29 Jan 2012

Democratizing the Nuclear Neighbour

Despite the fears of a coup, India must ensure that conditions are maintained to retain some state of democracy in its nuclear neighbour.

Historically, relations between the Pakistan Army and the Indian government haven't exactly been friendly. Since Independence, they have bordered at extreme paranoia and complete distrust. Attempts to start/maintain peace between the two neighbours has seen the civilian government in Pakistan asking for the "go-ahead" from the Army. In case the above hasn't been done, the efforts to achieve peace have been scuttled at the very basic stage.

Thus, it is not in India's interest to allow the Pakistani Army into power. But any attempt to do so by using "unacceptable" methods would only ensure that the public opinion tilts in favour of the Army (something that has for the last couple of years prevented the army from coming to power). A more intelligent approach would involve encouraging the civilian institutions in Pakistan to maintain their grip on power mainly by covering them in the mainstream Indian and international news media. 

Also covert funding to moderate pressure groups in Pakistan would be an ideal path that the RAW (India's spy agency) can take in order to ensure that the public opinion remains in favour of the civilian institutions while at the same time ensuring that a balance is attained with the extremists. A situation resembling the current Indian state of affairs (extremely active civil society) would provide democracy the much needed boost that it requires in the country which has a history of democracies being overthrown by military coups.

For India, a military government is not acceptable considering the fact that all the wars that India has fought against Pakistan happened during the military rule. Thus any attempt to install an army government in Pakistan can only succeed if the 'terror of India' is created in the minds of the Pakistani people. The paranoia regarding India has always been the stepping stone that the Pakistan Army has needed to hoist itself to a position of direct power (indirect power involves tremendous amount of influence on the civilian government while refraining to portray itself as a major political power in the public eyes).

A face off with the US (though highly unlikely) would certainly create the buzz that the Pakistani Army needs while at the same time uncomfortable relations with India would certainly put the civilian government in an uncomfortable position. Thus attempts to improve ties between India and Pakistan should be on the top of the priority list for Pakistan.

Closer trade ties involve direct interaction between the people and thus the mistrust on either side is reduced every day little by little. It is only through such attempts of improving ties while at the same time not 'bowing down' with/to other countries in the public eye can the current government in power hold on to its present position and last till the next elections where the verdict might or might not go against them.

On the other side of the globe, it would be ideal if USA took steps so as to improve the ties with the current government in Pakistan at least till the elections are over. A civilian government in power is the only way the USA can attempt to get rid of the Taliban and terrorism which has time and again proved to be a strategic asset for Pakistan against its rivals in the Indian subcontinent.