In 1989, an American scholar, Francis Fukuyama, wrote an essay titled, “ The End of History and the Last Man”. The essay, which was carried by the Foreign Affairs magazine, was later expanded into a book towards the tether end of the Cold War confrontation. The grist and mill of Fukuyama’s argument was that with the advent and consolidation of Liberal Democracy, history (not as a series of events) had ended. While the author’s arguments were sophisticated and he employed political philosophy to make his point, there’s much to find fault with Fukuyama’s thesis- both in retrospect and prospect. The reason(s) for bringing to notice “ the End of History” thesis is neither to quibble with it nor to elegantly dispute it. The aim is to illustrate a larger point with respect to South Asia.
While history may or may not have moved on in other parts of the world(it certainly has not ended), South Asia remains mired and trapped in the warp and woof of history. This is despite decolonization, the post colonial status of most states of the region as independent states and the progress( or, in some cases, regress) of its constituent parts. The reasons pertain to the abiding and enduring , militarized rivalry between its core units: India and Pakistan. Born out of the incubus of the partition of the subcontinent, the rivalry between India and Pakistan has witnessed ups and downs, twists and turns, but it has remained and, I daresay, will endure till the unforeseeable future. This very fact will render South Asia hostage to the burden(s) of history.
The macro reason(s) for the rivalry between India and Pakistan pertain to the very self identities of the two nations. Overlaid by the abstractions of contending and competing sovereignties, the different and differing Ideas of India and Pakistan , lay their ingress on Kashmir, which becomes the crucible and flashpoint wherein these identities and their allied issues get reified and fought over. This is , more or less, the conventional delineation and description of the dispute between India and Pakistan. I take no issue with this description. In the main, it is as accurate as it gets. But , these kinds of disputes and issues , even though truculent and difficult to resolve, have yielded themselves to some form of resolution. If a parallel might be drawn, (albeit inexact), the constituent units of the European Union , overcame issues of sovereigntism and historical rivalries- especially between Germany and France- and created what has been called by some as a “super state” and by others, as a federation. Can the same parallel be applied to South Asia and its core units, India and Pakistan?
Unlikely is the answer.
The reasons, to my mind, pertain to domestic politics and the condition this begets in both India and Pakistan. ( This assessment is more salient and poignant contemporarily). Let me make a digression here. International Relations theory and practice, more or less, makes a neat and a taut distinction between the domestic and the foreign or external. It hardly concerns itself with what goes on within states. Domestic politics is then not an issue that it accords much , or , if any, import. In terms of the relations between India and Pakistan , the conflict thereof, attempts at conflict resolution , have focused more on the external and the extrinsic, in consonance with the theory and practice of international relations. What has been elided over and ignored has been the domestic. This, in my opinion, constitutes the major reasons for the impasse and stalemate between the two countries.
While the nature of the conflict/ dispute between India and Pakistan holds, but what gives it more poignancy and alacrity is the domestic political conditions of both countries. Consider a factual. India, contemporarily, is undergoing a revision of sorts, in terms of its identity and nature. The forces of hyper nationalism , which have assumed power in the country, seek to redefine India , in accord with the tenets of its political philosophy or ideology. The very nature of this ideology sees and views Pakistan as its “Other” and antithesis. Compromise with Pakistan, with and over an issue and conflict as that of Kashmir would be anathema to the proponents of Indian hyper nationalism. The same fate would befall dialogue or even its prospects. The default reflex of hyper nationalists in India would be to maintain hostility vis a vis Pakistan.
In terms of Pakistan, in a different context , permutation and combination, the country’s self identity is at odds with India. It’s power political structure is designed to maintain and accord coherence to the Idea of Pakistan- again the antithesis of India. Even though Pakistan is in consolidation phase as I write, but the well spring and fountainhead of its politics is and will remain the same. Forms might change, but the essence will not.
The politics that this condition begets is premised on animus in both India and Pakistan against each other. Almost in the nature of a structural condition, politics in India and Pakistan will remain wedded to it. While there might be shifts in the intensity of this condition and the politics it gives rise to and this might be reflected in some “breakthroughs” , in terms of the posture between the two countries- talks, mild diplomatic overtures and so son- , the fundamental hostility between India and Pakistan will remain. Kashmir, will remain central to this hostility, for obvious reasons.
Admittedly, I have drawn a bleak portrait of relations between the arch antagonists. This is the easiest bit. The challenge is in identifying an arena or a historical watershed that might lead to peace between India and Pakistan. I confess that I do not and cannot envisage this peaceful watershed. What , however, I can posit is that peace, can only descend in South Asia and hence between India and Pakistan and become real for its people, when the region and its politics becomes post historical. That is, when it is released from the burden of history and the respective conflicts it has spawned. This, to take recourse to an oxymoronish phrase, is an open ended end point. Admittedly, this amounts to wriggling out of situation. However, given the nature of the politics in and between India and Pakistan, there is no alternative. All this is easy to define, describe and delineate but the difficult part is to absorb the implications of the tragedies that this conflict has and will continue to exact. Alas!
—The author can be reached at: email@example.com. He also tweets @Wajahatqazi