Pakistan has been ruled by dictators for over half its history, while for the balance, generals have directed the country’s foreign policies with puppets in Islamabad

An op-ed in Pakistan’s newspaper Dawn, a fortnight ago, titled ‘Who runs Pakistan,’ questioned the concept of responsibility of administering the state adding that every foreign government has been seeking an answer to this since August 1947.

It concluded by stating, “There are over 125m voters who deserve to know whether they will be voting in 2023 (or earlier) for wooden Pinocchio’s, or their braided puppeteers.”

Pakistan continues to be a democracy in name with power wielded by generals in Rawalpindi. No Prime Minister in Pakistan has ever completed his full tenure and has traditionally been removed from office by the army chief he appoints.

It is well known that Islamabad is for photo-ops, while decision making is in Rawalpindi. While Pakistan remains in a confused state, India displays its national power.

Stephen Harper, in an article titled “Thoughts on a rising India,” published by the Observer Research Foundation, states, “The coming decades will be shaped in no small part by the choices India makes as it seeks to rise to its great-power potential.”

He added, “As India emerges from its non-aligned legacy and becomes a real player in the international arena, its success will rest on the democratic model at home and appropriate partnerships abroad.”

India is a global destination for economic and military cooperation. India has risen from being a third world country, struggling to feed its population, provide health care and importing most of its defence needs to currently being the fastest growing economy, supplying food grains to parts of the world while simultaneously providing food to its population as also enhancing its own defence manufacturing.It continues to face shortcomings in healthcare, provision of basic facilities to its populace and internal cohesion. With a booming population it is unlikely that India will overcome these shortcomings in a near timeframe. Internal harmony will remain a challenge.

The partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan 75 years ago created two nations which have fought wars and remained antagonists throughout. Borders are unsettled, and conflict continues. Both followed different paths from their inception. Pakistan declared itself an Islamic republic, while India termed itself a democratic republic.

India adopted a policy of non-alignment, while hitchhiking on USSR’s and subsequently Russia’s back, while Pakistan chose to ally with the US. Currently, India is pro-west, while Pak is desperate to get out of the Chinese bandwagon.

Initially it was Pakistan’s economy which grew backed by US support, while India languished. The turning of the Indian economy, its rising military power and astute diplomacy turned tables. Today, it is Pakistan which is languishing while India is rising. The world ignores Pakistan while engaging India.

China, the third nation in the region, also in dispute with India, automatically became a Pakistan ally, under the philosophy of ‘your enemy’s enemy is my friend.’ China, which should have supported the development of Pakistan, did the reverse. It plied Pakistan with loans and projects which have pushed the country close to bankruptcy and made it so dependent that it can never break the Chinese shackles.

It will always be compelled to dance to Chinese tunes. Simultaneously, post Galwan, China pushed Indo-Pak squabbling over Kashmir into the background by becoming India’s major adversary. After 1971, India removed its eastern threat by creating Bangladesh.

Over the years, despite hiccups, the Indo-Bangladesh relationship has matured. Land and maritime borders have been settled and the nations are cooperating in economic development and terrorism, benefitting both.

Pakistan’s attempts to sow differences between India and Bangladesh playing the religious card has not succeeded. Land and river connectivity linking its NE states through Bangladesh will benefit both nations. India supports the economic rise of Bangladesh by funding developmental projects.

On the contrary, Pakistan has troubled relations with Afghanistan, despite its own backed Taliban ruling the country. The Taliban continues to support the extremely violent Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has shaken its northwest provinces and enhanced deployment of the army.

The Baloch freedom fighters have slowed Chinese investments in the CPEC, while taking its toll on the Pakistan army. With Iran, it is a love-hate relationship, with both nations supporting terrorist groups operating in respective countries.

Pakistan’s fixation with Kashmir is the basic cause of its current situation. This fixation has given its army the power and authority to rule the country as also enhanced radicalization. Pakistan’s investments in funding terrorism in Kashmir, including diplomacy, informational as also creating terrorist modules cannot be overnight nor can they continue forever.

Any government seeking to change it, needs internal backing, which is unlikely. Global perceptions have changed. A couple of decades ago western nations funded Pakistan because it backed terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. Currently, Pakistan is paying the price for supporting terrorist groups.

There is no doubt that Kashmir has paid the price in terms of casualties, development and militarization but post three decades there is a marked difference. The scenario in Kashmir is normalizing, development is visible, as also is the realization that they have been exploited by Pakistan. Balakote remains a stark reminder of current Indian reactions. However, Pakistan’s demand for restoring Article 370, prior to talks, will never be met.

With formal talks off the table due to vastly opposite perceptions, it was backchannel discussions which resulted in a ceasefire along the LOC. A report from Pakistan last week stated that even these have hit an impasse as both nations refuse to budge from their respective stands.

Pakistan seeks concessions on Kashmir while India seeks restoration of trade. Another major reason for limited progress is political uncertainty in Pakistan. Thus, the two foreign ministers did not interact in Samarkand recently nor will the two PMs next month.

The much-announced shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy from geopolitics to geoeconomics to boost its economy can only succeed if other nations exploit the heavily indebted CPEC. Hence, Pakistan and China sought global cooperation in the CPEC to which India objected.

India-Pak relations, if they remain the same, will result in development of the Chabahar port and the International North-South Transport Corridor, making the CPEC almost redundant. Pakistan should realize and take the first step, which appears unlikely. Simultaneously, India fears moving forward and being snubbed.

A survey conducted by ‘The week in Asia’ in Pakistan resulted in most respondents being dismayed by the current political and economic state of the country. The nation had until the Zia era lived on financial doles and ignored building its tax base, developmental infrastructures and industries. Its stagnated economy led to divided social structures, poor health facilities, growing internal security problems and a suffering population. It is all a fallout of the errors committed under Zia and thereafter. Pakistan is unlikely to change.

Both nations commenced their journey in an equal position. At the milestone of 75, India is booming as a global power with a voice of sanity, while Pakistan is struggling to survive on loans and bailouts. The enmity between the two states, which commenced with the partition 75 years ago, has only intensified. Will there be a change when both nations celebrate their century?

***The writer is a security and strategic affairs commentator; views expressed are his own