By M Ziauddin
July 1, 2019
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday stated that there cannot be any sovereignty in the absence of economic sovereignty. The COAS was speaking at a national seminar titled ‘Pakistan’s Economy: Challenges and Way Forward’, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA) at National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad. The COAS endorsed the undeniable link between security and economy, stating both directly complement each other. He highlighted Pakistan’s efforts for restoring regional peace that will lead to better trade connectivity and reiterated the importance of regional security. “Countries cannot develop individually; it is the region which develops. For our region to develop we need to have greater regional connectivity among all neighbours,” he stated.
One cannot but agree with the COAS whole heartedly especially when he says that there is an undeniable link between security and economy, that both complement each other, that countries cannot develop individually, that it is the region which develops and that for our region to develop we need to have greater regional connectivity among all neighbours. All neighbours would mean, all neighbours including India with which we have a historic dispute over Kashmir. And it was because of this dispute that we have remained incommunicado trade- and economy-wise with our eastern neighbour over the last so many decades with both the countries suffering immensely on the economic front.
Pakistan has suffered more because since the second Afghan war we have had troubled relations with our North-Western neighbour as well and because of a plethora of mutual misunderstandings our relations with our Western neighbour, Iran too have remained virtually in wilderness all these years. In fact, we have lived for many decades now having virtually bottled ourselves from all sides, except the North where we enjoy the best of relations with China but reaching which had remained a long drawn adventure for many years. It is only since the turn of the century that our trade and economic relations with China have grown substantially developing seamlessly into what is called China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of China’s Belt and Road project. In the South we just have one small port opening up to very busy sea-lanes, but because of its size, the port has continued to remain too inadequate for our foreign trade needs because the turn-around time at this port extends into months, sometimes.
Just as there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in international relations, nations can ill afford to have permanent causes that determine relations with other countries. And causes not showing any sign of realizing become deadweight on the national psyche scarring permanently the very persona of the nation. We have been hoping against hope all these 71 years that one fine morning the UN would actually be shamed into enforcing its relevant resolutions and resolve Kashmir’s Gordian knot. The wars that we had waged in the pursuit of the cause have ended up in stalemates proving again and again the futility of using force. And after the nuclearisation of South Asia wars in any case have become mutually destructive with the potential to obliterate the very combatants. The umpteen numbers of bilateral negotiations that were held between Pakistan and India to resolve the issue too have failed because every time they met for the purpose the two did not seek a mutually acceptable solution but indulged in blatant one-upmanship. Kashmiri Diaspora from IHK is too small. AJK Diaspora is mainly in UK where it is seen as an extension of Pakistani politics. So, one does not see either being able to accomplish anything beyond the noise that has surrounded the Kashmir issue for the last few decades. And also why not accept that war, jihad, and approaching UN have all failed so freezing the dispute could be the best option? It has worked for many countries, including China and India. They have huge disputes including over Arunachal Pradesh and still enjoy $100 billion worth of bilateral trade. Why must we insist that dispute must be resolved before we trade?
Indeed, we would soon be at the risk of being accused by the world of wishing to live with the problem for ever rather than wanting to resolve it if we did not replace sooner the tried and tested but failed Kashmir policy with the one that would seek to end the mutually harmful stalemate. Of course, under the current circumstances the very suggestion of approaching the bilateral talks to find a mutually acceptable solution would be considered by our officially certified patriots as blasphemous. So, before proceeding any further on this ‘blasphemous’ line of argument it would not be out of place here to state that perhaps the first step in putting the house in order would be to accept the right of the people to point out it is in disorder, question our contrived narrative of history, and acknowledge that critics among us are not enemies, neither are they Indian agents. And while seeking alternatives why not take a second look at the four-stage Manmohan-Musharraf formula made public late 2007.The formula had seemingly held the promise of a give-and-take approach to resolving the dispute. But today in Pakistan Musharraf is an ‘unwelcome’ name to say the least and in India Manmohan’s name may not be as unwelcome but going by the current mood of the BJP government particularly concerning Kashmir it is hardly likely that the two countries would even bother to refresh their respective memories about the inconclusive talks on a formula pregnant with possibilities. During his last press conference just before the 2014 general elections in India Manmohan Singh had regretted not pursuing in right earnest talks with Pakistan on ‘his’ four-stage formula.
In Pakistan President Zardari who had replaced Gen Musharraf (Retd) in September 2008 had appeared all set to reopen talks with India on Kashmir but according to a source who should know what he is talking about, Gen. Kayani the then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) had told the then President Zardari ‘to act as if nothing had been agreed’ with regard to the four-step Manmohan-Musharraf formula. Former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri in his book ‘Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove ‘quoting extensively from Steve Coll’s New Yorker column ‘The Back Channel’ published on March 2, 2009 states (Page 352): He (Coll) refers to frequent meetings that Admiral Mike Mullen…had with the Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, as well as with General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, DG-ISI. Steve Coll gives Admiral Mullen’s assessment, according to which Kayani endorsed the principles of the non-paper on Kashmir. Both Pakistani generals, he said, spoke of a new strategic direction and that their shift in outlook ‘has been transformational’. One would like to believe that a new strategic direction has been adopted in this regard and a ‘transformational’ shift in the outlook has finally taken place with the COAS General Bajwa all set to introduce the new shift in our relations with all our neighbours for the greater economic good of the region in which we live. The US still has effective leverage in both India and Pakistan and like in the past it can still make the two resume talks on the formula. However, interest in being broker for Pakistanis is said to be at an all- time low in the US today. ‘Why try to negotiate and renegotiate with people who probably like being victims and want the issue more than the solution’ is how most people in the US are said to see the matter.
M Ziauddin is veteran journalist and a former editor based in Islamabad.
Source: Pak Observer