Ruling classes of India and Pakistan can neither afford a full fledge war nor can they create and sustain a durable peace. At times they generate war hysteria through their subservient media. Sometimes they stage peace talks
Recently there has been a flurry of diplomatic goings-on, bilateral visits by foreign ministers and foreign secretaries, agreements on improving trade ties, and a hyperbole regarding the visa relaxations for businessmen, the elderly, divided families, and cross-border tourism.
Any step that leads to a greater interaction between the people of Indian and Pakistan is always a welcome step. However, above mentioned visa concessions will benefit no more than five percent of the population. For the overwhelming majority of one and a half billion ordinary people getting a visa and travelling across the border will remain problematic. For these oppressed masses the process of obtaining a visa and travelling to the neighbouring country is a traumatic nightmare. For ordinary souls, lacking substantial wealth and connections in the bureaucracy/ political elite, it is an exhaustive process specifically designed by the real bosses and state actors to discourage people-to-people contact.
On the Pakistani side it is indeed a tedious experience to even enter the so-called diplomatic enclave in Islamabad. For those who do manage to reach the Indian High Commission, there are hordes of intelligence personnel waiting on with embarrassing and meaningless questioning. Often they are so arrogant and hostile that one is too humiliated and shattered to go on with visa proceedings. Those adamant and resolute enough to bear these harassments have to wait in long queues. These queues begin to form in the wee hours. It takes ages before one is able to submit visa application. Applicants queue up for hours whether it is shivering cold or burning hot. When they manage to reach the visa counters there are more bureaucratic complications, designed to discourage them, awaiting.
From profligate documentation to cumbersome process to submit the application, there is little chance that an application would be accepted. The lucky ones who manage to file their applications have to nervously wait for months. It is not surprising that the middle class Indians and Pakistanis meet up in Dubai, Ceylon, Nepal and other countries of the region. Those from the upper middle classes have their rendezvous in Europe. Several cross-border marriages had to be organised in Dubai or elsewhere. The possibility of attending the funerals of near and dear ones by the ordinary folks from either country is remote indeed.
The story on the other side is not very different. The plight of Indian visa seekers may be camouflaged in hypocritical diplomatic sophistry but the process is as agonising as in Pakistan. But there are also certain commonalities even when one finally gets the visa and is lucky enough to travel to the other country.
There is the condition that the visitor should report to the police station in every city s/he visits. Stringent inquiries wait on the visitor at every police station. The investigations by the obtuse and insolent police officials is not the only humiliation. Their hosts are also subjected to harsh and thwarting investigations. In some instances, a guest’s reliability is doubted by the spy masters. In such cases, teh hosts have to bear the social stigma. The visits by the secret police destroy their reputation. Though the rich and the famous never have any problem. They are booked in advance in posh hotels.
The recent agreements on trade and travel of businessmen with long stays and multiple entry visas have been signed in desperation to explore new avenues for an alternative to the severe crisis the Pakistani and Indian capitalism are facing. The world crash of capitalism since 2008 has severely dented the possibilities for subcontinental exports to Europe, America and other. The Indian economy has crashed: growth rate of 10 percent has slowed down to 5.5 percent. The Indian rupee has nosedived, rapidly depreciating for the last few months. Foreign investments have dwindled.
Similarly, Pakistan’s economy is in shambles with a growth rate of 1.8 percent (though there are conflicting figures). Trade and budget deficit defies any economic logic. The Forex reserves are depleting. The mad rush to liberalise and open up Indian and Pakistani markets for bilateral trade are acts of desperation that will do little, if at all, to prop up the rates of profits of the regional capitalists. Hence, this whole charade to resolve the economic crisis is a hoax.
The on and off negotiations and the hype of good relations through diplomatic manoeuvres will hardly benefit the common people of these countries. This is because the basic contradictions and conflicts are not addressed. The ‘hawks’ on both sides are not impressed by such moves. On December 4, for instance, India’s Deputy Home Minister Mullappaly Ramachandran told the Indian Parliament, “The terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan or Kashmir remains intact and infiltration attempts from across the border still continue to pose a challenge to the security forces.” The obscurantist forces in the society, politics and state in both countries feed each other.
By the way, the notion of ‘hawks and doves’ does not hold much legitimacy either. To quell internal revolts from below, the ruling classes use the external threat to crush such uprisings. In such situations, the hawks mutate into doves and vice versa, depending on the methodology needed at a particular moment in time to sustain and impose the class rule.
The wound of partition is still festering. This is because ruling classes of India and Pakistan can neither afford a full fledge war nor can they create and sustain a durable peace. At times they generate war hysteria through their subservient media. Sometimes they stage peace talks. The imperialist master don’t want these hostile conditions to be abolished either. After all India and Pakistan are among the top ten biggest buyers in the world of advanced weapons.
But the masses have had enough of this vicious cycle of deception and deceit. The Indian and the Pakistani working classes suffer from the same sorrows: poverty, deprivation, exploitation, misery and repression. Their struggle is one. If they unite the ruling elites of the subcontinent will be condemned to the dustbin of history. Hence, it is not in their interest to grant visas to the working masses. This will enable people to come together, share experience, learn from each other and unite against their common oppressors.