Pakistan President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is coming to India this weekend. During his private visit he will confer with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. The visit is private in name only. A forty member delegation will accompany the President. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mr. Rehman Malik will be part of the delegation. He is expected to confer with Home Minister Mr. P Chidambaram. One is sure that the Pakistan President and the Indian Prime Minister would be aware of this visit’s importance. This meeting will provide them their last chance to change the course of Indo-Pakistan relations. Both leaders are on the last leg of their respective careers. At the end of their careers they have until now no lasting results to show for their efforts to normalize relations.
Prospects of enhanced trade between both nations and intervals of peace from terror create hopes too fragile for lasting accord. At any time and at any moment of choosing the enemies of peace can strike at will to disrupt the normalization process. That is what they have been doing up till now. That is what they will continue to do unless both governments drastically revise their approach. Up till now it has been two steps forward, one step backward, interrupted periodically by terrorism which makes it one step forward three steps backward.
The basic approach to normalization adopted by both governments is flawed. Hesitant half steps to further peace will lead them nowhere. All attempts at increasing trade, improving exchange of information on terror and initiating confidence building measures, amount precisely to that. Both nations suffer from terrorist attacks. Neither government will succeed in eliminating terror unless there is a genuine whole hearted joint fight against terrorism. That cannot happen because there is lack of trust.
Islamabad believes that India seeks to disintegrate Pakistan. Delhi believes that Pakistan seeks to destabilize India. Unless trust is achieved no meaningful steps towards normalization can be taken. To create trust both governments will have to turn the present approach upside down. Both governments are working from the wrong end. They attempt to improve trust from the ground level up. They need to create trust at the top to filter down to the ground. How might that be accomplished? Problems do not arise from the attitude of people. Problems arise from the attitudes of the ruling establishments.
The most urgent, rational and welcome step to the world and to public opinion in India and Pakistan would be to end the threat of nuclear destruction. This will be achieved by creating trust. Treaties and verbal commitments will not create trust. Concrete steps suggesting genuine commitment will alone create trust. To end nuclear threat India and Pakistan must go beyond treaties and commit both governments to the goal of achieving joint nuclear defence. This cannot be achieved immediately. It cannot be achieved without defence and security establishments of both nations putting their heads together to set up an appropriate mechanism. But what President Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can do immediately is to accept in principle that both governments are committed to the goal of creating joint nuclear defence between India and Pakistan. Will they dare to do that?
Joint nuclear defence would imply eventually joint overall defence. Such a declaration even in principle would create the kind of trust that would greatly facilitate the solution of all problems whether in Kashmir or in Balochistan. The commitment would kick start a peace process that even enemies of Indo-Pakistan accord would find difficult to derail. What earthly consideration would inhibit either the civilian or the military establishment of either nation from welcoming such a declaration? Even if joint nuclear defence takes years to implement, President Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have put it irrevocably on the peace agenda to earn their place in history. If the Indian Prime Minister is reluctant to propose this measure or the Pakistan President is reluctant to accept it, both governments would display thereby not merely a trust-deficit but even a desire-deficit.
If nevertheless there is opposition to such a declaration even in principle then to be realistic the prospects of Indo-Pakistan peace appear unachievable. The distrust between both governments would shown to be too deep for being papered over by any confidence building measures. In that unfortunate event both nations will continue to destabilize and disintegrate. Events, possibly engineered by third parties, would determine the future if the subcontinent.