Who Wants Peace in the Subcontinent?

It is often asserted that the majority of people in India and Pakistan desire peace. Do you believe that?

Even if they don’t, some suggest that if only people knew how much it is costing to keep up the state of conflict they would become advocates for peace. Well, here is the information as calculated in 2004 by the Strategic Foresight Group, Mumbai, in their report Cost of Conflict between India and Pakistan.

The summary of the report claims that “the Siachen conflict alone will cost India Rs 7,200 crores and Pakistan Rs 1,800 crores in the next five years;” that “India and Pakistan have the potential to enjoy a trade of about $1 billion if the hostile environment continues and $13.25 billion if peace prevails on a cumulative basis for the next five years (2004-08) resulting in an opportunity loss of $12 billion;” and that “Kashmir lost 27 million tourists from 1989-02 leading to a tourism revenue loss of Rs 16,500 crores.”

Whether the numbers are fully accurate or not, it is safe to say that they are likely to be very large. This kind of sustained conflict cannot be conducted on the cheap. The magnitude of the costs should not be a surprise.

What is a surprise is the fact that such a report has not made more waves. It has not woken up people and made them angry at so much money being diverted from development that would otherwise benefit ordinary people. It has not made them demand peace from their political representatives. On the contrary, the report has faded from memory like most of the news items in newspapers. Why?

Could it be that the oft-asserted existence of a very large number of people desiring peace is a myth? Had that been the case surely there would have been a “Peace” party that would have rallied support using the report as damning evidence of the cost of conflict.  Would it not have made political use of it to canvass support, to campaign on the platform of peace and development, and contested elections on that agenda?

But the fact is that there is no party of peace in either India or Pakistan, not even one that comes close to such a position. In fact, almost every party in opposition in either country accuses the ruling party of having sold out on Kashmir. Does that not suggest that the political parties consider the voters to be hawkish on conflict?

This raises some disturbing thoughts and challenges our complacent presumptions about what people want and how they behave. Is there a paradox and, if so, how can we explain it? I read a very perceptive essay on the 2004 US elections by a young Pakistani-American high school student. Comparing the strategies of the Right and Left he quoted William Reich’s explanation of how the fascists took power in Germany. Reich wrote, “While we presented the masses with superb historical analyses and economic treatises on the contradictions of imperialism, Hitler stirred the deepest roots of their emotional being.” Do voters vote their emotions rather than their pocketbooks? If so, what lies at the deepest roots of the emotional being of the Indian and Pakistani voter?

Of course, there is more than one explanation for every observation – therein lies the fascination of the social sciences. It would be useful if readers can help identify the flaws in the logic of the argument presented in this post.

Cost of Conflict between India and Pakistan, 2004.

Telling the Truth About the Election by Asad Haider, 2004.

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33 Responses to “Who Wants Peace in the Subcontinent?”

  1. Bharat Says:

    Perhaps the idea of “cost of conflict” misses the point?

    It is Pakistan and not India that is dedicated to the idea of perennial conflict, or at least until India surrenders. India doesn’t have the capacity to persuade Pakistan to abandon this conflict (short of dismantling itself), and Pakistan shows no inclination or tendency to rethink this fundamental enmity on its part.

    In these circumstances, from an Indian perspective, calculating the cost of conflict, with the implication that somehow that the cost could be avoided by some action or other on India’s part (again, as I said, short of dismantling itself and giving in to the proverbial chand-taara on the Red Fort) is an exercise in futility. One might liken this cost to the hypothetical cost of erratic monsoons, or the cost of having to import petroleum, etc., an unavoidable cost of staying alive as a country, keeping some semblance of integrity, and making a degree of progress.

    The other, less charitable interpretation of the drive to generate angst about such costs is that it is a stratagem to break down India’s resistance to Pakistan’s relentless aggression. With this interpretation, one might say it is heartening that Indians by and large have ignored these numbers (how does one calculate such numbers credibly anyway, given that they are hypothetical and based on a myriad of barely-substantiated assumptions? If we didn’t fight, does it automatically follow that we want to buy each other’s goods and services or that we would find each other’s country a worthwhile business investment?)

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Bharat: I don’t see how the idea of the “cost of conflict” can miss the point. Even if one accepts that the conflict is entirely the responsibility of Pakistan, it is still imposing some cost on India. Granted it is based on estimates and assumptions, still it cannot be argued that it is zero. How much do you think it costs per day to maintain a soldier in a place like Siachen? You can indeed claim that whatever the cost it is worth bearing; but that would be a different argument. You can also claim that India cannot figure out a way of diffusing the conflict without dismantling itself; I am sure there are many in India who would challenge this assertion.

      Your argument that the “cost of conflict” is a stratagem by Pakistan to break down India’s resistance could have been acceptable were it not for the fact that the study was carried out by an Indian think tank. As for the final point (If we didn’t fight, does it automatically follow that we would want to buy each other’s goods…), one might note that there are countries that were/are actually fighting and yet buying each other’s goods. Western Europe and the ex-USSR is one example, China and Taiwan is another. I don’t see how it can be heartening for anyone to ignore the cost of conflict.

      • Bharat Says:


        I didn’t actually say that talk of the “costs” of conflict was a stratagem by Pakistan, I just said it was a stratagem. The distinction is significant–it is clear that there is a considerable Indian peace-in-our-time lobby with respect to Pakistan, on the lines of Neville Chamberlain in 1936, and this lobby has managed to corner the market on what is called good sense, without much rigorous challenge. Any lobby will use political stratagems to further its goals and agenda, and it is up to dissenters to mount a challenge if they are able.

        I also didn’t say that the cost of the conflict was worth bearing, or that there were no costs, or that the costs of Siachen or whatever were negligible. Rather I said in essence that these costs–of India simply deciding to exist and survive–are inevitable and inexorable as the costs of the weather, the costs of natural disasters, or the “costs” of high population and so on, there is simply no way of ending the costs that doesn’t imply self-destruction. The two are quite different, as the former would make me an irrational war hawk, while the latter is an attempt to see the matter realistically. Perhaps this little debate-let is itself a microcosm of the emotional and rhetorical challenges faced by a dissenter–who wants to be labeled a war hawk who would simply choose to “pay any price” to carry on conflict, for his pains of merely attempting to register reasoned dissent? Perhaps my use of the term “stratagem” will also start to make some sense now.

        I am beginning to feel some of Ganapat Ram’s frustration that was expressed in a different thread. Those of you writing under the “southasian” handle are all quite obviously gifted academics and professionals specializing in analysis and rhetoric, and these rhetorical nuances that took me several minutes to reiterate and spell out are not beyond you by any means. Spelling out should not have been needed if you were simply reading my words with an open mind, seeking to understand and accept. So, it is quite tempting to come away thinking that you are engaging in a deliberate disingenuousness calculated to stifle and intimidate untrained amateurs.

        On those same lines, you are aware I am sure that trade between Western europe and ex-USSR was not the dominant feature of their relationship, it was conflict that ended with the former defeating the latter; and Taiwan exists in a bizarre twilight zone kept “independent” by US. If I were to use your tactics, I might ask, is it your point to advocate that India should assume a position with respect to Pakistan (the aggressive power in the equation) that is analogous to that of Taiwan vis-a-vis China? Or, I might actually write with the presumption that such is actually your point.

        It should have been evident that I was not celebrating anyone ignoring that there are costs to the conflict–the citizens of Mumbai and other Indian cities pay them in blood routinely on their streets and railways from time to time; rather the source of my relief was for the observation (in the article itself) that these dubious numbers, calculated–in my view–to do nothing more or less than to drive India towards a disastrous peace-in-our-time, are not having the dramatic sentimental effect that they were meant to produce, at least among the non-intellegentsia segment of the populace. That phenomenon, I was hoping against hope, is an indicator of the instinctive good sense of the Indian people.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Bharat: That is quite an accusation – gifted academics and professionals specializing in analysis and rhetoric engaging in deliberate disingenuousness to stifle and intimidate untrained amateurs. I hope gifted academics have better use for their time but I will let other participants be the judge on this.

          You are fully entitled to believe there is a misguided peace lobby in India and to challenge them – that is normal in a democracy. You are also entitled to believe these are unavoidable costs of survival – that does not make you a war hawk, just one who believes this a realistic assessment. I am sure you would allow room for dissent from this assessment.

          I was responding to your assertion that there could be no trade while there was a fight and giving examples where this was not the case. I don’t see a convincing argument to not have more trade while leaving the conflict as the dominant feature of the relationship.

          The celebration of ignorance would be irrational. I was responding to your comment that “it is heartening that Indians by and large have ignored these numbers.” I guess you meant that Indians have considered the costs but determined them to be unavoidable. If that is the case, my interpretation was incorrect but in that case your assertion that the peace lobby has cornered the market for good sense would be incorrect as well.

          • Bharat Says:


            Individual cases can and will vary but as I mentioned, I do have a modicum of experience of watching, and to some extent participating in, “gifted academics and professionals specializing in analysis and rhetoric engaging in deliberate disingenuousness to stifle and intimidate untrained amateurs.”. Not to say that is all that the academicians do, clearly they pursue their professions. But my observation is that in the Indian context, when it comes to Pakistan and allied social issues, academia has played a domineering role, actively working to stifle debate and dissent. My observation, not an accusation Others will no doubt have theirs. I

            As to trade, fair enough, there is probably some room there, but I don’t see that as the overriding concern in India-Pakistan relations. There is,I suppose, in principle some room for an out-of-the-box “green shoots” approach in which trade grows and, coupled with so-called confidence building measures, grows to a point that makes active conflict infeasible, as with China and the US. However, in the absence of clarity as to the nature of the parties involved and their respective cultural aspirations, the risks of entering into this trade+CBM mode is that it will be misread by Pakistan as a partial surrender by India, leading it to escalate aggression, and possibly push things to the point of nuclear war. That risk is too much for me; I prefer for India to be paying the price to maintain the status quo, more or less, isolating itself from Pakistan as much as possible, and letting that country work out for itself over time, what it wants to be. Right now, it seems that it wants to do little more than rule south asia and put the kafirs in their place. Maybe that will change, but it is not change that India has the power to bring about.

            I don’t necessarily mean that the larger Indian public considers the costs of the conflict with Pakistan in an articulate way any more than it considers the costs of the vagaries of the weather; just that it is instinctively philosophical about what cannot be changed.

            And l appreciate your revising your interpretation of what I said.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Bharat: The number of blogs is certainly in the hundreds of thousands if not in the millions. It is impossible to make a categorical statement about the credibility of all blogs; certainly there are those that are selling snake oil and some of them could well be run by academics. But this is a problem with the free market especially one that is unregulated and without a consumer protection watchdog. Here the law of the free market applies – “Let the buyer beware.” The onus is on the consumer; if he/she finds a site selling selling snake oil he/she should take his/her custom elsewhere. Personally I don’t find it all that difficult to distinguish the genuine from the fake and the good from the bad. But one needs to bring some critical skills to the task.

            As to your point on trade, isolation is not going to have any impact simply because the existing volume of cross-border trade is negligible. Increasing trade, on the other hand, could have positive implications. However, if you feel the risks involved are too high, you are justified in rejecting the option.

            One can be instinctively philosophical about a lot of things that one feels cannot be changed. Many do get changed anyway. As to the weather, ask farmers if they consider the costs of the vagaries of the weather. It could be that the costs of the conflict are distributed so lopsidedly that there are some who don’t feel them at all. Thus it is no surprise that people in the diaspora are often the most hawkish and belligerent and the least inclined towards resolving conflicts.

          • Bharat Says:


            Thinking about it, avoiding commerce with Pakistan, coupled with a clear assertion of why on the part of India, might actually be the one lever that India might have to influence change in Pakistan. There is precedent for this–we boycotted commerce with the British, and told them why, and it did have some transformational effect on the latter (whose extent is often exaggerated, but it was not nil).

            So, a principled shutdown of commerce with Pakistan would not necessarily be a passive measure, provided it is accompanied with clear and repeated assertion as to why that is necessary. For instance, say we are troubled by the indoctrination of hatred against Hindus and India in Pakistani schoolbooks; we could say that we can’t really, in good conscience implicitly endorse such values by trading with their purveyors. Just a concrete example that comes to mind.

      • Bharat Says:


        The one thing that is a genuine debatable point in your above post that I see mainly as an effort to shoot me down, is the proposition that there a way to diffuse the conflict (and reduce the costs) without India dismantling itself. That, unfortunately, was the one thing you left as a bland assertion without bothering to elaborate or substantiate. (“many would challenge”? Really? That is debate? It is a dismissive assertion that I am expected to take on faith and go away.)

        However, in a spirit of constructive accommodation, let me offer my thoughts on that assertion, as though you had actually paid me the courtesy of debating it with me. Yes, in the near-term, by yielding partly, perhaps India can “buy time” (though it is not clear India has a clear sense of buy time for what, other than vague fantasies of superpower status), and reduce military expenditure. But, in the absence of a genuine understanding of the genuine “root causes” of the conflict (Hint: no it is not brahmins-banias oppressing the Kashmiri Muslims), and a full-fledged collective intellectual apparatus capable of understanding and theorizing about it–which simply does not exist in India and has no hope of existing as of now–such yielding, I fear, would be indistinguishable from accepting terms of vassalhood from an aspiring imperial power (I mean Pakistan) that typically starts with a demand made on the indpependent state to restrict its military as it is a “threat” (as Aesop’s lamb was a threat to the wolf).

        Perhaps you would deign to explain why you think my analogy is inappropriate or misplaced. Or perhaps not. I am not without experience in such discussions as we are having (though as I said, they are not often as civilized or erudite as this site); I had debated from the other side of the fence, using what I thought of as my superior rhetorical skills to demolish the wrong-headed hoi-polloi.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Bharat: You are making this discussion too personal. I have no interest in shooting you down. I am interested in engaging with an argument and if something is genuinely debatable we can debate it without attributing personal motivations. We can even debate propositions which we ourselves don’t believe just to determine if they stand up to the tests of logic.

          A discussion is a continuous process in which issues get raised and are resolved over time. One can’t elaborate everything in the first iteration. I can also claim that you made a bland assertion without any elaboration to the effect that a full fledged collective intellectual apparatus capable of understanding and theorizing this issues does not exist in India and has no hope of existing as of now. Do you expect me to take that on faith and go way?

          A useful discussion has to be based on trust. Without the trust we would spend more time doubting each others’ motivation than addressing the issues. I would request you to browse the blog. If you find it biased or dishonest in any way you would be justified in rejecting it.

          • Bharat Says:


            True, I was somewhat put out by having to defend assertions that I never made, which you insisted on refuting, with what I thought was a touch of superciliousness. There is a reason why I phrased my reservations in putative terms the way I did. Beyond responding honestly to how your words come across, I don’t doubt your personal good faith, I don’t even really know who you are, so how can I?

            I am not sure I agree with you that a discussion, to be useful, has to be predicated on Trust. That just sounds like one of those pious platitudes that is used to put the other guy off his guard before the knife (so to speak) is slipped in. (How’s that for distrust, eh?)

            Surely trust etc. depends on the context, the topic, what is said, how it is said, how it is perceived, and so on? I said I don’t have any reason to distrust you, since I don’t know you. By the same token, neither do I have any reason to trust you a priori. I already expressed my appreciation of the quality of the blog, that doesn’t mean I automatically buy everything that is said here on faith, or unquestioningly trust someone on the blog just because they sound like they had the privilege of better quality intellectual development than the average slob that populates the blogosphere.

            The deal is that I am deeply skeptical of any lovey-dovey stuff about India-Pakistan, more so after the Nov 26 2008 atrocity perpetrated by that country, and the general to-hell-with-you response from Pakistanis at large on that topic. That has been a deeply disillusioning experience and it is going to take more than a slickly-written blog to change that.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Bharat: As I said before, the onus in a free market is on the consumer. Just follow the same logic you use when you go shopping – you neither trust or distrust the shopkeeper; still, you don’t stop shopping. Over time you develop a sense of who is trustworthy and who is not.

            This blog is not intended to be taken on faith. It is explicitly designed to question and be questioned. Not everyone is comfortable with that stance which is fine since we are not participating in a popularity contest.

  2. nannikapoor Says:


    There is no point debating with a maverick suicidal society about peace. A society that has chosen to kill itself over pretenses of being a leader of the Islamic world with a nuke in their hands can not be argued with. The answer lies in Letting it destroy itself.

  3. Bharat Says:


    All bad things such as war, hostility, bad weather and so on, by definition affect the vulnerable segments more than the less vulnerable ones. That is always a consideration, but this fact of life doesn’t mean that societies shouldn’t take principled positions for the greater long-term benefit, and instead simply give in to the next bully that comes along. It has been tried before–Neville Chamberlain famously yielded to Hitler for “peace in our time”, and the disastrous war that followed surely affected poorer Britons more than their better-heeled compatriots. And Hitler spared no propaganda effort to emphasize this fact and get Britain to give in to, or at least reach accommodation with, Nazi Germany. By your logic, Britain was wrong to resist Nazi aggression and should have surrendered when given the chance.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Bharat: Your reference to Neville Chamberlain and Hitler is valid but does it lead to the mechanical conclusion that all peace, short of complete destruction of the ‘Other,’ is appeasement?

      • Bharat Says:


        I believe I had some words to say about your habit of shooting down strawmen?

        If you catch my drift, (I’ll assume you didn’t, as any other assumption would mean you are being dishonest) I was insinuating that Pakistan’s innate nature and its aggressive character has enough in common with Nazi Germany to make the analogy valid in this particular case.

        I don’t believe we were discussing universal principles of peacemaking and conflict resolution–the topic is peace between India and Pak.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Bharat: Point taken. I am not quarreling with your judgment. For this reason I have suggested taking Pakistan out of the discussion to and to have a more general debate.

  4. Bharat Says:


    By the way, do you have any evidence, other than dubious hypothetical numbers, that hostility between India and Pakistan is what stands between vulnerable and backward segments of Indian society and the support they need to make progress? I mean, is it somehow the case that we are Rupees X short of what we need for the development of poorer Indian social segments, and we have spent all our money, including credit etc., to the maximum possible efficiency already, therefore the poor are sitting around with their hands out, waiting for the Rupees X that would supposedly be liberated once we give Pakistan what it demands?

    The implication of your assertions is that this is how economics and development models work. Instead, what if I said that we could turn our nation into a war economy that produces its own materiel and use that as an engine to boost employment, education and prosperity all around in India? After all, it worked very well for the US during WWII and the Cold War.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Bharat: I presume you will agree that resources are limited and that any amount allocated for one purpose is not available for another. Whether resources allocated for specific purposes, say development, are used for that purpose or not is a different question. It depends partly on how well the political system works.

      In my view, to seek development via war is a perverse way of doing so. Quite clearly Pakistan is an emotive issue in this discussion so we can take it out of the equation to test the logic of the proposition. One-third of the districts in India are affected by Naxal violence. If one argues that peace with the Naxals would be tantamount to appeasement, the only alternative would be to eliminate them. Here is an opportunity for India to turn itself into a war economy. It will kill two birds with one stone – the bully would be destroyed and there would be great development all around for the poor people.

      • Bharat Says:


        Development through war might be immoral at some level (again, it depends on the nature of the war) but surely it has been seen to work in the instances I pointed out.

        And the amount of money available is not a zero-sum game–it is not as though India just has Y amount of rupees, and they can only be spent on guns or butter and then we are finished. There is considerable wealth being generated in India every moment as we argue here; and as the proponent the onus is on you to show that with proper management, that wealth (which is a moving target) would be forever insufficient to achieve a decent standard of living for all Indians. You would further have to show that any kind of peace (or appeasement if one prefers) dividend with Pakistan would supply the rupees that India’s poor as hungrily awaiting since that is the only avenue available today to get those rupees.

        War economy only works if the country comes together against an external enemy, having a civil war is economically disastrous since we would be destroying our own territory and people, which we would then have to rebuild with great cost of time and wealth. Forgive my rudeness here, but since you have protested your good faith so vociferously, shall I therefore assume that you are just too thick to see this elementary distinction and that is why you are dragging in the Naxalite issue? I am not trying to insult you as such, but since you seem quite intelligent to me, so what would you have make of your debating style?

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Bharat: Are resources limited or unlimited? I understand that the economy is dynamic. The size of the cake is changing all the time; in well-managed economies it is growing but it is still finite in size. The Indian economy has been growing for over sixty years but the resources have proved insufficient to provide a decent standard of living to all Indians. It is not possible for me to show that the ‘peace dividend’ would be used for development purposes but it would certainly free up resources. Is that an unreasonable argument?

          The claim that a ‘war economy only works if the country comes together against an external enemy’ is too general. It didn’t work for Napoleon or Hitler against Russia and it didn’t work for the Japanese against the Americans. The distinction between an external and internal war is also too neat especially in this age. External wars can also cause damage inside the country as the Japanese learnt at great cost and the Pakistanis are learning now (hopefully).

  5. Bharat Says:


    Keep in mind that I brought in the idea of “war economy” as a counterargument to the claim that peace will always equal prosperity and by implication, war will mean the opposite. So, I don’t have a problem accepting that, under some circumstances, war economy can be ruinous as well.

    It seems that, from the Indian perspective, the issue boils down to whether one considers the risks and dangers of a thoughtless peace with Pakistan (which is the only kind possible at the present level of public articulation) as an acceptable price for a possible freeing-up of resources that will benefit India’s poor. My stand is that there is no merit whatsoever in the position that the risks etc. will bring the desired benefits, and in fact the premises are all flawed. Your stance is apparently different. If nothing else, we might have achieved this degree of clarification of each other’s views.

    Regarding limited resources, let me point out the following: physical resources are limited, all others are the product of human industry and labor, coupled with management. Peace with Pakistan will make no difference in changing the limits on physical resources available to India–Pakistan has no physical resources that India needs, and the oft-mentioned oil pipeline from Iran will only hold India’s energy needs hostage to an aggressive expansionist enemy. As for industry and labor and management, if you are Indian, you would be aware that India-Pakistan relations play little or no role in the level and quality of these activities in India. The only thing Pakistan can do is to infuence this factor is to launch attacks like the ones on Mumbai; and while surrendering to Pakistan with the intent of getting it to stop such attacks seems attractive superficially, the wealth of human experience tells us that it only encourages the predator / bully, and is a terrible idea.

    You suggested we put aside the India-Pakistan issue and debate global peace instead. I simply don’t have the brain capacity to encompass and discuss such a vast subject, plus I am much more invested in India, so I’ll have to pass.

    I think this is a good point to wrap up this discussion and call it a day. thanks for a good discussion.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Bharat: Online discussions stay open because they have multiple readers and the argument can be continued by others now or in the future. So, while I thank you for your contribution, I would be moving the discussion forward for the benefit of the others.

      No one can make categorical statements that either peace will always equal prosperity or war will always mean the opposite. The point being made is that in a situation of conflict, peace can make resources available for uses other than war. Whether such resources are used productively for development is a separate issue and depends on other factors.

      No one has recommended a ‘thoughtless’ peace. The entire proposition turns on the search for a ‘thougthful’ peace. It may prove elusive but should it not remain an objective?

      Even resources of human industry and labor cannot be unlimited because they have to be created out of something.

      The point is not that peace would make available physical or other resources of one country to the other. Rather, internal resources of both countries would be freed up for other uses. Whether these resources are used well is a separate matter as mentioned earlier.

      My suggestion was not to debate global peace. Rather, it was to test the arguments being made by applying them to countries other than India and Pakistan in order to take emotions out of the arguments.

      I would also urge readers to re-focus on the argument of the initiating post. It was that there is seemingly no significant constituency for peace in either India or Pakistan and informing the electorate of estimates of the costs imposed on them by war does not seem to make a difference in attitudes. The thrust of the post was to discuss if this is a valid conclusion and, if so, what could be a good explanation of the phenomenon?

  6. SouthAsian Says:

    There had been some discussion on this post about the possibility of calculating the costs of war. This article in the New York Times provides some guidelines and an estimate of the costs of the Iraq war to the US:


    And here is an estimate by the Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz:


    The questions for us, in relation to the wars in South Asia, are the following:

    How effective have these wars been?
    Are less expensive solutions to conflicts available?
    Who gains from wars?
    Who pays for the wars?
    Do those who pay know what the wars are about?

    • Vinod Says:

      I think it was in your blog that I read somewhere that nation states are too big for the small problems and too small for the big problems.

    • man0jm Says:

      I am not sure I get the idea at all, especially after reading the exchanges above. If your questions about wars is an economic question, most wars are simply a means to increase wealth for the militarily powerful, usurping the resources held by others militarily weak (US civil war, ‘world wars’ in which a few nations faught each other, Afghanistan etc). In a sense, thats what goes on today too – somehow, the rich & mighty seem to believe it’s their divine duty to drag other nations to the altar of ‘free trade’, ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ if they resist. Are these not wars?

      And if this premise is correct, there is not much point in debating whether the wars are cheap or expensive, who ends up ‘paying’ for wars and whether those who pay the costs. Does this soul searching really matter, especially when it’s about power-play? Wouldnt this blog be better served by focussing on specific areas of agreement, rather than disagreements?

      • SouthAsian Says:

        man0jm: Sometimes it is possible to focus on agreements leaving the disagreements aside. Other times it is not possible. When there are groups who benefit by exploiting the disagreement, it cannot be left alone because one is not allowed to leave it alone. Then, it has to be addressed directly. Most of the time a small minority gains by keeping tensions alive and the big majorities are the losers. Therefore, if the latter can engage to defuse the disagreement society would be better off. We are trying to raise this consciousness on the blog.

        Also, I don’t believe the events leading to the partition of British India in which a million people died can be classified as a classical war in which the militarily strong tried to wrest wealth from the militarily weak. It was a civil disagreement that got out of control leaving other disagreements behind. These disagreements have led to conflicts that have not primarily been about increasing wealth.

  7. Shivatejas Bettadapura Says:

    Firstly, the blog doesn’t define what “peace” between India and Pakistan means. Does it mean a disavowal of force to resolve disputes? Does it mean the resolution of disputes themselves? Or, does it mean trade should flow while the disputes are ongoing?

    If the last definition were adopted, India has already shown willingness to trade with Pakistan, while maintaining a dialog with Pak on contentious issues like Kashmir and terrorism.Pakistan has so far been unwilling to give MFN status to India apparently because “a nation that worships 33 crore idols cannot be sabse pasandida mulk to Pak”.As long as visceral hatred for Hindus, which is itself a form of self-hatred, is disavowed, any peace agreement signed with India will be difficult to sell to the Pakistani public.

    The blog doesn’t show that whatever costs would likely be saved by achieving peace with Pak, whatever that means, would necessarily be diverted towards eliminating poverty of India’s citizens.If Siachen were cleared out tomorrow,the cost saved would likely be used in upgrading our defense capabilities. Besides, as Bharat has said, development is not a zero-sum game. India has pulled millions out of poverty in the last 20 years,with hostility against Pak; there’s no reason why it can’t continue to do so in the future.

    The blog assumes that the onus for peace lies equally on both countries. I would argue that the onus should be distributed based on the countries’ contributions to instability in the region. I don’t want to recite a litany of wrongs committed by Pak, but suffice it to say that a state that adopted terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy arguably has a greater burden than the world’s largest democracy. Don’t bring up Bangladesh in response because that was about averting a genocide. And Pak, in recent times, reflexively accuses India of training proxies in Balochistan and more absurdly, using the TTP as an instrument against the army. The fact that it relies on Indian sources for this accusation speaks to the sheer incompetence of the Pakistani state

    Lastly, it is impossible to find peace with a country that it is not at peace with itself.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Shivatejas: Peace is the absence of war. Any step beyond that – absence of hostilities and trade, absence of hostilities and trade and resolution of disputes – is better. But this distinction is not relevant for the post which is focused on gains from peace and the gains from cessation of hostilities alone are large enough to merit discussion.

      Arguing against peace by picking on sentences like “a nation that worships 33 crore idols cannot be sabse pasandida mulk to Pak” is not helpful. Sure, some people hold that opinion, but how many? Will just one person subscribing to such a sentiment be sufficient to abandon efforts for peace? Could one not find similar sentiments expressed in India? Serious attempts require rising beyond such baits.

      If the savings from Siachen are misused, that would be reflection on the stupidity of the government not a serious argument for continuing to spend money on war. The argument is that potential savings are possible. How they are used depends on voters in a democracy. Similarly, the argument that India has pulled people out of poverty while spending on the military is not a serious justification to continue spending on war. It could lift many more out of poverty in the absence of hostilities.

      As for distributing the onus for peace, this misses the point altogether. India should facilitate peace not as a favor to Pakistan but out of its own interest. If peace is not in India’s interest, there is no basis for proceeding with the discussion. Of course, we have to specify who in India we are referring to in this context. The millions living in poverty would surely benefit while the well-off armchair warriors who are not impacted in the least by the consequences of conflict would lose the vicarious thrill of thrashing a enemy. Clearly, the latter hold much more power than the latter even in the world’s greatest democracy. The same holds on the other side. The real question is who should decide on such issues – those who are impacted or those who are getting the thrills?

      On finding it impossible to find peace with a country that is not at peace with itself, are you seriously suggesting India is at peace with itself? Since when has that become the determining factor in political relations. Sri Lanka and Nepal were much more at war with themselves than Pakistan, yet the argument was not employed in those cases.

      This post was titled “Who Wants Peace in the Subcontinent?” knowing that there were many who do not do so. If one starts from that position many spurious arguments can be found to justify and maintain the satus quo. That does not negate the argument that there is a real peace dividend that can be beneficial to the majority in both countries. This argument can be made without defending the conduct of either or without arguing that the cause of hostilities is symmetric. Peace requires statesmanship and statesmanship requires rising above the logic of an eye for an eye which leaves everyone blind.

  8. Shivatejas Bettadapura Says:

    Regarding your point about anti-Hindu bigotry, that quote comes from Hafiz Saeed, a terrorist to the world but a social worker who can do no wrong to Pakistani authorities. I have it on the authority of Najam Sethi that if he wills it, Saeed can shut down all of Lahore. He receives state financing for his “social activities”. The government holds him in either fear or admiration; I dare not speculate which.

    I would welcome peace with Pakistan,however you choose to define it.My larger point is that it is considered okay to spew hatred against Hindus. A commentator I respect very much Hassan Nisar, routinely blames many of the ills plaguing Pakistan on co-existence with the Hindus for 1000 years without ever being questioned. Of course he doesn’t represent all of Pakistan but if this is what a well-regarded intellectual comes up with by way of analysis, I wonder about less-educated,simpler Pakistanis, who form the majority. The liberal civil society, by all accounts,including voices within Pakistan,is still a very thin minority. No doubt such elements exist in India, too, but they’re rightly branded “communal” by mainstream media.

    Peace between India and Pakistan would inevitably involve compromises on both sides. My sense is that any compromises from Pakistan will be seen as surrender, especially by the army, which sees itself as the ideological guardian of Pakistan. What that ideology is, we both know very well.

    Sri Lanka and Nepal are different in that it is possible to argue these were in a state of civil war rather than in any fanciful apocalyptic conflict with an external enemy. SL and Nepal didn’t see themselves as having some God-given purpose to annihilate or dominate another country. In short, these were normal countries that passed through a period of conflict.

    India doesn’t face any existential threat to its existence as a nation-state. The Naxal problem is a bit exaggerated because any district in which even one incident has occurred is classified as Naxal-affected. The Kashmiri insurgency has been largely vanquished as have the Khalistanis. Discontent simmers in the north-east but there is no challenge that is insurmountable. Pakistanis console themselves with the thought that India is brimming with insurgencies to silence those voices that seem even slightly admiring of India’s successes.

    Increasingly, defense spending in India is being seen as a way to promote domestic industry and research, so far from exacerbating poverty, it might actually reduce it by providing jobs and so on. In due course,some Indian arms may find their way into foreign markets, thus boosting India’s exports.Seen from this viewpoint, it would be counter-productive to reduce defense spending under any goody-goody notions of neighborliness.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Shivatejas: The post was intended to find out who was in favor of peace or otherwise and their reasons which could be different in the two countries. Your position is quite clear and leaves little room for discussion.

      One starting point is that there is a payoff to peace. However, it is so distributed that those who benefit most have the least political influence. Therefore, efforts towards peace remain weak. Your position seems to be that there are actually no payoffs to peace. Defense expenditures should be increased even more because that would generate jobs and foreign exchange earnings and thereby reduce poverty. I would recommend an economic analysis of that proposition. The capital required to create one job in the defense industry will turn out to be much higher than in alternative investments. It would be an inefficient use of resources.

      Also, your emotional stance associates peace with soft good-goody sentiments and no one wants to come across as goody-goody. You are therefore looking for any comment that would support your stance. I see no other reason to greatly respecting the opinion of someone who makes patently absurd statements.The fact is that for every X you can point to in Pakistan there is an equivalent Y in India. There is nothing that will come out of such a tit-for-tat name calling.

      For those who believe there is a payoff to peace, it is very obvious that there are huge roadblocks in the way. The challenge is to find a way around those roadblocks to get to peace. It is both naive and disingenuous to suggest that the roadblocks should disappear first before moving to peace. If that were to happen, making peace would not be needed.

      • Shivatejas Bettadapura Says:

        Don’t get me wrong; I don’t intend to come across as curmudgeonly, far from it. I’ve met several Pakistanis and so far,my interactions have been extremely cordial. On reflection, I would say that the debate has to move from ordinary people to the actions of the state and opinion-makers in the media.

        The reason I feel disillusioned about Track 2 is because several people who argue passionately for peace on Indian forums begin to posture when in the company of fellow Pakistanis and attempt to feed into the general paranoia back home in Pakistan. My sense is that all the macho I see in the Pakistani media is a function of insecurity felt by what is seen as a scheming and large neighbor. Of course, I would be the first to concede that matters are not helped by the jingoism of some sections of the Indian media. After all, some journalists in India don’t seem to sense sometimes that the truth knows no borders, but the sense of insecurity felt in Pakistan goes much much deeper. It’s difficult for me to see what actions India can possibly take, apart from cutting itself down to fewer states, to make Pakistan feel secure about India’s intentions.

        We can agree to disagree on what constitute the fringe and what constitutes the mainstream in the two countries. My information is derived from http://www.themuslimtimes.org/2012/08/asia/a-mystery-of-21st-century-who-is-a-muslim and the passionate and still extant belief in the “Two-nation theory”.

        I derive my information about the Pak army from Christine Fair’s “Fighting to the end:The Pakistan Army’s Way of War”. Perhaps you can contradict that in you next post and persuade me otherwise.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Shivatejas: This is one of the important topics on this blog and much has been written about it. Rather than repeat the arguments, I am linking two earlier posts that might help provide a frame for analysis. One could then extend the discussion forward:


        • SouthAsian Says:

          Shivatejas: To clarify the operating principle of this blog, we have referenced A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man before. Yesterday, I came across the interaction between Stephen Dedalus and Davin (who considers Stephen “a terrible man,” almost a traitor) again and am quoting it here:

          Stephen Dedalus: “When the soul of a man is born, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”

          Davin: “A man’s country comes first. . . . You can be a poet or a mystic after.”

          At the cost of being considered traitors, we are with Stephen Dedalus. We don’t start out defending anything or anyone but let reason, logic, and the search for truth lead us where it may. At least that is the intention.

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