April 26, 2006Foreign AffairsSecurity

The separateness of peace and development

India will save itself a lot of tears if it stops confusing the two

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

You hear it most from Pakistani leaders. It has takers too among Indians and international quarters. Peace between India and Pakistan, they contend, is essential for development. And since Pakistan doesn’t want peace until it has Kashmir, India must, in the interest of development, concede. For surely, conceding some ground in Kashmir should be worth it if it can help bring about the much-needed development. It is this belief that informs the current peace process’, one that is characterised by highly asymmetric political, military and economic concessions by India.

In fact in political and strategic terms, the peace process has raised the marginal cost of countering cross-border terrorism. Pakistan demands a higher price each time in return for repeating the promise to deliver the same good — that of stopping cross-border terrorism. As long as India continues to subscribe to the peace through development theory though, Pakistan has no incentive to actually fulfill the order. Facts on the ground bear it out — peace has become a casualty in the quest for the very development that it was supposed to bring about.

If India finds itself in this situation today, it is because policy makers, aided in no small measure by the lofty-softy intelligentsia and the enthusiastically optimistic yet tragically amnesiac media, have chosen not to separate the dynamics of peace from that of development. Peace arises from the intercourse of state power. Development comes about though economic intercourse. Yet peace and development are distinct.

It follows then while greater economic intercourse between India and Pakistan can lead to greater development, it will be incorrect to expect that this will lead to greater peace. The surest way to achieve peace is to overwhelmingly alter the balance of power with Pakistan. Obviously this means developing overwhelming military superiority across the spectrum of conflict scenarios — from proxy war, low-intensity war to a full conventional war. It also means maintaining credible second-strike nuclear capability as a deterrent. But with economic power being another aspect of state power, it also means turning conventional wisdom pertaining to peace and development on its head: Development is not a hostage to peace, rather it is economic power brought about by development that will bring about peace.

One needs to look no further than China to see an example of how economic power can be accumulated without having to make territorial concessions to buy peace. China opened itself to trade and investment with India, Taiwan, Japan and other East Asian countries with all of whom it has unresolved territorial disputes. It did business with the United States despite the latter being openly committed to guaranteeing Taiwan’s security. With the its rise as an economic power China will be less likely to be forced to settle its territorial disputes by having to make concessions, especially unilateral ones. [Related Link: Defence expenditure and GDP growth]

This holds out several lessons for India and its peace process with Pakistan: First, pursuing better economic ties with Pakistan is a desirable goal, but it serves the ends of development, not peace. Secondly, economic reforms are urgent not only for its own development, but also for peace. Finally, conceding to Pakistani demands achieves nothing more than emboldening it ask for more, and to threaten more violence if its demands are not met. Halting the slide down the slippery slope is therefore necessary for peace.

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