Yesterday Pakistan's PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari made the following statement -
He also outlined a series of steps that include replacing armed forces along the border by a more humane police force and the creation of economic zones along the Indo Pakistan border. He added that Pakistan can be a supplier of raw materials to India and also provide transport of oil and gas to feed India's growing economy.
But are the two countries ready for this kind of a bilateral relation?
It is true that India and Pakistan were one nation prior to 1947 but they have gone on different paths since Independance. Indian policies revolved around industrialization and self sufficiency while Pakistan imported everything from arms to cars. Since 1991, post economic liberalization India has increased their tax base , got rid of debt obligations and are well on their way to economic prosperity. Militarily too, India is the biggest buyer of arms in the developing world since 2002. On the other hand Pakistan has become the epicenter of terrorist activity in Afghanistan, India and even the USA.
So for Pakistan, befriending India is a good strategy. India represents a huge market to sell goods and raw materials like coal, iron and food grains. This will benefit India too as they will get cheaper goods and services from Pakistan.
However,the biggest risk for India would be the consequences of having a porous border. It would be easier for the ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency ) to send terrorists across the border. Even if they don't encourage militants anymore , India can be used as a safe haven by Al qaieda terrorists. Once inside India these terrorists have access to the thousand of soft targets in India and can encourage the tiny home grown Indian terrorist organizations like the "Islamic Students Movement of India". They can also reach out to Bangladeshi terror groups who have recently been suspected for the Jaipur blasts.
- India and Pakistan will never be able to resolve the Kashmir Issue bilaterally. This issue will always fuel terrorism and bitterness.
- India and Pakistan will not be able to address poverty while they are in an arms race. All the surplus funds will always be used to buy military equipment
- Many Indians and Pakistanis have families living on either side of the border. Given the current relations and visa issues between countries many have not seen their families since 1947.
- India needs natural resources like coal, iron and most importantly gas to fuel its growing economy. Pakistan provides a great route for Indian companies to access gas from Middle Eastern countries.
- Indians and Pakistanis speak a similar language, have similar cultures and interaction will help them jointly combat issues like terrorism ,poverty and education.
Strategically , there are many benefits of good Indo -Pak ties and must be pursued. But India must keep the risk of having a porous border and must develop a way to mitigate that risk.