A Treaty To Learn From

The Indo-Pak tensions at the Line of Control (LoC) are again dying down, thankfully. Yet, like the ultimate movie cliché when the hero subdues one foe and turns his attention to another only to find the first villain reinvigorated, it is just a matter of time that the nuclear armed neighbours will be at each other’s throats once again. The perverse and regressive ideology that war is or can be the answer to our problems will keep coming back.
A single untoward incident sets back the peace process and what follows are allegations and counter allegations. War hysteria overshadows everything. Even a threat of all-out war abounds. The cost of a possible war which includes a highly destructive arms race, the race to the bottom, is too huge to be left to be sorted out through the ‘maturity’ of our leaders. We must urge concrete steps to normalise the relationship over the long term.
So, how do we put an end to such capricious fits of anger from both sides? How can we be sure that the progress made in dialogues will not be set back each time?
A reasonable ‘solution’ is proposed by many progressive intellectuals. This involves pleading with each party to recognise the core issues of the other. Although as reasonable as these propositions are, they are next to impossible to be implemented at least in the short run. The incentive structure in place greatly works against this ‘rational’ settlement.
Instead of barking up the wrong tree, we need to achieve normalisation with India through other channels. There are lessons to be learnt from the master economist John Maynard Keynes’ advice to world leaders after World War I: “Make your enemy your trading partner.”
The advice by Keynes is powerful. But, we should also focus on the underlying message ie make each other so dependent on each other that war becomes impossible.
What I would propose is more specific: to make the Pakistani and Indian military heavily dependent on each other. As outlandish as it may sound, this is not an alien concept. The Treaty of Paris in 1951 largely served this purpose for Europe. This treaty allowed arch enemies, countries that had killed multitudes more than India and Pakistan, to share production of coal and steel, the major raw materials needed for arms production. This made French arms heavily depended on German arms and vice versa.
Unilateral reduction in arms will have a well-known problem of moral hazard ie ex post exploitation by the other party. Hence, India and Pakistan need to coordinate their arms production to establish lasting peace, particularly those arms that are specifically designed to thwart each others’ eminent threats. A treaty, with international arbitrators, along the lines of the Treaty of Paris can make each military so dependent on each other, that the parties who have the most to gain from continued conflict lose out.
Wishing our leaders to be mature and even headed is not enough. Apart from a concerted resolve on each side to ‘de-demonise’ each side, we need to align the interests of the most important players, the militaries of both countries.
The peace we see amongst the once staunchest enemies in Europe was not brought about overnight. It is highly probable that without the Treaty of Paris, there would have been no pan-European peace. If the dream of economic integration and universal opulence for Pakistan and India is to be realised, we will have to move beyond hawkish rhetoric and finger-pointing and take practical steps.
The implementation of the Most Favoured Nation status, where each country agrees to refrain from protectionism, is a step in the right direction but we need to do more. Making each others’ arms production dependent on each other is another step that can move us closer to the ideal of lasting peace.