The main objective for analysing costs of a protracted conflict is to urge people to look at the conflict from newer and wider perspectives and to understand the incentive structure of conflict. To underline that the conflict claims a lot more than mere economic and military losses; to make people realise that the costs, so far sold to them as necessary and manageable evil, are in fact to the contrary - futile to begin with, and unwieldy in the long run.
Given the complexity and volatility of Indo-Pak relationship, it is not an easy task to forecast its future. However, worst case scenarios and possible costs that can evolve from the continuation of the hostility are possible to enumerate. The job of extrapolating the current costs to a future point is best left to a numbers expert. What I intend to point out - in this piece and the ones to follow - is that the future costs of Indo-Pak hostility would spiral out of the "manageable" economic context and directly impact the two nations and their populations.
Military analysts no longer consider war as an option in the Indo-Pak case due to the nuclear deterrence. Of course, the rival nations indulged in the Kargil war immediately after flaunting their nuclear capabilities. However, even if we discount war as a possibility, India and Pakistan will continue to get sucked in the arms race vortex. Indian ambitions of military modernisation and superiority to strengthen her claim of a regional/global power are no secret. Keeping current economic trends in mind, it would be extremely difficult for Pakistan to bear the astronomically high defence expenditure needed to measure up with India's military spending. If Pakistan gives in to military compulsions, this will come at a huge cost to development; result - public unrest and possibly a direct or indirect military takeover of the nation to quell the unrest. If Pakistan gives in to financial compulsions, the consequent military asymmetry will further lower the nuclear threshold in the subcontinent.
Economically and strategically, the Indo-Pak conflict will take a wider dimension, given Pakistan's important geo-strategic location and India's increasing economic might.. If India is denied a transit route to the Central Asian and Middle Eastern energy and trade markets required to fuel its continued economic progress, India's growth rate would falter and endanger India's dream of being a global power. A genuinely viable pan-Asian intermodal transport network and communication linking is also not possible unless India-Pakistan cooperate. Continued conflict will intensify their interference in each other's internal problems, as will using other countries as platforms for subversive activities. The Indo-Pak conflict will stretch from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. Both these countries, already accused of being manipulated - the latter, on India's north-east, and the former, on Pakistan's south-west - risk getting increasingly involved in the Indo-Pak imbroglio.
India and Pakistan both face real and grave danger from extremists - indigenous and foreign - and right wing elements. They both also face massive developmental challenges. If India and Pakistan do not focus on improving social indicators, there is a strong possibility that their disillusioned and destitute masses will look for alternatives in form of religious right wing or extremists. While the west obsesses over "worst case" scenarios about Pakistan disintegrating or Pakistani nukes falling into terrorist hands or under a Taliban-style regime, India should be preoccupied with formulating positive measures to prevent any of these from happening. Pakistan in turmoil spells disaster for India and Indian aspirations on the world stage. Labelling Pakistan as a terrorist-sponsoring state may or may not gain India anything concrete; but closing ranks with Pakistan to fight terrorism will definitely gain both the nations freedom from this menace.
At a time when the world is taking notice of India, Pakistan should think in terms of complementing, not competing. A belligerent India ensures that Pakistan remains locked at the eastern border, with few resources to spare for the troubled western border or internal violence.
An economically resurgent India may or may not have hegemonic designs over Pakistan; but joining hands with India will definitely help end many of Pakistan's economic woes.
Unfortunately, the myopia on both sides, at the political, strategic and economic fronts, continues to be extreme. Their bilateral history marred with partition, wars and rivalry weighs so heavily on India and Pakistan that even their peace time attitude is: hope for the best, but continue to prepare for the worst. With the swing model of relationship that India and Pakistan follow, all it needs is one barbaric act of terrorism to bring the two neighbours to the war-path.
Public perception in both the countries is fickle - as we have seen in the past - and it takes no time for the population to shift from peace positioning to war cry. Both countries have a small but significant number of people who are capable of taking advantage of such a situation and fomenting more hatred. Unless this mindset changes, any peace ushered in by people-to-people contact and economic cooperation will rest uneasy - at risk of being compromised the moment any incident stokes the inherent distrust.
Continuing with this outlook will forever condemn us to pursue the traditional love-hate India-Pakistan relations we have seen over the past six decades, and bear the insurmountable costs emanating from this debilitating enmity. The future costs of conflict might in fact bring us to a point when the costs emanating from this very hostility force an end to the Indo-Pak conflict because we - as nations and people - may not survive the horrifying future costs of hostility that may spring from a radicalised and belligerent, water starved-nuclear empowered region.
The writer is an analyst on security and governance and co-author of 'Cost of Conflict between India and Pakistan' (International Centre for Peace Initiatives, Mumbai, 2004).
Email: semu email@example.com
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
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Page 15 of 175
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