Undoubtedly, national security is the first and foremost concern for every state in the competitive international politics. States leave no stone unturned to preserve and to protect their acquired values – values such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, economic well-being, etc. Empirical evidence, in overwhelming proportions, suggests that states can never achieve this goal in isolation; they have to believe in complex interdependence – a way to understand the commonality of security concerns and mutual coexistence.
States operate at different levels very cautiously with a realist approach to strengthen and consolidate their national security. One can argue that national security patterns include local, regional and global arrangements. Under local pattern of national security, a state employs all its resources; all its organs (executive, legislature, judiciary); and, all available means to attain the goal of national security. Under the regional pattern of national security, a state finds it convenient to forge alliances with like-minded states against mutual security threats — many alliances could be multi-purpose including political, military, economic and cultural dimensions. NATO, SCO, ASEAN, and EU are glaring examples where states believe in working together to confront mutual security threats both in traditional and non-traditional perspectives. Likewise, under the global pattern of national security, a state is the part of UN and firmly understands that being the member of international body supplements its national security somehow or the other.
So, arguably it can be said that a state has to be the part of some arrangement to meet the national security imperatives in the increasingly globalized post-modern world. Unfortunately, the South Asian region is still deprived from such sort of array in the pure sense. To utter dismay, South Asian affairs are largely over-shadowed by the strategic competition between arch-rivals India and Pakistan – leaving much less space for other regional states to play their role in the uplift of a poverty-stricken population. Interestingly, a close look at Indian and Pakistani challenges reveals that more or less both are facing similar kinds of threats in the context of their domestic spheres.
Though, Kashmir is a very controversial and thin-skinned issue, I would like to point out: what has been achieved by the decades-long insurgency? What has been achieved by the major stake-holders in the insurgency? What has been gained by Pakistan — only accusations that it has been supporting the insurgents? Why not India and Pakistan prioritize their mutual security concerns and then build up mutual trust knowingly it would be in the larger interest of both the states.
Last summer, while participating in a workshop organized by the prestigious Columbia University, I had a wonderful discussion with an Indian counter-part on the sensitive issue of Kashmir. We were trying hard to have some out of the box thinking. After few days, he also emailed me his thoughts and I am just reproducing them here as it is:
“I agree that the gravest threat to Pakistan is internal in nature rather than external (India). Pakistani elite need to recognize the growing threat of radical Islamist groups. I believe that there exists an excellent opportunity for both India and Pakistan to mutually help each other in their struggles against internal threats. The menace of Naxalism has grown serious ever the last few years. If Pakistan can assure India that it would stop supporting insurgency in J&k… it will free thousands of Indian troops who are tied up in counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir valley. These troops can then be deployed in Naxal affected areas….thereby reducing the overall Indian troop presence near the LOC. This in turn will allow Pakistan to divert thousands of Pakistani troops towards its western borders where the Islamist forces are concentrated. It will be a win-win situation for both these states…and Inshahallah…be a new chapter in India-Pakistan relations! But the pre-requisite for this policy is two-fold: a) prioritize mutual security concerns (i.e. internal threat); and b) trust each other to keep its commitment.”
I think the time has ripened enough to launch some serious efforts to resolve mutual security challenges given the fact that the region is witnessing height of violence, turbulence and chaos. There is no other way-out. If Pakistan takes some concrete steps based on political resolve and will, India will have to reciprocate. Both the states must have to realize that the confrontation in the highly nuclearized milieu can result into a “mutual suicide” scenario.