President Zardari has signed the bill to make Sharia law applicable to areas of the NWFP province. Thus one nation will have two different judicial systems in its different parts. This will facilitate total autonomy at best, secession at worst. At the same time the Pakistan government has further prevaricated investigation in the 26/11 attack by seeking more information from India. These signs are discouraging. Prudent governments make contingency plans to address even the most unlikely and undesirable developments. Does our government make such plans?
This scribe has repeatedly written that the artificially created Pakistan state is under serious assault because of its internal contradictions. It can in the long run survive with its present borders intact only if it enters a South Asian Union modeled on the European Union. That may allow self rule for its diverse societies without altering present international borders.
Appraising developments inside Pakistan on March 7th it was written: 'If the purge of pro-terrorist elements in Pakistan's army and ISI does not commence forthwith India should draw its own unavoidable conclusion. The army and ISI will not allow democratic Pakistan to survive. It will be a valid assumption then that democracy in Pakistan cannot take root; that Pakistan will remain the global terrorist hub with its army's blessing; that the future of the nation is sealed. Pakistan will not survive as a nation state. India, then, should start formulating its future policies on the assumption that Pakistan will disintegrate.'
Again, reacting to subsequent developments, it was written on March 31st: 'It is common to hear stupid and thoughtless chatter that the destruction of Pakistan would be welcome. But if Pakistan were to break up, what then? Who would pick up the pieces? Do armchair strategists have the faintest idea about how India in that dreadful situation would safeguard its security? Or would they be complacent about some big power wielding final authority in Lahore and Karachi?'
On April 6th alarm bells sounded in The New York Times. It quoted David Kilcullen, a specialist in guerilla warfare who had advised Gen. David H Petraeus when the latter was the commander in Iraq. Kilcullen made an ominous forecast that Pakistan could face an internal collapse within six months. As internal insurgency in Pakistan mounts with the army unable or unwilling to stem it, has South Block formulated its response to the possibility of a balkanized Pakistan? China apparently has.
On April 7th China directly signed an agreement with the NWFP provincial government to further friendly ties with its Xingjian province. The agreement was signed by the Pakistan Ambassador and the Governor of Xingjian province. Thus China is bypassing the central government of Pakistan to forge direct ties with its potential breakaway province. Thereby China is safeguarding its strategic interests. Afghanistan, Baluchistan and the territory it occupies in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are necessary for Beijing to maintain its access to Gwadar port in Baluchistan and to Iran with which it has finalized mega contracts for supply of energy. It also seeks to maintain easy access from its Xingjian province to troubled Tibet.
First of all India must ensure that no big power poaches on South Asian turf to further any divide and dominate policy. For stability the cultural nationalism of the subcontinent necessitates closer ties between its member nations than with any outside power. Interestingly, ancient Hindustan derived its name from the Indus River. Arabs considered land east of the Indus as Hindustan. Islamabad falls east of the Indus, Peshawar does not. Almost three decades ago when this scribe had a private conversation with a senior Chinese diplomat, Qian Quichen, who subsequently rose to become China's Foreign Minister and later the Vice President, the matter came up whether Sino-Indian relations would improve if the substantive results of the 1947 Partition were undone. It was suggested that China's strategic routes to the Middle East and Tibet could be guaranteed. It was also pointed out that the Partition was the result of imperialism of which China too had been a victim. Mr Qian found the idea novel and very interesting. Instead of attempting to isolate India in South Asia, China would gain much more from trade and cultural ties with entire South Asia functioning like one community.
The leaders of Pakistan should reappraise history and recognize ground realities inside Pakistan as well as the growing international disapproval outside it. Foreign Minister Quraishi has reiterated desire to resume the Indo-Pakistan peace dialogue. But experience shows that confidence building measures and a gradual improvement of ties cannot succeed when the enemies of Indo-Pakistan friendship can derail progress by acts of terrorism. What is required is a commitment at the top level: India and Pakistan must agree to a time-bound agenda to create a South Asian Community that has joint defence, common tariffs and free movement of labour and capital without visas. Before that can happen the nuclear tension would have to be defused by a joint nuclear policy that aims at eventual global nuclear disarmament. And the joint efforts to stamp out terrorism from the region would be the first requisite for creating mutual confidence.
All this is a very long haul. But if Pakistan seeks security and stability the time to start on this process is now. It is illusory to think that India and Pakistan can maintain hostility with each other and at the same time achieve stability within their own borders.