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If Pakistan can sell its territories to China, why not to India?
The broken republic
26 May, 2023
(Illustration: Saurabh Singh)
AFTER GENERAL ZIA-UL-HAQ’S DEATH, the Pakistan army brass decided that it was better to keep up the sham of democracy. It kept them away from global sanctions, but still in control of their country. Hence, they chose Benazir Bhutto and General Zia’s protégé, Nawaz Sharif, as prime ministers. And when they became liabilities to be dispensed with, then it was Imran Khan’s turn. But Imran Khan and his supporters openly challenging the army, which alleged the former was corrupt, has shocked the latter. Even critics of Imran have gone on record to say that he could be anything but financially corrupt.
Coming as the charges did from the army brass, it was a joke as there isn’t a bigger parasite in Pakistan than its army—that eats large chunks (50-70 per cent annually) of the country’s finances, and has historically lived off handouts from the Americans (with the US putting in $80 billion since the 1960s), the Gulf countries and the Chinese (as Chinese CPEC investments, now of over $65 billion). Besides, the drug trade ($20 billion annually) comes from Afghanistan via Pakistan and goes to the West. Another element in Pakistan’s politics is the judiciary’s challenge to the army, which seems to be more inclined to favour Imran than the military. Remember the standoff that Pervez Musharraf had with the judiciary, which eventually led to his handing over power and leaving the country?
Pakistan’s various regions are on the boil again and people have had enough of the charade of the army as the saviour of the country. Things are now at a turning point. Imran himself has gone on record to say that the people’s movement in Pakistan is similar to the uprising in East Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh, never mind the fact that the military commander in Dhaka in 1971 was Lt General AAK Niazi, from whose tribe hails Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi. And like the Bengalis who had been exploited by West Pakistan since the Partition of India, today, the Gilgit, Baloch, and Sindhi populations, along with the tribals on the Pakistan-Afghan border, are all ganging up against the military and the Punjab-centric establishment of Pakistan that have been exploiting those resource-rich regions to fund their lavish lifestyles. Imran says that he hasn’t seen such largescale protests in the “past 35 years.”
Where will Pakistan go from here? It is almost bankrupt and it cannot turn its economy around by restructuring it, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) wants it to, because nobody of any consequence or in the establishment of Pakistan pays any taxes. Also, Pakistan’s ‘deep state’ has got used to living off bailouts. One option for Pakistan is to sell some of its territories— like the Faustian bargain it struck with China over Shaksgam Valley in the 1960s Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gwadar port in the 1990s near Karachi. It could then get the funds it needs (at least $30 billion a year) to survive. So, here is an idea—though it will shock too many to count in India, if examined with a cool head, it can work. While the Pakistan army has always used the anti-India card to fleece the Pakistani state and its patrons, here is an idea that can prevent another conflict—as wars are often used as a distraction by countries confronted with serious political challenges within—as a tool to distract the public, it’ll have to change its narrative, though military organisations do not easily do so. But the lure of dollars from the US got Musharraf to abandon their “jihadis” in Afghanistan.
Where will Pakistan go from here? It is almost bankrupt and it cannot turn its economy around by restructuring it, as the International Monetary Fund wants it to, because nobody of any consequence or in the establishment of Pakistan pays any taxes. Also, Pakistan’s ‘deep state’ has got used to living off bailouts
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A perpetual state of military hostility—as in the case of India and Pakistan—can result in the complete military defeat of one party, as in the case of Germany and Japan in World War II, where the US and its allies implemented the Marshall and the McArthur plans to rebuild their economies, albeit at a huge cost. To end the Egypt-Israel hostilities after three wars, the US arranged a permanent peace deal between them with the Camp David Accords, for which the US still funds Egypt and Israel annually. The point is that peace comes at a price. A simple back-of-the-envelope calculation tells us that any Indian invasion across the Line of Control (LoC) to free parts of PoK, as some in India argue, would not only be a huge drain on lives and resources but also cost at least a billion dollars a day, and last perhaps a month. That’ll be $30 billion. Instead, can $30 billion be better utilised to turn Pakistan around? Perhaps, yes.
The idea for India to consider is to buy the areas of PoK for $30 billion dollars—which a bold leadership in Pakistan could consider—and use the money to save itself the humiliation of walking with a begging bowl. They have done it with the Chinese. So, why not a deal with India? Pakistan has a much higher land-to-population ratio, so that shouldn’t be an issue. It has only to change its anti-India bias. It will change the huge drain of military expenses—some say the unofficial figures are 72 per cent of the country’s resources— and allow Pakistan to finally turn around. Of course, there will be huge resistance to this idea, maybe even another coup in Pakistan, but at least it will allow Pakistanis a way out of their fund-draining anti-India mess. And for India, control of the large chunk of Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, and Azad Kashmir districts—home to jihadist groups and their camps—and a bigger buffer for the Valley to stall jihadist attacks. Incidentally, the CPEC runs from Gilgit- Baltistan, Islamabad and Lahore onto Gwadar, all areas that Pakistan will retain, while India can buy out the troublemaking regions on the LoC.
If Pakistan can—de facto—sell its territories to China, why not to India? The hawks in Pakistan will shout against it, but if Pakistan has sold itself for decades to its benefactors, then why not to India? Think about it: $30 billion is half of what India will spend on its defence budget this year ($72.6 billion). But by pacifying Pakistan, it will over time reduce the expenses on defence against Pakistan and it will leave us more money to spend against China. This will require a serious restructuring of India’s security doctrines but the central question is: Would we like to live for the next quarter-century or more in a state of likely war, or create a new model for peace with Pakistan?
About The Author
Maroof Raza is the author of, among other titles, Contested Lands: India, China and the Boundary Dispute. He is a consulting editor with Times TV Network
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