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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2399

India Pakistan Ties And Korea Peace Move are Wide Apart

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Many may still be rubbing their eyes in disbelief that the unpredictable President of the US, Donald Trump and the virulently anti-US North Korean strongman Kim Jung-un will agree to set aside their mutual hostility and distrust and meet in an effort to end decades of tension between the two countries.

But while the Koran peace move, with its two major components of détente between the two Koreas and de-nuclearisation of North Korea, is yet to take a concrete shape, it raised hopes that the two implacable foes, India and Pakistan, could emulate the Trump-Kim joint initiative to finally end 70- years of unmitigated hatred and mistrust in the sub-continent.

The objective is indeed desirable but it is hard to see how any parallel can be drawn in the situation in the Korean peninsula (or the equation between Trump and Kim) and the sub-continent. The points of divergence are so many that it is difficult to think that the Korean initiative can be applied to the sub-continent.

The civilian, military and religious leadership as well as the ‘awam’ (people) of Pakistan say in unison that relations with India cannot move forward without the resolution of the Kashmir issue. And the only way to solve it is to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan!

There is obviously no starting point for an India-Pakistan détente because the most powerful elements in Pakistan have set a clear pre-condition which will not change no matter what. In North Korea there may be a single negative view of the US and South Korea but it can change overnight on orders from the chubby dictator.

There are, of course, some similarities in the situation in the two different geographical regions. Both the Korean peninsula and the sub-continent were divided, though at separate times, in the 1940s and 1950s, to open a history of mutual animosity. The hatred and bitterness that was generated by partition has not ebbed away in the sub-continent and nor in Korea. But the people of the two Koreas are not divided the way Indians and Pakistanis are- let us be frank - mostly on religious grounds.

North Korea has been ruled firmly by one family with the backing of the army. In the sub-continent, Pakistan has had moments of flirtation with democracy but never did its army loosen its grip over the country and its civilian or elected leaders. The entire Pakistani ‘establishment’ and most sections of the civil society reject the notions of a shared history and culture between India-Pakistan.

A major hurdle in the way of the two Koreas improving mutual relations has been North Korea’s declared intention to ‘unify’ the peninsula under the North Korean flag. It is to be seen how this obstacle is overcome by Trump and Kim when they talk or during meetings between the leaders of North and South Korea. But eventually it may not turn out to be an intractable problem. In the sub-continent, however, Pakistan talks of India’s ‘hegemony’ while wishing that position for itself!

In the Indian sub-continent, territory has been an important factor in keeping alive mutual rancor. Pakistan insists that Kashmir is the ‘unfinished businesses of the Partition. Frustration in Pakistan has been mounting over its failure to grab Kashmir.

Ironically at a time when Pakistan was ruled by a military dictator (Pervez Musharraf) there appeared to be a chance of putting the Kashmir issue away in order to forge good bilateral ties. But the move was quickly abandoned. Today, it is inconceivable that Pakistan will talk peace with India unless it feels sure of annexing Kashmir. That alone should rule out any chance of replication of the Korean initiative in the sub-continent.

In Pakistan, hatred and uncontrollable rage against the ‘enemy’ has been backed by the state with school texts books, the clergy and the state propaganda constantly whipping up popular sentiments against the ‘enemy’. While it will be truism to say that India has succeeded in erasing the feeling of alienation among its Muslim minority, considerable success was indeed achieved in spreading the message of secularism, though for some sections of late secularism has become a dirty word along with liberalism.

Since the state (Kim’s) control in North Korea is absolute it might be relatively easy to suppress ingrained animus towards the ‘enemy’. The strongman in Pyongyang is in a position to ensure full compliance with his diktats on all matters. One order from Kim can induce people to look at their southern neighbor in a different light.

In Pakistan it will not work the same way even though the country’s military is as powerful as Kim is in North Korea. The reason is that the military in Pakistan has developed a vested interest in keeping relations with India perennially on the boil. If India begins to be seen as a normal neighbour, the men in Khaki will lose all the power and pelf they think they are entitled to till eternity.

State propaganda and religious preachers in Pakistan have made it sure that the Pakistani psyche views its eastern neighbour with intense hatred and mistrust. Every Pakistani child learns, for instance, that ‘Hindus’ are not a virtuous people and should never be trusted. To erase that kind of mindset will require decades and decades of efforts.

There have been occasions in the past, much before the current Koran peace move, when Pakistani civilian leaders did seem to make serious friendly overtures to India. All of them came to grief at the hands of the mighty army of the land.

In recent years, Nawaz Sharif had won an election after talking of peace with India. He has ever since remained a suspect in the eyes of the military. Currently he is fighting a battle for survival with odds heavily loaded against him. Asif Ali Zardari was another leader whose effort to improve relations with India were nipped in the bud by the Khakis.

Zardari made not one but two cardinal mistakes. Soon after taking over as the country’s president he said that India lives in the heart of every Pakistani. Not the kind of words Pakistani generals like to hear. Then, after the Mumbai terror attacks by a group of Pakistanis in 2008 he said he was ready to fly the head of the Pakistani intelligence to India to facilitate a probe. In less than 24 hours Zardari had to backtrack and swallow the humiliation at the hands of his generals. So what is the moral of the story?

- Asian Tribune -

India Pakistan Ties  And  Korea Peace Move are Wide Apart
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