(By Atif R. Mazari )
The history of relations between India and Pakistan continued to be overshadowed by deep-rooted hostilities with grave consequences for the entire region of South Asia. Not only does the unresolved Kashmir problem coupled with formalized nuclearization of the Sub-continent add a dangerous dimension to the relations. Both India and Pakistan have fought three full-fledged wars along with some near war like situation. Such as the Operation Brasstacks (1986-1987), the nuclear crisis (1990), a limited exchange at Kargil (1999), the prolonged sixteen-month military stand-off (December 2001-April 2003), and many more tensed events on different occasion are the indicative of perpetual cold war in the region.
For India and Pakistan, the future of economic development is a decisive factor to policy determinations in a case of conflict. The process of development in the South Asian region is gradually increasing higher than before (CPEC & Chabahar Venture). The problem to the maximum economic gains is the perpetual enmity which is causing India to spend maximum resources to get minimum benefits what they can attain in half through joining CPEC.
India came out of the proposed IPI pipeline to meet the energy needs saying that they can’t trust Pakistan for their energy sector and agreed upon TAPI through Afghanistan a permanent threat to the countries involved in this project owing to its security situation. India and Afghanistan took another move with Iran for a transport route via Iranian port of Chabahar to outflank the CPEC.
There is no comparison in scale and intent between China’s role in Gwadar and India’s in Chabahar, but for the clarity on two parallel projects hardly at the difference of 100 Km is essential:-
Gwadar port’s capacity once it is completed will be 300 to 400 million tons of cargo annually. It is comparable to the capacity of all of India’s ports combined annual capacity of 500 million tons of cargo today. It is far larger than the 10-12 million tons cargo handling capacity planned for Chabahar.
Largest US port of Long Beach which handles 80 million tons of cargo, about a quarter of what Gwadar will handle upon completion of the project. Gawadar port will be capable of handling the world’s largest container ships and massive oil tankers.
This Indian dream to trade with Afghanistan through Afghan-Iran border in the West has four main reasons of failure:
1. Most of Afghan population lives in east and south close to the border with Pakistan
2. Afghanistan has very poor infrastructure making it very difficult to move cargo across land from west to east and south of the country.
3. India needs access to Central Asian countries through chabahar which is far away than adopting CPEC.
4. Pakistan suspects that India’s real objective in Iran is to locate its intelligence agents under the cover of Chabahar port construction workers to sabotage CPEC and support Baloch insurgency to destabilize Pakistan.
Chabahar is ostensibly an Indian effort to build a port in Iran to bypass Pakistan for India’s trade with landlocked Afghanistan and other Central Asian states. Indian Prime Minister Modi has committed $500 million investment in Chabahar, a tiny fraction of the Chinese commitment for Gwadar. He said we want to link to the world, but connectivity among ourselves is also a priority, but he is missing Pakistan a great opportunity only on the basis of enmity.
On the other hand India is striving to enter into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Indian entry to NSG will shake strategic balance in South Asia and even cast a cloud over peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Pakistan has consistently maintained that criteria-based, non-discriminatory approach, which treats both Pakistan and India equally, while also simultaneously binding them to appropriate non-proliferation commitments, will not only strengthen the non-proliferation regime but also promote strategic stability in the region.
Both India & Pakistan needs to work together to improve peace through composite dialogue. In a region plagued by uncertainty, development can help undo the toxic past and ensure that it does not repeat itself. What good it would be to adhere to the past if it keeps holding us back because of a series of conspiracy theories. India cannot emerge as an economic super power unless it builds peace with its neighbor. India has to send signals to assure that it has no intention to break up Pakistan and work toward resolving Kashmir instead of enjoying the advantage of status quo. We can completely erase the impact of history for brighter future of coming generations. Working on mutual benefits putting aside the threats of non state actors will help India & Pakistan to focus on regional peace.