The recent pilgrimage-linked Indian sojourn of President Zardari has been puffed up by the mainstream media. The Islamists and the extreme right wing, as usual, condemned it. Reactionary politics infested with hatred, prejudice, chauvinism and bigotry could not have come up with any other opinion. On both sides of the divide, this hostile crusade serves the interests of sections of the elite and the state.
They will continue with this xenophobia as long as the socio-economic deterioration and lull in the class struggle remain. These merchants of black reaction and pillage directly correlate their antics with the need of the ruling classes to divert mass consciousness and impose artificial emotions of chauvinistic patriotism and religious bias.
Their objective is to maximise exploitation and oppression of the masses, to boost their profits and plunder. Black capital props up these reactionary forces and extracts enormous benefits and protection. At the same time, religious fundamentalism in both India and Pakistan is an extremely useful tool for the so-called liberal and secular politics of the ruling elite to fabricate superfluous issues to suppress the real contradiction in society, i.e. class conflict.
However, the outcome of this visit is trivial and sterile. It will have little if any implications in promoting peace and harmony between the two countries. There were deceptive gestures and simulated handshakes to nurture false hopes amongst the peoples of the subcontinent for peace and stability. The conundrum the Indian and Pakistani rulers face at the moment is that they can neither afford an all-out war nor can they sustain a durable peace.
In the last 65 years, they have indulged in this vicious cycle of war and peace, friendship and enmity, whilst the masses of the subcontinent have continued to suffer in the process. The living conditions of the vast population in both countries have nosedived. Female foetal infanticide, lack of education, malnutrition, illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, deprivation, disease, oppression and misery have amplified.
The relatively high growth rates have had an inverse affect on the lives of the masses. Both states have continued to spend astronomical sums on the military and weapons of mass destruction (nuclear programmes). They are among the world’s top ten military spendthrifts, while in the realm of social indicators they are amongst the lowest. Almost half of the world’s poverty now resides in this South Asian subcontinent.
This chant of opening up trade, visas for businessmen and journalists, MFN status and other cosmetic proclamations does not mean much for the impoverished millions who are living in utter distress and agony on both sides of the Radcliffe Line. For ordinary people to get a visa for India or Pakistan is a byzantine and humiliating experience. And that is not going to end anytime soon.
With the socioeconomic deterioration of any state, its diplomacy becomes more deceptive, hypocritical and cunning. It is more of a ploy for domestic consumption than any serious foreign policy strategy. Although certain sections of the bourgeoisie want friendly relations in trade and commerce to boost their dwindling profits, those who argue there can be friendly, peaceful and ‘normal’ relations in the throes of the present socio-economic crisis are at best being naive or deceitful.
This artificial conflict relying heavily on false notions will continue to be deployed to derail the masses from taking on the oppressor in exactly the same way partition was utilised to divert and disrupt the revolutionary upsurge in the mid-1940s through religious bifurcation and ethnic bloodshed. Otherwise, that movement would not have stopped at the stage of national independence on a capitalist basis. It would have inevitably crossed over to the stage of a social revolution. The imperialist plunder and the exploitation of the native elite would have been abolished. These policies have been set on those lines ever since.
The cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy is India-centric and vice versa. The prime intelligence agencies have a decisive control over them. Such is the stranglehold that the peace activists are frustrated by them and in exhaustion are compelled to compromise on the pettiest of issues. Who can deny the insanity of the conflict in Siachen? Thousands of soldiers have perished in the harsh climatic conditions in this highest battlefield in the world.
However, there is a method in this madness. Sir Creek, the fishermen’s predicament and other secondary issues can be resolved. That might happen. But on the so-called core issues like Kashmir, the process of resolution has not really begun in the last six decades. The reality is that the subcontinental ruling classes and their imperialist masters have no inclination to resolve, and cannot resolve, this antagonism within the existing social, economic and geographical setup. The military oligarchies want their share of GDP, and the politicians use these hostilities to crush domestic dissent and movements of the toiling classes.
The military-industrial complex of imperialism extorts its plunder from this enmity. Martin Lockheed, General Dynamics and the likes lobby the US Congress for manufacturing policies that create markets, wars and hostile conditions for their destructive toys. The Hindu and Muslim bigots also have their stakes in this conflict.
As the talking about talks goes on in this fragile process and pressure builds up for a meaningful settlement, a single terrorist attack or an explosive event can unravel the whole process right back to zero. After all, that is exactly what has been happening all along. To continue with existing state structures and exploitative patterns, the ruling classes need this kind of sub-threshold hostility and occasional gestures of peace and friendship. Hence, in the present system, ‘normalcy’ is a utopian dream.
However, misery, exploitation, repression and destitution are becoming intolerable for the masses of the region. Once they erupt in revolt, the transformation will have to go the whole hog. The 1946 revolution will be redeemed. And of course revolutions know no frontiers. A voluntary socialist federation of South Asia is the only way out of this tyranny.
The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[This article was originally published in the Pakistani Daily Times]