To Islamabad via Washington

Pai Panandikar makes a point in today’s Indian Express.To Islamabad via Washington suggests that Pakistani civil society is powerless in influencing its governing establishment towards a peace process with India, hence India must use the United States as a middleman.

I am still not convinced that civil society in Pakistan is crying out for peace with India. While there is a large majority of urban and rural dispossessed in Pakistan, they have been raised on a diet of blaming India for their misfortunes. The minority ruling class see no incentive to promote peace with India as this could challenge their position atop the commanding heights of the Pakistani economy and society. Only a process of catharsis can attune Pakistan to the modern mindset – that of self-confidence which is a precursor to a peaceful co-existence. Similarly I do not believe in the connection linking poverty in India to the confrontation with Pakistan. Given the right economic policies which bring about total economic freedom in India and stable governance poverty can well be tackled without compromising the security situation. Not so with Pakistan, which almost certainly cannot afford to have any significant economic development with the current and rising levels of military expenditure.

But Pai Panandikar’s basic point that Washington can help to bring about peace with Pakistan is realistic. For one, Washington’s aid to Pakistan will remain a key factor in propping up Pakistan’s economy. But can Washington be relied on to honestly promote India’s interests in the light of Washington’s own expediency ? Even after the 9/11 and the new alignment between India and the US, Washington is yet to demonstrate that it is willing or able to push Pakistan to deliver anything on the Kashmir front.