“Do you want India-Pakistan enmity to turn like Israel and Palestine, and fight for ages?” said the venerable Indian actor Om Puri when faced by a rightwing talk show host, (though nearly all talk show hosts have become rightwing nowadays). This was a desperate attempt by an elderly patron of the arts trying to bridge the divide between the two nations who despite everything should have been brothers but instead have become the most bitterest of enemies. While he railed against warmongers on his side of the border to prevent the continuation of a seemingly eternal conflict, he only got accusations of defaming and abusing the Indian Army in return.
Peace talks between India and Pakistan are “dead in the water” so to speak, the prospects for peace sparked by the bonhomie between Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Damodardas Modi have been drowned in the tumult of state brutality in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), guerilla attacks on military installations, widespread bigotry and ongoing hostilities between the militaries of both sides. Blaming Pakistan for a popular uprising and deadly guerilla attacks in IOK; India has faced concentrated jingoism within its internal environment which has been egged on by an extremely militaristic media.
Indeed the jingoistic twist of the Indian media made even Dawn from Pakistan, before it got embroiled in a controversy, muse that “Indian media has done something we had thought impossible; they made the Pakistani media look good.” The most outrageous example was perhaps the Indian media site The Quint reporting India’s purported surgical strikes happening 8 days before the date New Delhi claimed it happened. The Indian media has actually helped craft a narrative that the claimed surgical strikes were across the LOC as opposed to along the LOC as stated by the Indian DGMO.
Nevertheless, a storm of hate and jingoism has been unleashed in India with undesirables in the eye of it. Newspapers in Kashmir have been banned, Indians asking for proof of the Surgical Strikes are declared antinational and the Indian government is paraded as part of the Hindu pantheon. However, Indian peaceniks and Pakistani mainly actors working in the Indian industry are facing the full wrath.
Pakistani artists working in India have been threatened with violence by Hindutva groups like the Maharashtra Navirnman Sena. Indian film icons Salman Khan and Om Puri have reportedly been labelled traitors for arguing to keep art and culture separate from politics. And on the Pakistani side of the border, in response to the outrage in India, the Pakistani motion picture association and PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) have threatened to stop screening Indian films and ban Indian artists from appearing in Pakistani films and TV commercials.
Many give their own versions on both sides on where this animosity springs from. The phrases “interest of the power elites”, “terrorism”, “military rule”, “rogue state”, “militant proxies” and even the pseudo religious term “millennia old war between Islam and Hinduism” are thrown in the mix to justify the enmity between the two states. While some of these factors do promote conflict and not cooperation among the two states, yet the reality is far more sobering and relates to the way International Relations have been conducted since the treaty of Westphalia.
The rather tragic truth is that the modern day Indo-Pak subcontinent is the anarchic Valhalla of states that make up the theoretical world of Realism. India is the unquestionable hegemon of the subcontinent but does not have the power capability to remove the thorn of Pakistan from its side. Pakistan despite being weaker than India has the resolve, power and resilience to stave off Indian advances.
India has always used a policy of power maximization in the region. It has stormed and annexed foreign territory such as Junagarh, Hyderabad and Goa in the name of police action, it has utilized proxies in the form of LTTE in Sri Lanka, Shanti Bahini in Bangladesh & BSN militants/Mukti bahini in Pakistan and economic measures such as a blockade on Nepal in 1989 and 2015-16. The much touted SAARC summit boycott is a recent sample of India’s venting of rage against members; New Delhi has forced postponements of SAARC Summits on four occasions: 1991 (6th Summit in Colombo) 1999 (11th Summit in Katmandu), 2013 (12th Summit in Islamabad) and 2005 (13th Summit in Dhaka).
The reason behind these acts conceivably lies in the spectrum of power politics which is a form of diplomacy in which states guard their own interests by utilizing military, economic or political aggression. India is the most powerful nation in the Indo-Pak subcontinent and is asserted to be the hegemon of the region by many scholars due to this fact. And like every hegemon, India desires to exercise its influence over its neighbors through a bilateral way to utilize its superior clout.
Pakistan has tried in various ways to resist Indian advances. After the Kashmir war of 1947, there was relative peace between Pakistan and India though even at that time the Pakistani state viewed India as its main threat. In 1959, Ayub Khan’s made an offer of joint defense with India during the Sino-Indo clashes in October 1959 in Ladakh, in a move seen due to American pressure and a lack of understanding of foreign affairs. Upon hearing this proposal, India’s Prime Minister Nehru reportedly replied: “Joint Defence on what?” India remained uninterested with such a proposal and Prime Minister Nehru decided to push his country’s role in the Non-Aligned Movement.
In 1961, when India annexed Portuguese administered Goa in a military assault, Islamabad was approached by Lisbon to provide bases for a counter assault on India which would have opened India to the wrath of the full might of NATO. Though Islamabad had publicly denounced Indian aggression in this regard and showed it as evidence vindicating the Pakistani perception of the Indian militarist threat, it refused. Similarly, during the 1962 war between India and China, despite exhortations of Beijing Pakistan did not attack India. Experts point it to “American pressure” yet cannot explain how Pakistan resisted far greater pressure in not sending troops for the American war in Vietnam.
It was however after the wars of 1965 and 1971 which saw the fears of territorial disintegration of Pakistan being materialized that the stance of Islamabad towards New Delhi hardened. And it is after this that nearly all doors of reconciliation between both the states closed with the stakes being further raised when Pakistan went nuclear in response to Indian Atomic tests. It was hoped that the nuclearization of South Asia may pave the road to peace but instead both India and Pakistan have continued to spar with each other, the most recent being the ongoing artillery duels along the LOC.
While it is true that the current Indo-Pak confrontation seems to be stemming from the instability flowing from Indian brutality trying to stifle self-determination in IOK as well as the policy of the Hindutva government in New Delhi, it is primarily the overarching global anarchic structure that is driving war between the two states. All attempts to change the situation of anarchy are being hindered by hyper nationalist sentiment; for example, the Indian Zee media house who enjoyed great financial success by showing Pakistani drama serials has now vowed not to show Pakistani content thus destroying a bridge between the common man of the two states. Similarly, Hindutva groups in India are calling for a trade ban with Pakistan which will hinder peace efforts.
Unfortunately despite the attempts of many well-meaning peaceniks on both sides, it is the geopolitics which has emerged as the main villain in Indo-Pak ties. It is as a venerable Sri Lankan scholar Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka wrote “If Pakistan had been our neighbour and we had Muslim majority provinces, we would probably have had a complex and troubled relationship with Pakistan and unstinted friendship with India, but our geographic destiny was otherwise.” The conflict between India and Pakistan has become one which is to the death and perhaps even after a “final victory” the victor will not have peace. For example, if the dreams of Pakistani hyper nationalists come true and India balkanizes, Pakistan will probably start warring with another South Asian nation (most probably Bangladesh) to dominate the pieces.