The Filter Coffee | Fraternal magnanimity

On Pakistan, India must not compromise from a position of strength.

Former Foreign Secretary, Kanwal Sibal, has a very timely and well-articulated piece in the Daily Mail on India’s position on Siachen, amid rumors that New Delhi was planning some sort of strategic climbdown in the larger interest of bettering India-Pakistan relations:

Peace with Pakistan is a desirable goal, but peace should be equally desired by both sides and both should contribute to it in equal measure. The burden of making peace should not fall on India while Pakistan retains the freedom to disrupt it at will. Normalisation of India-Pakistan relations should not be predicated on demands by Pakistan and concessions by India.

Those who advocate withdrawal from Siachen – or more appropriately Saltoro as Siachen lies to its east – need to clarify whether we are occupying Pakistani territory.If we are, withdrawal could be mooted. If we are not, then why should we withdraw from our own territory simply because Pakistan contests India’s sovereignty over this part of J&K and insists we accept its position?

Should such obduracy inspire trust in its intentions? The 1949 and the 1972 agreements delineate the LOC till NJ9842, with the line going ‘northwards towards the glaciers’ beyond that. ‘Northwards’ cannot in any linguistic or geographical interpretation mean ‘north-eastwards’, but Pakistan and the US unilaterally drew the line several decades ago from NJ9842 north-eastwards to the Karakoram pass controlled by the Chinese.

In reality, because the entire state of J&K acceded to India legally, the areas not in control of Pakistan are rightfully Indian whether we physically occupy every inch of our own territory or not. [Daily Mail]

The reality here is that those advocating an Indian compromise on Siachen have failed in explaining its correlation to “peace and stability” in our region.  Yes, India and Pakistan must talk, and yes, peace — whatever that means in the context of the subcontinent — is always desirable.  But the eagerness to pursue this ill-defined concept of “peace” in the subcontinent must not trump the security of the country, which India’s elected representatives are entrusted with.

In fact, I will take Mr. Sibal’s argument (that both India and Pakistan ought to desire and contribute to “peace” in equal measure) further.  The domain of international relations plays out in a state of anarchy, generally absent of binding or enforceable laws.  In this state of anarchy, the only real currency for transaction is power.  Power dictates both rationale and narrative.  We are not quite in the Peloponnesian world where “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,” but it is entirely in keeping with the reality of the world today that transactions between nations ultimately favor the more powerful.

In this regard, Pakistan, as the weaker power and one that already operates with considerable decided strategic disadvantage, should fully expect negotiations and final settlements on territory to largely favor India.  The idea that India show magnanimity towards Pakistan just because it is larger is silly and a relic of a bygone era. India is not Pakistan’s “big brother,” and Pakistan certainly felt nothing close to warm fraternal bonding when its military-jihadi apparatus unleashed mayhem on India and its citizens.

The benefits of improved India-Pakistan relations are skewed more towards Pakistan than India.  It is therefore in Pakistan’s interest, more than it is in India’s, to improve bilateral ties.  Improvement of ties on contentious issues would require compromise, and compromises are for Pakistan to make.  Pakistan must realize that it suffers from a significant trust deficit in India due to its actions over the last 65 years.  It can begin to address this gap by demonstrating that it has gotten over its India psychosis.  India should simply wait, watch and verify.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.