Friday January 27, 2023

The quest for prosperity

November 12, 2022

Pakistan’s highway to prosperity and stability goes through India. And India’s entry to the developed world depends on its cooperation with Pakistan. Prosperity and peace in South Asia can only be achieved through the principle of workability.

Bangladesh today has better economic and political standing, which will ultimately lead to its economic prosperity, because it relies on the workability principle when maintaining its relations with India, without compromising on its interests. It is time for Pakistan to work its way out of its economic and political crisis by applying the same principle.

The principle of workability is a concept where, despite all differences, people and nations find a way to talk to each other. By maintaining contact with each other, they work out a plan to resolve or minimize the areas of conflict. When people and nations have no contact with each other, they lose control over different situations and other people.

In 1947, when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah responded to a question on India-Pakistan relations by saying that these relations would be most-friendly and cordial, he meant that they would follow the principles of ‘workability’. According to the late Sharifuddin Pirzada, an authority on Jinnah, the Quaid wanted the relationship of Pakistan and India to follow a similar pattern to that of the US and Canada.

Despite his differences with Jinnah and his opposition to the idea of Pakistan, Gandhi also announced a fast until death to get Pakistan its due share in assets. He also wanted a working relationship between Pakistan and India. Also, despite the 1948 war over Kashmir between the two countries, Liaquat Ali Khan and Nehru signed the 1950 pact to protect minorities. Similarly, Ayub Khan and Nehru signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960. Ayub Khan also signed the Tashkent Agreement with LB Shastri in the 1960s. In the 1970s, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi signed the Simla Accord.

In the past, India and Pakistan always found a way to maintain their mutual relations. Unfortunately, this is not true anymore. The unending territorial conflict over Kashmir and the resultant miscalculated policies on both sides have widened differences and distrust between the two neighbours. All prospects of peace and cooperation and its resultant benefits for the people of both countries have become remote. Many opportunities of improving relations on a permanent basis were missed in the past. Now, the only way forward is to accept and adopt the principle of workability. It is a challenge for the leaderships of both sides.

In the 1970s, the US wanted to improve its ties with China. This could happen due to Pakistan’s role in bringing the two countries together. India has been denying Pakistan any chances of using this principle of workability to keep contact with India. The neighbouring country believes that its behaviour has a more severe impact on Pakistan as, according to it, India has figured out alternate ways to keep moving forward. It now finds itself in the league of large economic, political and technological powers. But given India’s energy needs and its long desire to have access to European, Central Asian and Middle Eastern markets, it still needs Pakistan.

Pakistan has to understand that it does not benefit anyone if it denies India access to these markets and energy resources. India will still find a way to these markets, albeit at a much higher cost. But in the process, Pakistan will lose a great opportunity.

Both countries need to review their policies towards each other. Pakistan has paid a huge price during the last 20 years after the unfortunate 9/11 incident. The doctrine of strategic depth apparently failed as the threat from its western front did not subside. India partly succeeded in isolating Pakistan, which consequently made Pakistan more dependent on other countries for maintaining its strategic balance. It is again a big misconception and needs to be revisited in the light of new economic and geo-political realities. Despite big claims of economic turn around and recovery, there appears to be no hope of sustainable growth and development in the near future partly due to domestic turmoil and instability.

Pakistan’s economy is now totally dependent on foreign loans and aids and foreign-funded projects for its survival. The decades-old security and development paradigm put forward by Ayub Khan in his book ‘Friends not Masters’ needs to be revisited. Tragically, the first 30 years were lost and we could not find a working relationship between the two nations.

The bitterness and distrust created by military conflicts in the next four decades did not allow them to work out a permanent solution to their problems. In real terms, despite denials, both countries missed out on the true blessings of peace and prosperity.

India’s foreign policy towards Pakistan is also frozen in time. The BJP is unwilling to change its policy, stance and beliefs towards Muslims and Pakistan, not realizing that the over 700 million Muslims in South Asia are a reality to be recognized. This religious extremism is an existential threat to humanity. The fruit of peace and prosperity resulting from mutual cooperation, trust and trade remain unrealized due to such stagnant approaches to old issues.

Pakistan has all along insisted on the settlement of ‘issues and problems’ before any economic and other cooperation is made. India always puts economic and other cooperation before anything else. Because of this rigidity, from the UN resolutions to the Agra Summit, everything has become a tale of failures. Pakistan and India are permanent neighbours.

South Asia is academically and strategically a recognized area of study because almost one-fifth of the world’s population live here. The region is a matter of great attraction and interest (also due to being a potential nuclear holocaust) for all the great economies. The US, Europe, Russia and China are interested in exporting their goods to this region as it has a big consumer market for their products. If both countries cooperate in the field of trade and business, then instead of being a consumer society they can revive the economic glory of the Mughal era which used to contribute over 38 per cent to the global economy.

Pakistan and India have remained prisoners of geography after Partition. They are caught in an unending territorial conflict that has drained their resources. India has also become a prisoner of history as it is unwilling to permanently adjust to the idea of Partition. India has a huge Muslim population, and Pakistan also has a sizable Hindu population. These religiously marginalized groups are the direct victims of this lack of workability between the two nations. It is time to find a way towards a workable future for the prosperity of the region.


The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional attorney general for Pakistan.