[op-ed snap] India’s perilous obsession with Pakistan

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Obsession with Pakistan is detrimental for India's growth in political as well as economic sphere


CONTEXT

Come Indian elections, the bogey of Pakistan has overwhelmed the nationalist discourse in the shrillest manner, with the Prime Minister and other Ministers’ relentless branding of the Congress/Opposition as ‘anti-national’ and as ‘agents of Pakistan’. Further, the Prime Minister even made an unprecedented threat of using nuclear weapons against Pakistan.The hyper-nationalistic frenzy to ‘defeat’ Pakistan comes with huge human and material costs.

Historical Hostility

  • As a country born of the two-nation theory based on religion, and then having to suffer dismemberment and the consequent damage to the very same religious identity, it is obvious why Islamic Pakistan must have a hostile Other in the form of a ‘Hindu India’.
  • But what is not obvious is why India, a (much larger) secular nation, must have a hostile antagonist in the form of Pakistan.

Self-defeating goal

  • It is widely recognised that the fulcrum of the Pakistani state and establishment is an anti-India ideology and an obsession with India.
  • But what has scarcely received notice is that India’s post-Independence nationalism has been equally driven by an obsession with Pakistan. .
  • Huge cost associated with jingoism – But, this hyper-nationalistic urge to ‘defeat’ Pakistan and to gloat over every victory, both real and claimed, is ultimately self-defeating, and comes with huge human and material costs. Much of these costs are hidden by jingoism masquerading as nationalism.

Self destructive to Pakistan

  • Words often used regarding the Pakistani state’s actions, even by critical Pakistani voices, are ‘delusional’ and ‘suicidal’, and rightly so.
  • For, no level-headed state would seek to attain military parity with a country that is six and half times larger in population, and eight and a half times bigger economically.
  •  Disproportionate spending on the military  –Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani diplomat and scholar, compared it to “Belgium rivalling France or Germany”. Pakistan’s vastly disproportionate spending on the military has been self-destructive for a poor nation.
  •  Ruinous policies – In 1990, Pakistan was ahead of India by three places in the Human Development Index. In 2017, Pakistan was behind India by 20 ranks, a sad reflection of its ruinous policies.
  • Sponsorship of Islamist terror groups – More critically, the Pakistani state’s sponsorship of Islamist terror groups has been nothing less than catastrophic.
  •  Victims of Islamist terrorism – What the world, including India, does not recognise is that Pakistan, ironically, is also one of the worst victims of Islamist terrorism.
  • In the period 2000-2019, 22,577 civilians and 7,080 security personnel were killed in terrorism-related violence in Pakistan (the number of civilian/security personnel deaths from Islamist terrorism in India, excluding Jammu and Kashmir, was 926 in during 2000-2018).

Muscular policy

1.No dialogue’ policy –

The fact that Pakistan has suffered much more than India in their mutual obsession cannot hide the equally serious losses that India has undergone and is willing to undergo in its supposedly muscular pursuit of a ‘no dialogue’ policy with Pakistan.

 2. Human and economic costs

  • Wars and military competition produce madness. Nothing exemplifies this more than India-Pakistan attempts to secure the Siachen Glacier, the inhospitable and highest battle terrain in the world.
  • India alone lost nearly 800 soldiers (until 2016) to weather-related causes only. Besides, it spends around Rs. 6 crore every day in Siachen.
  • Operation Parakram (2001-02), in which India mobilised for war with Pakistan, saw 798 soldier deaths and a cost of $3 billion. This is without fighting a war. Add to this the human and economic costs of fighting four wars.

Power Complex in Sub continent

Ten years ago, Stephen P. Cohen, the prominent American scholar of South Asia, called the India-Pakistan relationship “toxic” and notably termed both, and not just Pakistan, as suffering from a “minority” or “small power” complex in which one is feeling constantly “threatened” and “encircled”.

Why is India competing with Pakistan?

  • Here, one should ask the most pertinent question: why does India compete with Pakistan in every sphere, from military to sport, rather than with, say, China, which is comparable in size and population, and which in 1980 had the same GDP as India? (China’s GDP is almost five times that of India’s now.)
  • Of course, emulating China need not mean emulating its internal authoritarianism or its almost colonial, external economic expansionism.
  • On the contrary, it is to learn from China’s early success in universalising health care and education, providing basic income, and advancing human development, which as Amartya Sen has argued, is the basis of its economic miracle. It is precisely here that India has failed, and is continuing to fail.
  • Therefore, despite India being one of the fastest growing major economies in the world since 1991 (yet, only ranked 147 in per capita income in 2017), its social indicators in many areas, including health, education, child and women welfare, are abysmal in comparison with China’s.
  • Worryingly, in the focus on one-upmanship with Pakistan, India’s pace in social indicator improvement has been less than some poorer economies too. The phenomenal strides made by Bangladesh in the social sector are an example.

Conclusion

  • The more India, the largest democracy in the world, defines itself as the Other of Pakistan, a nation practically governed by the military, the more it will become its mirror. Any nation that thrives by constructing a mythical external enemy must also construct mythical internal enemies.
  • That is why the number of people labelled ‘anti-national’ is increasing in India. India has to rise to take its place in the world.
  • That place is not being a global superpower, but being the greatest and most diverse democracy in the world. That can only happen if it can get rid of its obsession with Pakistan.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan
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