Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Futility of 'Aman ki Asha'

‘Aman ki Asha’ is a peace initiative launched by two major media houses of South Asia- Jang Group of Pakistan and Times of India of India. The stated objectives of this peace venture are to promote friendly, cultural, open trade and commercial relationships between Pakistan and India so that defense budgets of both countries may be brought down and consequently greater economic resources may be made available for socio-economic development of both countries. When analyzed in the perspective of regional geo-strategic and economic conditions, the futility of these stated objectives of this peace initiative is exposed.

The fallacy of idea behind ‘Aman ki Asha’ is based on the mis-conception that India’s defense budget would be reduced to its smaller portion, if Pakistan’s defense budget is reduced to its smaller portion. Every state allocates its defense budget according to its geo-strategic and economic conditions. India’s geo-strategic and economic imperatives are linked with horizons much beyond Pakistan. India cannot base its defense spending on that of Pakistan’s. 

Since ‘Aman ki Asha’ has been launched in 2010, Indian has increased its defense budget from Rs. 1417 b in 2009-10 to Rs. 2.03 trillion in 2013-14- - i.e. an increase of more than 600 b - as against Pakistan’s defense budget of Rs. 378 b in 2009-10 and Rs. 627 b in 2013-14. – an increase of Rs. 249 b. By adding the exchange rate difference, we may see India has increased its defense budget during this period (i.e. 2009-2014) about four times more than that of Pakistan’s. The irrelevance of ‘Aman ki Asha’ is obvious. 

India is not only economic competitor of China- major chunk of both counties’ exports are labor intensive goods- but also competing China politically at the regional level. If China and Pakistan are trying to forge economic and political alliance and bring CAS as well into its fold, India  has its own plans to reach out to CAS through Iran. Most importantly India has border disputes with China, and has also gone for war in 1962 in this connection; these factors make India a military competitor to China. In the perspective of this military competition, USA (and UK) is promoting India’s role as a counterpoise to China at the regional level and India is reaping benefits of this role by having  access to the west’s technology, investments, and markets, all playing vital role in India’s economic development. Presently, India is investing a lot militarily in Afghanistan and the reason is not only that India wants to reign its enemy (Pakistan) but also that India (and USA) wants to ensure that China, Pakistan, Iran and CAS may not emerge as an economic and political block; India’s presence in Afghanistan would be a hurdle in the formation of such a block. Even if Pakistan and India become friendly states, India would not like Pakistan to forge an alliance with China, Iran and CAS because such an alliance would bring extra pressure on India to resolve Kashmir and water disputes with Pakistan judiciously and may also deprive India of CAS’s emerging economies.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that India cannot reduce its defense budget drastically even if Pakistan does so and obviously Pakistan would not do so. If all objectives of ‘Aman ki Asha’ are gone through in details, it becomes clear this peace initiative is designed to bring Pakistan and India together so that, on the one hand, Pakistan may be kept away from the likely emerging regional economic and political block already mentioned, and, on the other hand, Pakistan’s vigor to stand in India’s way may be diminished so that India’s position as counterpoise to China and the west’s market may be secured. This peace initiative actually aims at rapprochement between India and Pakistan through papering over their mutual disputes. 

If Pakistan accepts subordinate position to India, as is envisaged through ‘Aman ki Asha’, and opts to establish cordial relations with India without getting mutual disputes resolved, Pakistan would be forced afterwards to resolve mutual disputes more on Indian terms, due to the kind of dependance Pakistan may have over India as a result of such mutual cordial relations. The prevailing conflict scenario between India and Pakistan may serve Pakistan’s purpose in the better way, because regional geo-strategic scenario likely to emerge out of likely regional economic and political block may force India to settle Pak-India disputes more on Pakistan’s terms. Even if India may not be forced in that way, in any case cordial relations between India and Pakistan without resolving mutual disputes first would serve more of Indian interests than Pakistan’s. Kashmir and water disputes with India are too important and too vital for Pakistan to acquiesce in anything to India unduly.  

 After opening of Pak-China Economic Corridor, USA may not be interested in resolving Kashmir dispute; once this dispute is resolved, India may be won over to likely regional economic and political block emerging out of this economic corridor; in that case India’s role of military counterpoise to China and the west’s market would cease to exist- an eventuality which would not be favored by the USA. In other words, it goes in better interests of Pakistan to adopt a policy which may foil USA’s interests in India. Two main USA’s interests in India are to secure India’s position as a counterpoise to China, and to secure India’s market. By establishing cordial relations with India without resolving mutual disputes would secure USA’s both main interests; adopting a hostile policy towards India till resolution of mutual disputes may foil USA’s interests in India. Once USA’s interests in India are foiled and regional economic and political block is operational, India may be won over to Pak-China side by making India resolve mutual disputes.
We may conclude that ‘Aman ki Asha’ is an irrelevant and futile exercise as for as its stated objectives are concerned. However, it does serve India’s and USA’s interest; that is why we see these both countries back this initiative.  Only naive people may think what is in the best interest of India and USA is also in the better interest of Pakistan; this view (right or wrong) might be presented in the regional scenario before 2010 but not in the present scenario. The present scenario in the perspective of USA's withdrawal from Afghanistan dictates what is in the best interest of Pakistan is also in the best interest of India. India should resolve mutual disputes with Pakistan and play role of a responsible regional player instead of becoming watchdog of USA' interests.

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