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An open letter to Pakistan

Dear Pakistan,

We want you to win. It’s why we in India not only voted for you to join the United Nations Security Council, we championed the idea. From the bottom of their hearts most Indians wish you well.  In fact, we want you to better us; you doing well only makes us all stronger.  So, here are five pieces of big-brotherly advice from across the border:

First, China isn’t your best friend or all-weather friend.  It’s probably not even your friend.  It’s a lesson that most of us learn in elementary school; if you think someone is your best friend, they also have to think you are their best friend, otherwise, they are probably using you.  And with China, the Chinese don’t even think about you.  While you dream of strategic partnerships, they are busy cementing relationships across the world from Mongolia to North Korea to Southeast Asia.  You share little in common with the Chinese; no shared language, no shared culture, no shared religion, no shared food habits. The only thing you probably have in common is a deep distrust of us.  Shared interests and values, not a shared common enemy, make best friends. We learned that the hard way as well – with Russia. The longer you continue your fascination with China, the worse off you are.

Second, America is your friend.  I’m not sure if it is your best friend, but it is your friend.  No doubt the world’s biggest power has its own agenda, but they are pouring billions into Pakistan.   When floods struck your country, it was the Americans who led the world in aid for you.  Pakistan needs to embrace America.  And instead of asking for military aid, ask for development aid.  Give the Americans a choice and they will respond positively.   Instead of seeing so much of CENTCOM and Special Ops and American generals, have Rajiv Shah, the capable head of US AID, become a regular visitor and household name in Pakistan.  America’s best friends are the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany and Australia.  China’s best friend is North Korea.  Really, what group do you want to belong to?

Third, there is no great game in Afghanistan.  Historians are going to look back at the last thirty years of Afghanistan history and scratch their heads.   First, the Russians came and then the Americans came.  And to what end?  You may think you are playing some grand game, but what is the prize in Afghanistan?  There is no oil or gold (there maybe mineral wealth, but the potential remains to be seen).  India has no grand designs on Afghanistan.  What exactly would India do there? As fellow South Asians, we help in building roads and schools and Parliamentary democracy.  Remember the decade or so that neither Americans nor Russians were in Afghanistan, the chaos and Taliban decade?  Is that what you want? You aim for strategic depth in Afghanistan, the last time you had that, you got Kargil. The Haqqani network provides you no safety.  This great game is killing you.  Perhaps it is better to leave the stage.

Fourth, embrace your inner Desi.  Recently, one of your more cosmopolitan authors visited Mumbai.  He spoke of how he is of mixed heritage, part Arab, part Turk, part Indian, part Mongol or whatever.  The Pakistani elite’s allure with wanting to have Arab heritage or blood flummoxes us.  The Arabs don’t think you do, so why do you?  Go to any part of the Gulf and you quickly realize that Pakistanis, Indians or Bangladeshis are all the same to them.  The Arabs treat us all equally badly.  So instead of searching for some heritage that may or may not be there, go back to your true roots.  Harappa and Mohenjo-daro are the cradles of civilization and they are in Pakistan. Embrace the industrious Punjabi in you, the mercantile Sindhi and the upright Pathan.  Your core strength lies in your inherent Desi-ness.

Fifth, it’s not about Kashmir.  Kashmiri Indians don’t want to be part of Pakistan.  At this time, no one in their right mind would want to enjoin Pakistan.  Instead of trying to wrestle control of another area, focus on making sure Pakistan remains intact.  All this negative energy is doing no one any good. Focus on developing Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar.  Just focus on development for Pakistan. That’s what it’s about: development. Learn that from the Chinese, perhaps.

India and Indians really do want Pakistan to win.  We want your success and the success of all South Asians.  Out of the 7 billion people in this world, nearly a quarter reside in our little land mass.  None of us is moving.  We all win when any of us does better.

The only place where we don’t want you to win is cricket. You can live with that, can’t you?

Prashant Agrawal is a Senior Principal at Strategy Consultancy.  He has advised governments in the US, India and the Middle East, and represented India at the recently completed B-20/G-20 talks in Cannes, Frances.

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