INDIA-PAKISTAN RIVALRY: Two countries that share common ancestors of well-read fathers, a common history of 2000 years, common boundary of 1900 miles, an almost common provincial languages, common institutions, common terrain and climate, common pain of separation and cessation may, very well, boast about a common rivalry that is about to be a century old now. India and Pakistan, born of the same mother, have drifted apart so much that every reconciliation effort is met with a Kargil war here and a Balochi invitation there.

A never-ending blame game like that of the ever-expanding Universe. When we were kid I often used to wonder if I could ever see the two countries reunited and don’t know how but I was very sure of the fact that when I would grow up I would definitely come to see the enmity of the two countries have ended, they are living in peace, everything is hunky dory as much as I believed to see flying cars by then.

Well, now I know everything in this Universe is not governed by the dream of a kid, if at all any. “Will the Indo-Pak rivalry ever end?” “Will there be any reunited cricket team with best of both sides in it playing for the same country?” The answer to these looming questions is simple. “No”! Don’t let that little thinker live in such unrealistic reverie!

India Pakistan can never be friends again. Pakistan will remain as the estranged son of India and a misguided nation who has gone astray since the time of its birth. As Tim Marshall, the journalist writes, “Pakistan by geographically, economically, demographically and militarily weaker than India”. No matter how hard Pakistan tries to build its identity it will remain a state, not a nation.

Any nation is recognized by its citizen. In this case of Pakistan, they associate themselves with their linguistic groups, their caste, and class, terrain that they inhabit more than the country they live in. In India, as per the 2011 census, there are more than 5crores Urdu speaking people whereas only 8% of the total population in Pakistan speaks Urdu. Punjabis constitute more than 60% of the population. Sindhis are looked down upon as a second-class citizen.

Pashtuns of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or the north-west have never considered them as under the rule of Pakistan authority (and Urdu as the national language) nor they have given regard to the boundary line drawn between them and other Pashtuns in Afghanistan. “PAKISTAN” –the name itself is built as blocks from Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Sindh, and Balochistan and therefore the nation is still divided into its provinces with claimants of each land raising its voice now and then. The only sense of unity that prevails originates from the presence of its elder brother – Giant India in its neighborhood and the rivalry that persist even today.

Both the countries spend about 3-4% of their GDP on defense and a regular amplification in the total government expenditure on military in every subsequent budget is keeping the arms industry afloat. The nukes armed “hissing cousins” are a threat to the regional peace. But that gives the lead to the army of both the countries. Especially in a country like Pakistan, where the government has conspicuously lesser involvements than India, army generals enjoy a much-pampered esteem and riches of the country.

The first financial budget of Pakistan saw defense ate up 3/4th of its total budget. That is too much for a country whose laws are yet to be implemented, masses are to be fed, basic amenities are to be secured. India has been meticulously portrayed by the army of Pakistan as the imminent existential danger and thus “they got the generals, we got the bureaucrats”!

The immense hysteria that surrounds a game of cricket or hockey among these two nations and the business that such sports bring in is massive. The hysteria is priced! During the 2016 India-Pakistan match in the ICC World Twenty20 at Kolkata Eden gardens, the illegal black-sellers sold the tickets thrice its actual cost. Book My Show came out with the offer of “Buy 2 at Rs.7500” while single tickets came for Rs. 5000! For the sports lover it was the end of the world for them and a DO or DIE for all the nationalists!

“We don’t think there’s enough place in the stadium to accommodate everyone who wants to book a ticket here. We can fill several Eden Gardens,” a senior Cricket Association of Bengal official told a national newspaper. The crowd strength was enough to take the roof with their screams and the match was nothing less than warfare.

India Pakistan fighting on the field or across the border, violating ceasefire, brings in a lot of money. A lot! Fills a lot of outsider’s pocket! A lot!

India is the world’s largest importer of major arms (12% of the total global imports) much of which comes from Russia, US and Israel and Pakistan accounts for 2.8% of the global import in the period 2013-17, from US and China. More the tension builds at the frontier, more precious this rivalry becomes to US, Russia, and China!

Defense is an integral part of a country’s security. And when it comes to a country surrounded by neighbours like Pakistan and China, it becomes the priority #1. The citizen doesn’t seem to mind the rising tax burden on them as long as the defense is being embellished. The arms deal that takes offshore remains clouded in financial mystery and often serves the much-needed starter for the opposition in the House of Assembly. Financial misconducts and kickbacks are often a part of these deals, commissions are often set up to investigate and often such commissions end up in no conclusions. The story goes the same for every such conflicting nation-state.

Such rivalry is the breeding ground of corruption. A country liberated in 1947 holds its first national-level election in 1970 with universal suffrage, then in 1977, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008. In its first true general election, it lost Bangladesh from the family. Second remained futile, resulting in a military coup. Then a long wait for Zia-ul-Haq’s death for the 1988 election. After which such premature ending of terms of the PMs of Pakistan is due to alleged corruption and misgovernance, be it Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Shariff or Pervez Musharraf. Army calling the shots each time.

Now when there is this newly elected PM onto the field the big question that looms large is “Will the army let Imran take his call?” the answer to this question is usually known to the Indians if not to the Pakistanis. As long as Pakistan lives in the fear of its Giant neighbour (real or manufactured) the army will rule the roost, the country’s economy will toddle and unemployment will rise.

The next big question to this new government that claims to bring “Naya Pakistan”(new Pakistan) is, “How will Imran bowl to the striker named “dwindling economy”? Country’s economy is really in a mess, doing really bad, if not worst in the history. Pakistan needs to understand and acknowledge one thing that it would not be able to defeat India on any ground, at least not tomorrow and should, therefore, plan his developmental strategy accordingly, direct its energies and potential into something constructive. Instead of engaging in attempts to infiltrate and impart “a thousand cuts to bleed” India, he should focus more on its internal affairs and developmental economy.

Imran Khan knows it very well as is marked by his different speeches over time. But how much of it can be put into practice is yet to be seen. Poor Current Account Deficit and depletion of the foreign reserve is the cause for worry. Its foreign reserve has come down to $10.3bn that would hardly support two month’s import whereas India’s foreign reserve is reaching a new height as we speak, this month, to $ 424bn that can pay for its import bills for more than 10 months. Pakistan is literally living off the loans from China. A report from DAWN states, “Pakistan expects to obtain fresh Chinese loans worth $1-2 billion to help it avert a balance of payments crisis, government sources said, in another sign of Islamabad’s growing reliance on Beijing for financial support.”

It has received a dozen bailout packages in the last 40 years.  China, on the other hand, is investing hugely in Pakistan. China is building its own weapon arsenal (as China has reduced its arms import by manifolds) and exporting to Pakistan (China has become the largest exporter of arms to Pakistan surpassing the US) on one front and spending substantial amount of money in the development of Gwadar port (south western coast of Baluchistan) on the other. Thus China is set to building its blue water navy and Pakistan is widening its trade deficit… mistaking China as its all-weather friends.

China’s “flagship” project of China- Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) promises to strengthen Pakistan’s economy. With huge Chinese investment and several ongoing projects at different parts of Pakistan under One belt one road initiative China is satisfying its larger goal of gaining its influence in the region. Russia might have at one time eyed the warm water port of Gwadar for which they invaded Afghanistan in 1979 but as is apparent from the recent developments winner of the trophy port is China. China is well playing the fear of Pakistan and shaping its proposal in view of that.

India is not a part of this OBOR initiative and that too because of this rivalry! Otherwise, the same project could have benefitted India as well. India may be correct on the diplomatic ground but on the demographic and economic front, it needs to grab every single opportunity that creates jobs for its burgeoning working age population. After all, it has 1.3 billion people to manage!

While one has very little to compare when it comes to India and Pakistan, India knows one thing for certain that Pakistan would never give up Hafiz Sayeed nor it would be anything different with the arrival of any new government. In any case, the ceasefire will continue to be violated at the border as long as one will continue to remain bitter for the other and vice versa. Reap the benefits of this rivalry- ought to be the motto for every stakeholder, be it you the spectator of a high voltage match or any crony capitalist across the ocean!


Note: The aspects and facts are completely from the writer’s point of view.