For economy’s sake: Can India and Pakistan forgive and forget?

Published: March 27, 2012

Can the South Asian region replicate the European Union model? PHOTO: REUTERS

When geography and history become prisoners to politics, it’s destiny that becomes the real victim. A realisation is dawning on South Asian countries that by pandering to narrow political vision they have invited misery, backwardness and suffering for their own people. Their potentiality has become stilted at the altar of political bickering which stunts the economic growth of the region.

How can these historical shortcomings be overcome? How can we rewrite a new history of economic integration? Representatives from all the South Asian countries gathered, in New Delhi recently, to mull over a new destiny for the region that shares a common history but contentious politics.

The occasion was the third Indian Council of World Affairs-Association of Asian Scholars (ICWA-AAS ) Asian Relations Conference on “Transforming South Asia: Imperatives for Action”. The two day deliberation was marked by the spirit of camaraderie and an open and frank discussion on how to bring the nations of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) together on a single economic platform. The idea was to see if the region could be able to replicate the European Union model.

But for this idea to become a reality a paradigm shift in thinking is needed. This realisation exists among the major players of South Asia, India and Pakistan. The representatives of India and Pakistan didn’t indulge in a blame game but instead chose to address the larger issue of cooperation, how to leave the checkered history of the subcontinent behind and lift the population from poverty and deprivation.

The Beaconhouse National University (Lahore) Vice Chancellor Sartaj Aziz said,

The countries of South Asia are truly at a historic crossroad. They can either remain under the heavy burden of their checkered history, overwhelmed by their inter-state and intra-state conflicts, and therefore be unable to lift the population from poverty and deprivation, or they can learn to live and work together, taking advantage of the vast opportunities for development, trade and cooperation that are opening up.

This is not a mere statement, but a new voice from Pakistan that wants to defy the traditional narrative and embrace the new realism of a world that sees its salvation in economics and not in politics.

In this voice, there is a plea to the world to look at Pakistan not from the prism of the army, ISI or Taliban and other regressive forces, but to understand the silent but strong urge of the people to carve out a new destiny for their hapless nation.

Dr Huma Baqai in her presentation, “New trends and paradigm shifts in Pakistan and Pakistan-India relations: Pakistan’s perspective.” talks about the new ‘changing’ Pakistan.

The young scholar, who has been quite a hit with the Indian audience in Delhi, says:

The last five plus years, Pakistan has faced the most serious challenges ever. This has resulted in several paradigm shifts and new trends that have emerged in the polity of Pakistan. These challenges can be turned into opportunities, if these new developments are consolidated. They may have a favourable impact on Pakistan itself and on its regional relations. The most prominent of these is the democratic transition in Pakistan, the changing Pakistan-US relationship, the situation in Afghanistan and imperatives of economic liberalisation

It was Baqai’s first visit to India and she was determined to convey a new prevailing mood of her country to New Delhi; whatever the past may have been, the future will not be the same. She was willing to accept the folly of past rulers and the failure of the Pakistani establishment earlier, but at the same time, wanted to warn her larger neighbour not to undermine the capability of the new generation that is looking forward to putting the legacy of the past behind them and rebuild a new destiny with a new vision.

Can democratic India demonstrate this broadness of vision? Can it try to understand the pain of a neighbour that wants to free itself from the prisons of the past? Can India stop putting Islamabad on the defensive by raising the same old issue of jihadi organisations and cross border terrorism? South Asia’s economic integration depends greatly on the answers to those questions.

Demonstrating New Delhi’s desire to walk an extra mile in embracing Pakistan and open a new front of cooperation with the neighbour, India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon stated:

We must not let political differences and fears stop the processes of the South Asian integration. At the same time, states in the sub-region must begin to meaningfully address and resolve the political issues and disputes that divide them. In the meantime, we should also move forward much more rapidly on connectivity, including energy and grid connectivity, tourism, people to people, trade and economic links that can make such a major contribution to improving our future.

The European Union became a reality only when the traditional rivals France and Germany put aside their historical and political differences. To achieve the objective of social integration through economics in this region, India and Pakistan will have to play a constructive role in realising the historical mandate of a shared economic vision of SAARC.

For this vision to become a reality there must be more people to people interaction among the South Asian countries, liberal visa regime. Students should be encouraged to visit different countries of the region to have greater understanding, journalists should have greater access to the different countries and all kinds of sports, cultural activities and exchange programs should be encouraged between the nations.

Historical evidence shows that there will always be elements in India and Pakistan who would come in the way of a meaningful engagement between the two nations, there will always be an attempt to make South Asia the nerve centre of the global fault lines; but the time has come when the people need to understand that by fighting others’ strategic war we are only harming our own interests.

It’s time to leave the past behind and look to making a brighter future for the generations to come. The time has come for a new idea to take root in the subcontinent.

Read more by Sanjay here or follow him on twitter @destinydefier


Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ali Hasan

    Makes sense. Recommend

  • jahandad

    no need of big politics ,,, and big words ,,,simple and very simple ,,,kashmir for kashmiries,,,,,,,,,,,and both countries out of it ,,,,and water flow in rivers based on justice ,,,,,no to theses two simple solutions is doomsday scenario for both countries,,,,,Recommend

  • Eeman

    Stop being optimistic! Recommend

  • G. Din

    “History leaves its imprint on the DNA of the people who live it!”
    “It takes an awfully long time to change that imprint for good and merciful reasons.”
    “People of a country, any country, represent a mass. It is not as easy – again mercifully – to move heavy masses as it is to move a small mass represented by this author and those of his ilk, but the upside (or the downside, depending upon your point of view) is that once set into motion, it doesn’t take too much energy to keep it moving.”
    Those, like this author, who foolishly are constantly harping on the example of France and Germany in Europe forget the fact that those two enjoy near parity in everything, not to speak of virtual identity of culture and religion, their national aspirations. They fought wars in which they emerged victorious or vanquished alternately. Their strengths and weaknesses are nearly equal. In short, there is a certain measure of balance and so they can be said to belong to the same league. India and Pakistan do not belong to same league, not to speak of stark differences in their resources, potentials, culture, centrality of religion in national life, their national aspirations, their views of the unfolding universe. They fought wars in which one has always vanquished the other.

  • ukmuslim

    i diont agree with the author. irrespective of their geographical and economical sizes, in outer world these are two distinct independent countries. their UN vote has same weightage. pakistan has its own policy and india has its own. if pakistan’s policy is taking it to either progressive or destructive path, why india is bothered. and are you nuts to suggest that india is raising same old issues of terrorism. ohhh man give me a break.

    please dont daydream or live in past. its 21st century, try to live in present. and i am not obsessed about pakistan to visit this website. i am just curious, why their national newspapers have half of news about india.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Can democratic India demonstrate this broadness of vision? Can it try to understand the pain of a neighbour that wants to free itself from the prisons of the past? Can India stop putting Islamabad on the defensive by raising the same old issue of jihadi organisations and cross border terrorism? As the question on India’s commitment is answered in the blog itself (quoting Shiv Shankar Menon), the whole article is clearly contrived. But just to check,iIn the spirit of the melodramatic tripe being dished out above, I assume your advice to Islamabad is to forget about Kashmir (prisons of the past)? And how did you hear this ‘strong and silent urge’? Dude – it is amazing that when ET can attract so many talented Pak bloggers, it chooses to publish this Recommend

  • ukmuslim

    moderator, why on earth you always omit my responses.

    i dont agree with the author. irrespective of their geographical and economical sizes, in outer world these are two distinct independent countries. their UN vote has same weightage. pakistan has its own policy and india has its own. if pakistan’s policy is taking it to either progressive or destructive path, why india is bothered. and are you nuts to suggest that india is raising same old issues of terrorism. ohhh man give me a break.

    please dont daydream or live in past. its 21st century, try to live in present. and i am not obsessed about pakistan to visit this website. i am just curious, why their national newspapers have half of news about india.Recommend

  • antony

    @jahandad, you wont get indian kashmir even if you blackmail india with doomsday scenario which I believe you are showing the nuclear terrorism in the hands of your fellow zealots.. India is preparing /alerting west,russia and even china on this threat and building healthy measures to protect india in this regard. All these if you want to stick to the past decades failed strategy..If you want to follow Dr Huma Baqai ,there are endless possibilities of peace and enhanced prosperity to pakistan and India..But please remember the choice you have is only for peace in pakistan and have absolutely no choice to change India’s prosperity or peace which is in the hand of indians.Recommend

  • Hashmi

    Very soon you will hear the words

    “This is radio Pakistan New Delhi”

    In the meantime you can attempt all aman ki ashas that you want.Recommend

  • Hamid Abdullah Sofi

    Very well said. Let the Kashmiris be independent and see how prosperity starts in the indo pak subcontinent. Recommend

  • http://London Khi2Khy

    The above artical remind me of this big brother of my childhood days friend who whenever come to resolve our issues would always take side with his brother but never forget to advice other kids to be friendly, open minded and forgiving.Recommend

  • pankaj

    lolz…pakistanis are back to square one. Recommend

  • Naresh

    The Apostates of Pakistan :
    @ Sanjay Kumar
    It is easy for you to forget and recommend to the Government of India to wipe the slate clean, but, other than the Pakistani Terrorist Attacks on Hindu Temples, what do you say to the families and communities of the Muslims victims of 26/11 who were about 40% of the Total Dead or of those Muslims who died n the “Suburban” Train Terrorist Attack.
    Are these Muslims not our “OWN”. It may be easy for you to “forget” about the Hundreds of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians etc. killed but what about the large number of Muslims killed.
    I shall not comment on the Extermination of Non-Muslims in Pakistan but what about the killings of Shias and Qadianis? The Pakistani People have been totally brainwashed into hating Non-Muslims in General and Hindus & Sikhs in Particular. In this case it is appalling that one of the most brilliant Indian Muslim Commentators – Aakar Patel – could not have his Article The apostates of Pakistan published in this and possibly The News International – both part of the “Top Three” English Newspapers of Pakistan.
    Maybe if Pakistan takes into consideration that India – over Six Times in Population but Nine to Ten Times in size of Economy – is not going to take things “lying down” continuously and makes serious efforts to normalize its relations with India in an effort to eschew an Arms Race with India, which, Pakistan can never win and work to mutual benefit then we will see an era of Peace between our two Nations – an idea/concept very very dear to an overwhelming majority of Indians of all Religions.
    I wish you the best in your efforts to bring Peace between out two Nations, but, it is well said – One can take a Horse to Water Twenty cannot make it Drink!
    P.S. I lost a Cousin in Darya Ganj and a Muslim Friend’s Nephew in 26/11. I do hope you understand my pain.


  • Naresh

    Obsession with India or shall we say “India Centric”!

  • Sarah
  • ASingh Janjua

    @above pakistanis.. kashmir will never be independent. just like china will not give independence to tibet Xinjiang region , We will never make Kashmir independent. You have option to eat grass for next 1000 yearsRecommend

  • http://London Khi2Khy

    Pakistan has no sinister design against the sovereignty of India, unlike India. Only if India stop steeling our water they can keep Kashmir for all I care.Recommend

  • Senman

    For economy’s sake: Can India and Pakistan forgive and forget?
    nope, remember Pakistanis will eat grass to prolong the 1000 year war, so we have to sit tight and strengthen ourselves. Maybe we can sell them grass at cheap rate.Recommend

  • Muslim

    Nooooooooooooooooooo……Economy is nothing compared to great Islam which is foundation of Pakistan. We damn care about economy, we want Kashmir. Recommend

  • Critical

    The main reason why US has been helping Pakistan since 1950s is the fact that India with its huge manpower and resources could become a superpower and the only way to stop it is to divert them into spending money in military and make them dependent on US by buying their weapons…
    So far it has succeeded and even China joined with Pakistan to cripple India’s growth..

    In short,Pakistan is a pawn which will be sacrificed to defeat India…The sooner Pakistan realise that they’re the baited worm,they will come out of the shackles of the West and start friendly relations with india….
    Trade between india and pakistan can boost the economy of South Asia.It will provide more jobs,more money and better lifestyle to both the countries and less corruption when buying expensive weapons from the Western powers who just look at us as a market for selling their outdated weaponsRecommend

  • Symon

    @Hashmi: Are you starting the Radio Pakistan branch in New Delhi? Isn’t it similar to the craze of erecting Pakistani flag over New Delhi’s Red Fort?Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I don’t know why you make comments without basic history knowledge. India’s leadership post-independence was very impressed with the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union and the strides they made in science and technology, and believed this would be the way forward for a poor underdeveloped country like India. This proximity to the USSR required balancing, and Pakistan was supported by the US as a default alternative (China was not connected with the rest of the world at this time, and at that time access to Central Asia was not a priority, and Iran was a US/ UK ally). Once the USSR disappeared, Pakistan was thrown out with yesterday’s bath water. The argument you make, however, could have been acceptable for China, which would certainly like India to be tied down to South Asia.Recommend

  • allaisa

    @Hashmi: Ha, Ha, Ha! What is preventing you doing that right now? After all what your school books teach is a pack of lies, like resounding victories over Hindustan in 1965, 1971 and 1999!Recommend

  • Komal

    Great post. At the end of the day, Pakistan is part of Indian civilization. The civilizational roots are deep, and I would say that there is a spiritual reason too, for pan-South Asianism.Recommend

  • Naresh

    Remember that the Pakistani General who wanted to have Breakfast in New Delhi, Lunch in Lukhnow and Dinner in Calcutta achieved his ambition by having Dinner at Fort Williams in Calcutta – as a Prisoner of War!

  • ram iyer

    They will forgive and forget. There is no other course. If Japan can be ally of US after 1945, then why not India and Pak. There is difference between brotherly fight vs someone who is at you to just for some gain like UK to India or Pakistan. Lets hang together else West is coming back in the name of petro dollars to make again Gulam.Recommend

  • Fatah

    No forgiveness – only an Indian would talk while killing school children in Srinagar.

    Only an Indian would not care about Human Rights and be interested in Rupees.

    No to India.

    No to your money.

    Freedom for Kashmir and Gurdaspur District.

    Independence for Hyderabad.

    No Peace with India.Recommend

  • Jazz

    @jahandad: That will not be possible due to China’s presence in the region. If India gives up Kashmir, then, Pak will move in. If not, China will influence, or even take over Kashmir citing tibetian presence in ladakh.Recommend

  • Anjaan

    What the Pakistani moderates like Dr. Baqai have been trying to say to India, can be summed up as follows :

    For the past five years, Pakistan is in great difficulty, reaping what it sowed for decades. This is perhaps the time the Pakistani army might consider softening their stand against India and re-think their policy of ” bleeding India with thousand cuts”. Therefore India must not let go this opportunity to steer the situation towards normalization of relations with Pakistan. This however would require India to show broadminded approach, which is another way of saying that India would offer some face saving concessions to the Pakistani army.

    Pakistan, for decades, willingly allowed itself to be used by the Anglo-Americans and the Chinese to scuttle India’s rise. Therefore India has no incentive to help Pakistan, as long as there is no change in Pakistan’s role of a pawn. .

    The truth is, peace between Pakistan and India is possible, only through Pakistan’s realization of past mistakes, and not through Indian concessions.

    Pakistan must walk out of its status as a pawn of the Anglo-Americans and also the Chinese, and deals with India independently on bilateral basis. Without this the future of Jinnah’s Pakistan is bleak and painful…… !Recommend

  • Zeta

    No forgive and forget until the massacre and occupation of Kashmiris and Kashmir is stopped.

    @ASingh Janjua:
    The Kashmiris, The rightful owners of the land doesn’t want association with india. never called themselves indians, and never will.

    It would be tragic if the dialogues fail, because the only other way is war which neither can afford. choose the best if you are sane.Recommend

  • http://London Khi2Khy

    Why do “free-advice” Indians consider it’s their birth-right to sneak-peek into any house and start giving advises about everything? Is there any place left in this world for a newspaper readers to talk to friendly, like-minded buddies and discuss their life without interruption from nosy neighbors? Hanh!Recommend

  • geeko

    I hope that the author is noticing the infinite level of bitterness found amongst the (largely) Indian readership here, it’s the most eloquent answer to the initial question and, please, Indians, do us a favour : don’t do trade, don’t do that, don’t post here, don’t post there. I’m sure that 99.99% of the Indians don’t care about Pakistan – believe me, the proportion is the same here.
    There are economic opportunities everywhere in the world, our central Asian or Chinese neighbours to begin with, India has never been and is not the alpha and the omega of human prosperity. Recommend

  • O B Server

    @A Singh Janjua

    Unlike Sikhs giving up on Khalistan, Kashmiris have not given up. Where there is will there is a way. Singh is alluding that Sikhs gave up on Khalistan. Well if Sikhs are happy without a country of their own. that’s fine. But Kahmiris must have choice to stay with India or join Pakistan or free of both. Why they would want to join Pakistan, I do wonder! Recommend

  • Padmasambhava

    @ Fatah – Independence for Hyderabad.

    You are hilarious..

    take care of Baluchistan before it is too late..Recommend

  • http://NewYork Pak Hindu

    I don’t understand why Indians think they are above all nations? That whole world, if don’t take their advice will not progress or may have the chance to disappear from the face of earth. To sum it: They are the reason the world is turning.Recommend

  • Muslim


    Awsome bro. Gazwa-e-hind karenge hum.Recommend

  • Fauzia Mussarat

    They should!!! But, will they. hatred is ingrained in their minds from a very early age. By them, I mean young Indians and young Pakistanis. Ordinary people during their schooling years.Recommend

  • from India

    First get a trustworthy leader to lead Pakistan, then talk !!Recommend

  • harkol

    Historically, south-asia had the biggest economy in the world. But, they couldn’t remain united against the foreign invasions, and thus fell in competitiveness. Their focus was diverted to wars between 1200-1600, and then subjugation by European powers.

    In 800 years, from being the biggest economy, the region become poorest.

    If we can’t learn to live together and fight among ourselves, then China & USA will take advantage of our divisions and Exploit our mutual hatred.

    The only way we can regain a world class standard of living, is by pushing all other issues than economic growth into backburner, focus on being rich instead.

    Alternatively, we’ll continue to wallow in poverty or become failed nations. This is not only true of Pakistan, but also of India, Bangla, Nepal and Srilanka.

    We need a united South-Asian economic zone, with moratorium on all conflicts for 50-100 years.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Let me clarify I am all for peace. There is just too many problems within India and she is trying hard to fix it. She doesn’t need distraction from anywhere.

    Being a status quo power helps in forgiving and forgetting. It doesn’t need anything from anyone, except of course the cessation of Terror from its neighbours, which is a pretty reasonable demand.

    Pakistan has a lot of baggage and is a revisionist power. It cannot just forget nor forgive, which is really a shame.

    It can only forgive when it stops becoming a revisionist power and starts being a status quo one. For that to happen too many things have to change in Pakistan, too many egos have to be crushed, too many people’s heart has to be broken.

    I am glad the elite of Pakistan, who are in control of most of the resources of Pakistan, think it is necessary to have a trade relations with India. But, they might be forced to see reality by the Mullah and the Army. Lets hope that doesn’t happen.Recommend

  • syed faisal imam

    Pakistan-Iran trade is a better proposition than Pakistan -India trade.
    Face it or deny it.Recommend

  • Shireen Khan

    @ from India. Please note the recent scandals worth billions involving your illustrious leaders of the Congress Party, there are too many to be named. I respect your PM and do not believe he is corrupt, but he certainly condones corruption in his party…Recommend

  • MarkH

    If isolating the civilian government aspect, yes they can.
    If military is brought in, they can at least still make it look friendly to the outside and have it function with skepticism.
    But, while groups such as DPC exist, no.Recommend

  • harkol


    And freedom to baluchisthan, Sindh, Waziristan and Balawaristan as well? Give it a break buddy. Recommend

  • observer


    Awsome bro. Gazwa-e-hind karenge hum.

    Err, will it be after Ghazwa-e- Bangladesh or brfore that? And how many will surrender this time around?Recommend


    India and Pakistan will always have bad relations.

    Its good we separated into 2 countries.Recommend

  • Hindu-nor-Muslim-but-Indian

    The fact is Kashmir can never sustain as an Independent state by it’s own (Without the support of India or Pakistan). The present economic and geo-political condition suggests, it’s always better for Kashmiris to be part of India.

    And the fact is, unless and until the Kashmir issue is resolved, there will never be peace and trust between India and Pakistan. Saying all these, if Pakistan still continues to fight against India for Kashmir, the state of deterioration would be they will gain simply nothing, but there will be a lots to loose.!Recommend

  • http://birmingham elementary

    @G. Din: Gloating in superiority complex like this, creates thinkig like that of Fatah and muslim.Recommend

  • Deb

    I strongly recommend an honourary Pakistani citizenship for Sanjay Kak, the author.
    He disproves the popular wisdom of ‘the only good indian is the dead indian’. Recommend

  • un

    independence to hyderabad well independence to balochRecommend

  • from India

    @ Shireen Khan – our leaders are respected globally (yes they have their own flaws and some are corrupt too), but, whoever becomes the prime person to lead India, he/she can tackle foreign nations unlike Pakistani leaders. Recommend

  • http://India vasan

    Forget and forgive the past sins ? Is there not an option called justice to the victims of terrorism. Pakistan is in dire straits, It is being pressurized by everyone and their aunts to contain terrorism which is affecting the rest of the world. While that pressure is on, the jolly good mullahs and pak army who have fathered these monsters are enjoying the golf clubs, cigars and BMWs, with the money obtained from the rest of the world by blackmailing them. Simultaneously they play double games with their benefactor, preach violence and look at every angle to wage war against India. When the US cow was being milked comfortably, Pakistan was talking about eating grass and bleeding by thousand cuts. Now they want to talk peace because Uncle Sam is not that benevolent any more. In our philosophy, we deal with opponents with Sama, Dana, Bheda and then Dhanda, Sama and Dhana stages for Pakistan are over. Bheda is the stage that will be on shortly with the rest of the world boycotting Pakistan with sanctions and what not to discriminate. If that also does not work, I guess Dhanda is the next option, the world has to look at.Recommend

  • Ayesha Khan

    India can forgive but not forget it. People who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

    Also it is one thing to forgive the past and another thing to naively assume that Pakistan will not repeat what they did in the past. until such time as army is no longer part of policy making in Pakistan and it is solely in domain of civilians, that is not an assumption that would be grounded in reality.Recommend

  • http://usa abdul k andani

    @Hindu-nor-Muslim-but-Indian: then keep fighting with the freedom fighter.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Pak Hindu

    Pakistan has asked India for trade because India asked U.S to ask Pakistan because the boom they experience from U.S outsourcing has dwindled down extremely and many U.S corporations have moved out their business centers from India to further east in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. In fact India do produce variety of products beside electricity they could sell in Pakistan and make good money. Other options on the table are trade routes to Afghanistan & Iran. India will definitely have an export-imbalance because Pakistan don’t have lot to export in return except tons of cash from it’s ex-patriots, running as high as a $billion a month. If India is able to develop Pakistan as it’s products market with good relations they must know Pakistanis are a nation of spenders. They can ask the shop owners in areas where Pakistanis visit in India, they get the same treatments as sheikhs of UAE. Good tidings!Recommend

  • http://Melburn BFK HongKong

    Pakistan has enough money coming in__ about a $billion a month from only ex-patriots’ remittances alone to not worry about where they buy there Onions & Lentils from. We must avail this opportunity for trade & trade routes without wasting time. We have more to sell than buy from Pakistan. We must not don’t listen to the hate mongers posting here, I’m all for free trade with Pakistan. After-all we are doing business with China already now, don’t we?Recommend

  • G. Din

    “@G. Din: Gloating in superiority complex like this, creates thinkig like that of Fatah and muslim.”
    Pick up a strand of my argument and respond to it. Don’t hide behind broad strokes of the brush!
    “Gloating”? Where did you find it?
    “Superiority complex”? Are you sure it is not your “Inferiority complex”?Recommend

  • A.B.C

    @Hashmi: Keep dreaming all you like. But worry about target killings in Karachi first.. :)Recommend

  • ParvezM

    Only fair and balanced trade. Recommend