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Pakistani PM Seeks Normalization with India. But India's Bid for Regional Hegemony Makes it Difficult.

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Message Muhammad Irfan

Since the partitioning of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, relations between India and Pakistan have been consistently adversarial. Although the hostilities have been made somewhat more stable through the development of a nuclear deterrent on both sides, border skirmishes continue to take place alongside the Line of Control (LOC), a temporary border demarcation that separates Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistani Kashmir. These clashes inflame the environment and demonstrate that both sides still consider the other an alien and threatening presence.

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A major grievance held by the Pakistani government against its neighbor is grounded in its perception that India intends to make itself the policeman and hegemonic power in South Asia. For this reason, Pakistanis believe, India is seeking to weaken neighboring states in the region.

Pakistanis saw clear evidence of this tendency in speeches made by the Indian parliamentarians Asad Owaisi and Mani Shanker in an event sponsored by the AMAN KI ASHAA (Hope for Peace) India/Pakistan peace campaign and carried by the Pakistani news channel Geo News on September 26, 2013. Both Indian leaders emphasized that India was a strong power making immense progress, and that Pakistanis should be happy to enjoy the benefits of that development. For Pakistanis, that attitude was seen as demonstrably boorish, making Indian gestures of friendliness and peace toward them merely superficial.

The reality is that the intense border hostilities that recurred on the Line of Control along the border a couple months ago reveals that the arms kings on both sides are vehemently pursuing actions and policies that are decidedly unfriendly and unpeaceful, and which result directly from the hegemonic agenda of India. That agenda effectively kills all efforts by the Pakistani government, backed by the devout hopes and wishes of its prime minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, to defuse hostility in the region. The more intense hostilities become, the lesser normality can be expected.

At this point, Pakistan's idealistic policy of pacification in Kashmir seems patently one-sided. While India may pretend to seek peace by convening dialogues, its real aim, it seems, is to delay the peace process until a more suitable time when it has already achieved its true goal of regional ascendancy.

An Initiative for Peace?

On September 24, 2013, Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif met with his counterpart, Indian Prime Man Mohan Singh, at the UN General Assembly gathering in New York. Given the continuing conflicts between the two nations, the meeting drew heavy and close attention from political analysts.

The international community seems supportive of this initiative by the Pakistani PM, and White House spokesmen have seemed eager to play a role in bringing the South Asian adversaries together. At a media briefing in Washington, State Department spokesperson Marrie Harf stated that the U.S. "welcomes the proposed talks between the two prime ministers." [i]

In fact, high-profile diplomatic and executive exchanges between India and Pakistan can help to make the conflict-prone region more stable by curbing the perils of a further escalation of hostilities between nuclear powers. In the recent intensification of border hostilities, Pakistani PM Muhammad Nawaz Sharif displayed his modest and rational attitude by initiating discussions with the Indians that resulted in persuading them to reduce incidents of cross-firing, which helped greatly to reduce tensions. Most importantly, the revival of diplomatic exchanges between the two countries can help to dampen the mistrust that might, in the case of further border clashes or terrorist attacks, put the two sides--even if unwillingly--on a path to nuclear war.

At the same time, however, Pakistan's willingness to tilt toward co-existence, when India remains reluctant to do so, shows the weakness of Pakistan. While Pakistani politicians ardently seek peace and a normalization of relations with India, the accepted theory of international relations is that two adversary nations must necessarily sustain the status quo so that they can protect their national interests and achieve their policy objectives. It can also not be overlooked that, although the desire of Pakistan's PM for normalized relations with India is admirable, the boorish attitudes of the Indians have negative implications that make such a normalization difficult.

The international community and informed populations throughout the world can, however, play a constructive role in helping to overcome those difficulties. By understanding the desire of Pakistanis to live in peace with their neighbor as equals, they should urge the Indians to give up their pursuit of hegemony in the region. Only in that circumstance can the tilt toward peace and the pursuit of normalization by Pakistan's PM prove fruitful.

[i] accessed on September 23, 2013. 

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Muhammad Irfan has authored many books. He is an internationally recognized scholar. He has presented his papers in national and international conferences. He is also a freelance journalist and contributes to both national and international (more...)

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