Recently, discussions on India regaining PoK and Pakistan’s reactions on any such moves by India have gained traction in the country.
I have been passionately following Indo-Pak relations over the last four decades and have written several articles, during times of bonhomie as well as sullen silence, on them. Yet, never ever did the thought that PoK will one day become a part of India - given away by Pakistan, sacrificed by radical fundamentalists operating in the soil and above all accepted internationally – occur to me.
Should it happen, it will be an event more important than the Partition or Independence. Through my experience of such discussions, I sense that the idea per se will throw a plethora of options, but on a deeper analysis, I realize that the thought in itself is wrong and has to be nipped in the bud, in the larger interest of the two nations, the sub-continent and its people.
Before strategizing a move, let us analyze the pros and cons with specific focus on objectives and merits. The land border between India and Pakistan at Kashmir has remained disputed since the two nations became independent. A war in 1971 ended the dispute at least partially when a line (the Line of Control, or LoC) was drawn, making it a line of not only demarcation of territory but also one dividing the two major religions of the subcontinent.
It took a war to bring about an element of clarity in the land border dispute. While the contention on land occupied in Kashmir by either nation is disputed, the question is - when it took a war to bring an element of clarity, can regaining PoK happen through negotiated settlement over a table, or will it demand a full scale war?
Given the fragile political atmosphere and the economy at global level under the prevailing COVID 19, such issues do not earn consideration by leaders for internal discussion. Should any leader work on such moves, it can be attributed to be the megalomaniac mindset that does not weigh the pros and cons of the situation, but pries on all that would be self-aggrandizing, eventually failing to withstand the formidable test of times.
India, a peace-loving nation, will not look upon war as a solution for any bilateral issue. This was made crystal clear when in 1971, the then US President Richard Nixon asked the then Indian PM Indira Gandhi whether she sees war as the way to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan. Indira Gandhi had replied that if it turned out to be so, “India will not start it”. Engagement through a full-scale war is not an option today, tomorrow, and ever. It will only sow seeds of hatred and incite perpetual hostilities and border incursions in the future.
The subject is a macabre one, lacking in patriotic fervour. Peace-loving nations will crave for a cordial finish to the imbroglio, which means a negotiated settlement. The two nations are in a situation where they do not see eye-to-eye and hence discussions free from acrimony, and in a spirit of mutual tolerance and respect, do not seem to be in the offing.
With both war and harmonious discussions ruled out, we are constrained to think on what is in store for us with Pakistan. Regaining PoK is a distant dream. As a neighbour, we gain a lot by being cordial over culture even if not over the soil which we share and live on.
Do we need to be cordial with Pakistan, or do we need PoK? The former is easier and viable while the latter does not appear on the horizon. Over the years, Pakistan has been built up in such a way that neither the civilian government nor the Pakistani Army has an absolute control on administration.
From the history of the subcontinent, we understand that secessionism has not succeeded and the struggle for it has proved to be expensive as well. The guerrilla war of LTTE for a separate Tamil state on Sri Lanka went on for three decades, only to end with the extremists getting massacred and vanquished under the force and might of the Sri Lankan Army. The Akalis in Punjab, in their unjust demand for Khalistan, resorted to the unethical and arrogant practice of converting a place of worship into a battle ground. In the end, they only found themselves destroyed in the most decorated place of their religion.
These two examples prove that an offensive approach in any issue is bound to create a net detrimental effect that will not only distance the main objective, but also make it impossible.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea during the Ukranian Civil War is an example of a smooth reclamation of land that got separated during the disintegration of the USSR. This was largely possible because of Crimea’s request and Russia’s readiness. Moreover, Ukraine was badly placed and could not offer resistance. Only a similar situation and chain of events that will liberate the Balochs and make Islamabad bog down can enable India to regain PoK. Yet, this is a distant dream and for the present, the idea is utopian.
For now, let us respect the LoC and try to be cordial with Pakistan. Let us make the Kashmir that is under our control, calm and peaceful. Let us not sow seeds that will arouse further hatred and make minds think destructively. Peace is our motto and our mantra, Jai Hind.
Sundar Raghavan is a Project & Construction Management Professional based in Chennai. He works as a social activist in areas of primary education, women welfare and Swachch Bharat.