and backstabbing nation. And a failed state such as Pakistan continuously rabble rouses and raises Cain, by rattling the India sabre, everytime there’s an internal crisis, whether of economics or politics.

    I suggest complete indifference. No MFN status, no trade, no visas, no cultural connect, no political contact, no sporting encounters, no appeasement of any kind. Just keep a close watch on our borders, retaliate when one has to, no pre-empting, no unnecessary publicity, no running crying to any international org, or seeking the nod from the western world. We are more than capable of taking care of ourselves and our country. It’s high time we ignore their existence.

    The question to be asked is whether we are losing any thing by being indifferent. If the loss is miniscule, then let’s just do that. We are giving them too much importance and they are constantly going back on their words to us.

    • http://whatho.in whatho

      It might not be a bad idea to build bridges with the people, even if there isn't warmth between the nations – for the reason, if they derive economic value from India, their people might be more critical of their govt and army when they violate international norms of peace and war. The thing is – the Pak govt is dishonest (for that matter, most politicians are dishonest). Their army is not to be trusted. Their people – we don't know if they are dishonest too. In fact, if we offered Indian citizenship to Pakistani citizens, my guess is at least a third of them might take it.

      I don't mean a "cultural" Aman ki Asha alone. More of the economic variety – which helps create jobs and increases collaboration between the people. As they say, an idle mind is the devil's workshop.

  • chandrasekharan

    A practical insight into our relationship with Pakistan,Why people who call themselves diplomats and politicians have been missing this angle.Our newsmedia,especially, TV channels,blow up every issue and take them into a region of farce.It is time we looked at Pakistan as you have said.Very well presented.

    • http://whatho.in whatho

      Our news media is far from mature. There's one side which blindly kow tows to government interests and has completely lost its credibility. There's the other side which is rabble rousing and sensationalist and will turn every tragedy into a money making farce. They are losing their credibility too. One of the cornerstones of a vibrant democracy is a free and competent press. We have freedom of press but competency is sorely lacking in the media.

  • http://twitter.com/biswal_udit @biswal_udit

    absolutely true

  • http://amheretowrite.blogspot.in/ Aarthy

    You’re absolutely right in saying that we are obsessing over something which ought to be ignored and instead, we have to move forward.
    What you have suggested for India’s dealing with Pakistan holds good for our personal lives as well. I somehow felt this to be a rational as well as philosophical post .. It proved to be food for thought.

    • http://whatho.in What Ho!

      That’s such a great comment –> “How India should deal with Pakistan holds good for our personal lives.”

      • http://amheretowrite.blogspot.in/ Aarthy

        Thanks! Glad you thought so :)

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