The CIA’s predictions for India and Pakistan cannot simultaneously come true
It does not take a great deal of intelligence to predict scenarios where India catches up with China and these two Asian giant become major players in the twenty-first century economy. It also does not take a great deal of intelligence to paint a picture where Pakistan ends up as a failed state. While headline writers around the world, not least in India, have become rather excited by the CIA’s pronouncements, it is important to remember that it is the American foreign policy and national security establishment that is the primary audience of these reports.
Beware of the soothsayer too
The CIA’s national intelligence estimates provide some plausible scenarios for American policy makers to chew on and prepare for. They also have other, perhaps unintentional, effects. Convincing Indians about the likelihood of their future glory is likely to lull them into complacency; telling the Pakistanis that they will end up a failed state will likely get (at least some of) them to get their act together, besides educating Americans of the importance of American aid in forestalling this eventuality.
India must not get carried away by rosy scenarios such as those painted by Goldman Sachs or the CIA. To borrow another cricketing analogy, it cannot take its eye off the ball. Attaining and sustaining growth rates of about 7-10% is difficult if complacency sets in; it makes sense not to believe such things as fate, destiny and the glossy prospectus.
Successful in failing to fail
Every generation in India has believed that Pakistan is either failing or will fail in due course — in the 1950s because the two-nation theory was not accepted, in the 1970s because the two-nation theory spectacularly failed, and in the 1990s and the 2000s because its misguided policies finally cought up with it. In spite of all its internal contradictions, Pakistan has survived as an entity, an idea and a nation for half a century. There is reason to believe that the possibility of a state failure in Pakistan may remain exactly that — a possibility. And this is not necessarily bad for India, for state failure in Pakistan will rudely interfere with India’s own growth trajectory. India cannot be a global economy if Pakistan, a highly-populated, impoverished, nuclear state next door, implodes.
We can’t live like this
But, contrary to the Bush administration’s belief, the possibility of an implosion in Pakistan is very much real as long as its army retains control. There any so many rifts and divides in Pakistan that a fundamentally hamfisted dictatorship cannot heal or reconcile. Pakistan needs national reconciliation and the steady, irreversible return of the army to its barracks.
Until that happens, Pakistan will remain the borderline about-to-fail state that we have become used to. Unfortunately, foreign policy in America and New Delhi is doing nothing to veer away from this unhappy path. If the current equations continue, India can, without doubt, continue to register healthy economic growth, but Pakistan will remain a Damocles’ sword hanging over its head.