PRIME Minister Imran Khan made excellent speeches in recent days while addressing Pakistani Parliament and the Constituent Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir but the issue of Kashmir cannot be resolved through speeches alone. Government will have to come up with a meticulous plan to counter a country that is the largest democracy in the world, the second biggest consumer market on the globe, a hub of IT, a bastion of science and technology and one of the eighth nuclear powers in the world. It is disheartening to see that Shahbaz Sharif, whose brother launched a vigorous campaign to seek peace with India and other neighbhouring countries, resorted to war rhetoric. The Kaptaan is right in asserting that war is no solution to the inveterate problem of Kashmir as any conflict between the two nuclear South Asian states could decimate millions of lives within no time while close to two billion people could perish because of the nuclear winter that is likely to be caused by the use of these lethal arms. Diplomacy and talks is the only way forward. But is there any way that New Delhi could be forced to seek a peaceful resolution of Kashmir, reflecting the aspirations of the masses? Could we have a prosperous South Asia without indulging in conflicts and losing millions of lives? Can the leadership of Pakistan and India be made to realise that it is not arms and strategic assets that protect a country but the welfare of masses as former Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani said in the aftermath of Gyari sector incident where dozens of soldiers lost their lives in harsh weather conditions.
History tells us it is not the will of the leaders or the charisma of populist personalities but the material conditions that force countries to take a certain line of action. France and England that fought a hundred-year war did not become friends because they wanted to do so but it was the economic compulsion of the two states that brought them closer. Rising trade also forced the major states of Europe that were involved in the 30-year war to put their differences aside and reap the economic dividends of peace. Even Japan that was brutally targeted in nuclear attacks by the US decided to ally with Washington owing to economic factors. Today Vietnam is also doing the same despite the fact that it lost five to seven million people in a war that was imposed by Washington on it. So, economic benefits could prompt India’s bourgeoisie to pressure their government into granting concessions to the Kashmiris that reflect their aspirations. Such benefits could even compel the largest democracy to keep up the promises of Pundit Nehru and other Indian officials.
In what way Indian businessmen can benefit from the normalization of relations with Pakistan. We need to remember that India has a gargantuan appetite for energy. It is aiming to gain maximum economic growth which is not possible without the adequate supply of energy. A rising economic power also needs markets to sell out its products. Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline could be one of the ways to meet Indian energy needs. Iran-Pakistan pipeline could also help New Delhi to gain this energy supply. Iran Pakistan pipeline may face problems owing to a myriad of factors. The current US-Iran tension will not allow Islamabad to work on it but we have a good chance of turning the TAPI into a reality. The US and the Taliban are inching closer to a deal. Once peace in Afghanistan is restored, this project could see the light of the day. It will not only benefit Pakistan and India but other countries of the region as well. The US has expressed keen interest in its success. China and Russia are not averse to this idea either. So, it has a strong possibility of success. The success of this project will automatically tie the interests of Indian businessmen to those of Pakistan’s. Any move by New Delhi that could antagonize Islamabad would fiercely be resisted by Indian business elite that greatly influence the policies of that country.
Similarly rising industrial powers always need more markets. Pakistan sits at the crossroad. It could connect several states of the region through land and sea. Afghanistan and Central Asian states are all landlocked. Pakistan is the only country with an easy access to sea and land routes. If Pakistan normalizes ties with the second most populous nation on earth, it will greatly benefit Indian businessmen who want to have an access to Central Asian market. Peace with Pakistan will not enable Indian business class to get an access to Central Asia but to Russia and possibly Europe as well. This could greatly benefit India in economic ways. Pakistan could also earn billions of dollars in transit and other type of fees, which might go a long way in strengthening our economy. Once the Indian business class is dependent on this lucrative transit route, it will be very difficult for any Indian political party or government to ignore their interests. In reality it will be the interests of Indian bourgeoisie that could force the stubborn Indian leadership to accept a pragmatist solution of Kashmir, benefitting all stake holders. Those who want to oppose all sort of business should remember that China is one of the largest trading partners of New Delhi despite clashing India in the past. So, a pragmatist way is the only viable option that our policy makers should work on. Rhetoric, jingoistic mentality and sentimentalism can only create problems but it offers no solution. The solution lies in meticulous planning, patience and maverick policies, which we have ignored in the last 70 years.
— The writer is freelance columnist, based in Karachi.