The Forum’s focus on Asia began with Frederic Grare, Director and Senior Associate, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who provided an update on emerging trends in India and Pakistan, and discussed how United States (US) policies are adapting to these changes. His research spotlights South Asian security issues and the search for a security architecture. He also works on India’s “Look East” policy, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s regional policies, and the tensions between stability and democratization, including civil-military relations, in Pakistan.
Dr. Grare reminded the Forum that while India and Pakistan were “born out of the same matrix of British colonialism,” they have fought one another since independence and have become increasingly polarized. Two forces are competing for the futures of the countries: the drive to join the international community and to participate in the global economy versus a regressive desire to return to the old world regime.
There are many additional asymmetries between the 2 neighbors. India has 1.2 billion people, a $1.9 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) and a 6.9% growth rate. In contrast, Pakistan has 182 million people, a $232 billion GDP, and a 4.1% growth rate. Military spending in India is 2.4% of the budget, while Pakistan invests 3.5%.
Both countries have the same formal political system derived from their British history with a federal system, provinces, and a parliamentary system with a bicameral legislature. However, their political histories are dramatically different.
India has been a democracy since independence. In contrast, democracy in Pakistan has been distorted by military dictatorships, with coups occurring in 1958, 1969, 1978, and 1998. Even when the military is not officially in office, they are the power driving policies.
Unlike most of the military regimes in the Middle East, for example, the Pakistani military has not created any sort of power vacuum by eliminating any political opposition. On the contrary, the army/military have always played on the existing forces to position itself as the ultimate arbiter and last recourse of the partisan game. It did so by supporting 1 given organization against another, creating new organizations when it needed to, and broke them apart when they were becoming too powerful or not compliant enough. In the process, the military has weakened every political party and made itself indispensable.
Such military strategies also contributed to the development of Islamic radicalism that has affected Pakistan since the late 1970s. The deliberate spread of the Islamist ideology at the end of the 1970s as a way of eliminating the ethnic identities in the country (Bangladesh, Baluchistan) and the use of Islamist proxies first in the Afghan conflict, then against India, and later as a way of countering its own internal political adversaries. This has led to the situation that Pakistan is now facing.
The results were that the extremists took on an importance that they would never have gained by themselves, but also and more significantly, there was the spread of the culture of violence in addition to the idea that the state was not the sole legitimate user of political savagery. These are features that will likely continue to affect Pakistan in years to come and will be extremely difficult to reverse.
The other consequence is a durably weak political system, although there are encouraging signs. The mainstream parties have now decided to no longer cooperate with the military against one another, and the parliament is playing an increasingly greater role, but it is nevertheless obvious that the armed forces remain the most powerful actors of the political system.
From the 1960s, Pakistan had a more open and growing economy than India until the 1990s, when India’s growth rate began to exceed that of Pakistan. Since then, decades of internal political disputes and a low level of foreign investments have led to slow growth and underdevelopment in Pakistan. Today, agriculture accounts for more than one-fifth of output and two-fifths of employment.
Textiles account for most of Pakistan’s export earnings, and the country has failed so far to expand its export base for other manufactured products. Much of the economy is informal, and under-employment remains high. Over the past few years, low growth and inflation have led to an increase of poverty.
The economy has stabilized since the 2008 economic crisis, but at this point it has failed to recover. Foreign investment has not returned due to investors’ concerns related to governance, energy, and security as well as a slowdown of the global economy. Fortunately, remittances from overseas workers remain a safety net with some $1 billion a month coming into the country.
Pakistan remains in a low-income, low-growth trap and must address long- standing issues related to government revenues, energy production, investments in education and healthcare to generate the amount of economic growth that will be necessary to employ its growing and rapidly urbanizing population, more than half of which is under 22 years of age.
India, initially a centrally planned economy, is now developing into an open-market economy, but strong traces of its self-sufficient past remain. Economic liberalization measures, including industrial deregulation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and reduced control of foreign trade and investment, began in the mid-1980s and accelerated in the early 1990s. As a result, India’s GDP growth rate averaged slightly under 7% from 1997 to 2001, but over 8% from 2003 to 2011.
Economic growth started slowing down in 2011 because of a decline in investment (traceable to high interest rates, inflation, and investor pessimism about the government commitment to further economic reforms in addition to the global situation). In 2012, growth rates fell to 4%, their lowest level in a decade. The government reacted by announcing higher levels of foreign participation in foreign direct investment (FDI) and deficit-reduction measures.
The Indian economy is a very diverse one, with activities ranging from agriculture to a wide range of modern industries and a multitude of services, such as business services, communications, and banking. Agriculture remains extremely important for the Indian economy. More than 40% of the workforce is in agriculture. Services however are the major source of economic growth, accounting for nearly two-thirds of India’s output with less than one-third of its labor force.
Many challenges are still to be addressed, ranging from infrastructure and power generation to education and corruption. India will have to create 1 million jobs per month over the next few years to integrate its bulging youth population. Continued growth will depend on the continued expansion of modern services (business services, communication and banking) but, also, on the application of modern information technology to more traditional services (retail and wholesale trade, transport and storage, public administration and defense. The new regime promises to transform India into a competitive manufacturing economy. The country is not isolated, but it competes globally with other markets. As investors shy away from China, India may well benefit.
Mr. Grare reminded the Forum that the bilateral relationship is a deeply conflicted one. The 2 countries have fought 4 wars since independence in 1947, the last one being in 1999 when the Pakistani army infiltrated a mix of regular and irregular forces on the Kargil Heights over the Srinagar-Leh route in Kashmir.
For India, Pakistan is a hostile power located on the land invasion routes of India and whose existence de facto constitutes a threat to its security. Moreover, Pakistan has developed a navy capable of disturbing India’s access to Middle Eastern oil and imposes a heavy burden on India in terms of defense spending.
Furthermore, through its alliances, Pakistan has attracted in the subcontinent external hostile powers such as China (but also until recently the US) and several Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia, although relations with Riyadh have evolved positively over the past few years). Finally, Pakistan is also the “ideological” power, whose existence supposedly threatens India's secularism.
For Pakistan, India is an even bigger threat, which is only likely to grow as its strong economy allows more sustainable defense spending. India also threatens Pakistan’s hope to become the homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. There are many more Muslims living in India than in Pakistan.
The differences between the 2 countries have led to 2 dramatic developments: the use of terrorist proxies by Pakistan, be it in Kashmir, Afghanistan, or, since the early 2000, in India itself, and the nuclearization of the Indian subcontinent as demonstrated by the tests that the 2 countries conducted in May 1998.
The possession of nuclear assets allowed Pakistan to pursue a sub-conventional war under the nuclear umbrella, de facto limiting India’s option, but also creating, by the same token, a permanent yet unstable equilibrium in the subcontinent. In the process, terrorism has become the most likely trigger of a potential nuclear escalation between the 2 countries.
In both countries, the last elections, held respectively in 2013 in Pakistan and 2014 in India, had promised changes. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had clearly stated his willingness to develop better economic and political relations with India. And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proved that he was open to dialogue by inviting his Pakistani counterpart to his inauguration. Over the following 12 months, though,the bilateral relationship experienced everything short of open conflict.
This promise faltered as Pakistan waffled over granting most favored nation status to India and India cancelled the bilateral foreign secretary’s talk this past July. By the summer’s end, the 2 countries were exchanging artillery fire in Jammu. However, Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit to Pakistan in March marked the resumption of the dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi. Yet the meeting ended with no major announcements.
Overall, India’s regime has articulated a simple and consistent message: “India is ready for dialogue but will respond to Pakistan’s recourse to violence with disproportionate force.”
India’s options can be classified into 2 categories: either facilitate the dialogue or punish Pakistan. The major problem is, and will remain, the outlook for the civil-military relations in Pakistan. Every attempt by the Pakistani civilian government to get closer to India is disrupted by some military action. In these conditions, neither spectacular improvement in the bilateral relationship nor its collapse is likely. The status quo is the most probable end-result for this 2-sided teaming.
US policies in the Indian sub-continent have always been and will foreseeably remain a function of the configuration of the global international system. During the Cold War, Pakistan was a much more useful ally to America than to India, which was considered far too close to the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). What has changed in the past few years is the uneasy but real rapprochement between New Delhi and Washington, DC. Since the end of the Cold War, China has become more prominent in US threat perception, and Washington, DC, is trying to cultivate India to balance Beijing on China’s Southern border.
But it would be a mistake to believe that India and Pakistan were passive instruments of US foreign and defense policies. Both countries had objectives of their own, and both played on the global rivalry of the time to their own advantage. India-Pakistani relations are still of a zero-sum nature: one must win and one must lose. The US is attempting to implement policies that do not pit India and Pakistan against one another. This inevitably creates something of a competition for the partnership with the US, but also some contradictions and tensions in Washington’s policies.
For a long time, Pakistan has played a role in the US’ anti-Soviet policy. Pakistan was a member of CENTO (the Central Treaty Organization) and SEATO (the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization). Pakistan also played a crucial role in arranging the 1971 visit of then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Beijing, which paved the way for then-President Richard Nixon’s own trip to China a year later. But the issue that crystallized the contradiction of US and Pakistani interests is Afghanistan.
So long as the conflict between the US and USSR remained an avatar of the Cold War, the relationship between Washington, DC, and Islamabad remained extremely close. But in 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and in 1991. In Afghanistan, the Soviet- backed regime survived until 1992, at which time Kabul was taken over by the Mujahideens. The country fell into chaos and became a sanctuary for terrorists of all types. Abandoned by the US and incapable of securing a “friendly” Afghanistan, that is, Afghanistan devoid of any Indian influence, Pakistan created the Taliban. The Afghani regime was totally backed by Islamabad.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the US needed Pakistan as a base of operations in the war against Afghanistan. So the US goes into a conflict in which Pakistan is supporting both the US and the Taliban. The US desperately tried, at the cost of billions of dollars, to change Pakistan’s perception of its own strategic environment. The rest is known. The absurd situation in which America’s “best non-NATO (North American Treaty Organization) ally” will support simultaneously the US and its enemy in Afghanistan, persisted during the entire war and led to the disaster that is today’s Afghanistan.
In the meantime, the security situation deteriorated, as Pakistan’s “nuclear program” and, in 2011, more than a dozen terrorist incidents in Pakistan raised alarms in Washington, DC. Still, relations between the two countries could not be totally severed because the US wanted to preserve the fiction of a successful outcome in Afghanistan, which required relying again on Pakistan. Thus, these opposite and contradictory arguments have led to the continuation of US support to Pakistan.
US relations with India were traditionally cool and became even cooler in May 1998 when India performed 5 nuclear tests and was sanctioned by the US (and the entire international community with the exception of Russia and France). But the same nuclear tests also created a strategic opportunity for the US, which could no longer ignore a nuclear power on China’s southern border. The negotiation following the test did ultimately lead to a rapprochement between the US and India.
This change was apparent when, reversing a long tradition, Washington, DC, clearly sided with New Delhi after the Pakistani incursion on the Kargil Heights, demanding that Pakistan withdraw its troops. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif complied, and this led to the military coup that toppled his regime and brought General Pervaiz Musharraf to power.
The next step was quite spectacular: In 2005, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India signed a statement of intent to allow India access to civilian nuclear technology, despite its not being a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty. The nuclear deal marked the beginning of a closer US-India relationship that has continued to develop since then. The US benefits as India opens its domestic market to American companies and contributes to balancing China’s power in the region. India benefits from US technology transfers, especially but not exclusively military technologies, and a substantial increase of US direct investment in India.
The US needs both Pakistan and India, although for different reasons: America needs Pakistan because of Afghanistan, and it needs India because of China. As power bases shift and change in the region and non-state actors become destabilizing forces, these relationships will keep evolving.
Sen. Brent Hill (ID): The conflicts between India and Pakistan are both religious and political. Which factors are the most important?
Dr. Grare: Religion is the source of all of this conflict. Religion is an identity factor on which each state was created, similar to that of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Still, Pakistan is a secular state and the military is in control; but now, radical religious proxies are playing an increasing role.
China also is exerting a hand in Pakistani-India relations. China intervened diplomatically to stop the 1999 war between the two countries, and again, after the Mumbai bombing, China insisted that Pakistani and Indian envoys meet to mediate a solution.
Sen. Sandy Pappas (MN): What has been the Pakistani response to US drone attacks?
Dr. Grare: The Pakistanis played a dual game in response to the drone attacks. They accepted drones when they eliminated their enemies. But when drones killed innocent people, it became a political message.
Sen. Eduardo Bhatia (PR): In the 1950s, the US sided with Pakistan, not India. For 50 years, the US was a friend and supporter. But nowadays, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists have come from Pakistan, so why should the US continue to support Pakistan?
Dr. Grare: The US needed Pakistan during the Cold War to balance against the USSR. But the September 11th attacks compromised Pakistani-American relations for the first time. Today, the US should further develop avenues of engagement with Islamabad across a broad spectrum of economic and political initiatives to obtain more long-term leverage on security issues. In addition, there is the possibility of promoting commercial and cultural exchanges that strengthen the sections of Pakistani civil society that want to deepen democracy and temper anti-American and anti-Indian sentiments.
Sen. David Long (IN): If Iran gets nuclear weapons, would Pakistan give nuclear weapons to the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia?
Dr. Grare: That is unknown. Pakistan says it would not give weapons, but the Saudis have funded Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The question is whether the Saudis are technically advanced enough to use nuclear weapons. Iraq and Libya do not have the technical capability to develop nuclear weapons.
Frederic Grare is Senior Associate and Director of Carnegie’s South Asia Program. His research focuses on South Asian security issues and the search for a security architecture. He also works on India’s “Look East” policy, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s regional policies, and the tension between stability and democratization, including civil-military relations, in Pakistan.
Prior to joining Carnegie, Grare served as head of the Asia bureau at the Directorate for Strategic Affairs in the French Ministry of Defense. He also served at the French embassy in Pakistan and, from 1999 to 2003, as director of the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities in New Delhi.
Grare has written extensively on security issues, Islamist movements, and sectarian conflict in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Other Foreign Relations articles:
Dr. Frederic Grare
Senior Associate and Director of South Asia Program
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
India and Pakistan were “born out of the same matrix of British colonialism.” They have fought one another since independence and have become increasingly polarized.
The military has always played on the existing forces to position itself as the ultimate arbiter and last recourse of the partisan game.
Extremists were given an importance that they would never have gained by themselves, but also and more significantly, there was the spread of the culture of violence in addition to the idea that the state was not the sole legitimate user of political savagery.
More than half of Pakistan’s population is under 22 years of age.
India’s GDP growth rate averaged slightly under 7% from 1997 to 2001, but over 8% from 2003 to 2011.
The Indian economy is a very diverse one, with activities ranging from agriculture to a wide range of modern industries and a multitude of services, such as business services, communications, and banking. India will have to create 1 million jobs per month over the next few years to employ its bulging youth population.
Overall, India’s regime has articulated a simple and consistent message: “India is ready for dialogue but will respond to Pakistan’s recourse to violence with disproportionate force.”
It would be a mistake to believe that India and Pakistan were passive instruments of US foreign and defense policies. Both countries had objectives of their own, and both played on the global rivalry of the time to their own advantage.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, an absurd situation emerged in which Pakistan was theoretically supporting both the US and its enemy, the Taliban, in Afghanistan.
Sen. Sandy Pappas
Sen. Brent Hill
Sen. Eduardo Bhatia
Sen. David Long
Dr. Frederic Grare
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