Stranded in troubled neighbourhood
05 October, 2006
By Riaz Missen
India’s history owes much to the Ghaznavis and Ghauris of Afghanistan. Musghals were the latest to reach Delhi via Kabul. The empire they would construct would last more than a millennium.
Anglo-Saxons drew the western borders when they happened to rule India. They had taken up the country’s South in a fit of absent-mindedness. The rest was conquered deliberately with a promise to push the Central Asian nations back to their natural confines.
The Anglo-Saxons have never abandoned Pakistan while the country strived to keep the western borders of the subcontinent intact for the sake of its own survival. During the Cold War era, Americans were in the lead. Europeans have also entered the scene after the fall of Soviet Union.
Pakistani and NATO forces are manning Durand Line now. Does India owe anything to Pakistan? Is Afghanistan thankful to its eastern neighbour for the labour it has borne to ensure its integrity? Pakistan is really obsessed with these questions; it does not suit to the interest of neighbours to impress on Pakistan that it is doing only a thankless job.
Why Pakistan is blamed by India and Afghanistan for fanning militancy in the neighbourhood? Why they thrust on Pakistan the responsibility to defend the porous borders on its own? Why they behave so irresponsibly when their neighbour strives to find stable ground to set its foot on? Can Pakistan abandon legacies so easily as the leadership of Kabul and Delhi tend to suggest? Why they want only Pakistan to taste the fruit it had not sowed the seeds of?
What really Afghanistan wants by restoring stipends of about 2200 notables of the tribal belt falling in Pakistan? Why India keeps on informing the world that its western neighbour is responsible for acts of terrorism on its soil?
Pakistan is less likely to be used as a scapegoat now onward. Afghanistan and India have to end the accusation game and come up with reasonable solutions as to how to manage the porous borders they happen to share with Pakistan.
Pakistan is gifted with moderate size country in terms of natural and human resources. The hostile neighbourhood is the main reason for its being under the shadow of unitary system of government. Militancy seeped into body politic to ensure existence in the turbulent strategic environment.
The prospects of Pakistan’s returning to normalcy depend too much on the attitude of the neighbours towards it. So far no country around it has turned receptive to its strategic woes. The rest have dumped their worries along the banks of the Indus River in the past; they are not ready to abandon this course even now.
The Pakistani decision-makers are very much alive to the need of restructuring the body politic as per the demands of the global age. They have managed to keep its economy floating, diplomacy moving and politics functional while its borders keep on burning for last seven years. Would Afghanistan and India agree on a mechanism to manage the porous borders along Pakistan?
Are Manmohan and Karzai the sorts of souls who will forget the turbulent past to secure the future of one-fifth of humanity? Had India seen beyond the tip of its nose, its history would have been different. Had Afghans had stable ways ever, their country would not have been bombed by the daisy-cutters.
The uneasy neighbourhood has proved a great constraint on strategic thinking in Pakistan. Meagre resources but mammoth responsibilities have put it on the path it is aspiring to abandon in global age. The more its borders will become stable, the more its pluralist, essentially tolerant, face will become visible.
While the neighbours behave irresponsibly, Pakistan must not necessarily follow the suit. Peace is the strategy that answers effectively the questions posed by country’s strategic environment. Raising standards of civility in diplomatic discourse with neighbours is the first step to this direction, rooting out militancy from its soil the other.
This strategy has already delivered. Parliament is functional for last four years, economy has been liberalised, and media is vigilant while judiciary is on a pro-active course to define freedom of people and groups in the new age.
Propagation of the message of peace and love delivered by the Muslim saints in its deserts and planes and showcasing the statues of Buddha in the footsteps of Himalayas is a policy that makes operational part of Pakistan’s strategy to ensure peace at home. It will necessarily transform the challenge posed by porous border into an unparallel opportunity as well — the people of Indus Valley know very well the art of winning the hearts.