Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan recently invoked Franco-German peace to urge old rivals India and Pakistan to make peace too. But like so many of his ideas, this one is naïve given how that peace emerged. Using a noble anti-imperialism cry, Germany often attacked France and others. Fed up with wars in Europe, the global powers finally imposed regime change and pacifism on it by occupying it for long.
But distant Pakistan-India conflicts don’t affect the world powers enough to risk invading nuclear states. At most, they may impose ineffective sanctions. This raises a tantalising issue. Who would they see as Germany here? The instinctive Pakistani response may be India. But, the merits of the Kashmir cause aside, they admonish it as the instigator of the 1948, 1965 and 1999 conflicts and cross-border attacks. So it’s unwise for Pakistan to harp on the German model.
Let’s review other cases where foes became friends, especially split states with border disputes. Left holding at high cost only a few small towns surrounded by rebels, Sudan wisely — albeit surprisingly — let South Sudan split after a long war. But India is far more in control in Kashmir. The split didn’t resolve the status of Abyei, an oil-rich area, leading to many skirmishes. South Sudan is now too beset by internal wars to press its claim. In terms of parallels, Pakistan is more beset by internal wars, though their scale is much lower.
Eritrea split from Ethiopia after a long war. There was initial amity, both being run by Tigrinya tribe ex-rebels which had separately fought a pro-Moscow Ethiopian regime. But ties later soured over a border town (Badme). After a bloody war, the UN brokered truce and then arbitration, giving Badme to Eritrea. But big brother Ethiopia rejected the ruling. Alert Pakistani minds may see parallels. The bigger state from which the smaller one split here rejects a UN ruling too. The UN didn’t award Kashmir to Pakistan, but ruled for a referendum. Eritrea too pursued freedom based on claims of being a nation, despite being multi-ethnic and never having been a united free state ever. So the parallels increase. The parallels may appear even more seductive for Pakistani minds given the rapid recent happy ending where the bigger state agreed to give Badme to Eritrea after a transformational leader Abiye Ali won power in Ethiopia. This talk of a wise leader making huge changes may feed perfectly into Imran Khan’s naïve
narratives about the power of such leaders. But having perhaps built up too much excitement, I must sadly deflate it now. Ethiopia’s generosity on Badame reflects mainly not the wisdom of one change leader, but its extended rapid growth. This catapulted a change leader to power as it can’t grow further with its old controlled sociopolitical system. With this rapid growth, fight on an obscure town distracted it from bigger goals. So the parallels end. Kashmir is not an obscure town but a strategic region. India has already seen prolonged rapid growth without it showing generosity on Kashmir, but only on smaller, Badme-scale, tiffs with other neighbours. But China has made big compromises, though only tactical and not permanent ones, in pursuit of fast growth. With its split province Taiwan and other foes, it has ignored border issues and engages economically with them to strengthen itself.
Among other cases, Japan, Iraq and Serbia too were pacified only after defeats and regime changes effected by the West. The US and Moscow became less hostile, again only after a regime change in Moscow, forced in its case by economic and state collapse. Such collapse is unlikely here. But parallels-wise Pakistan faces more endemic economic woes. Jordan and Egypt made peace with Israel but under unelected regimes seeking American favours to survive. Again, it is Pakistan which has often had unelected regimes seeking US favours to survive, but they too haven’t bent much on Kashmir.
By arrangement with Dawn...