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Hating the Hegemon

by Newsweek Pakistan

File Photo. Nicholas Kamm—AFP

Pakistan must be willing to adopt a flexible approach to bilateral ties with India.

In an interview published in daily Dawn on Jan. 15, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz claimed Pakistan would not “tolerate hegemony in the region.” His beef is that India is unreasonable to reject bilateral dialogue while simultaneously demanding peace with Pakistan. He adds: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted India to establish itself as a hegemonic power” in the region and Modi’s entire election campaign was built around an “anti-Pakistan sentiment.”

Pakistan has made it clear that it wants dialogue with India so both nations can discuss contested Kashmir. In his latest interview, Aziz said: “Modi does not want to discuss the Kashmir issue except for examining the terrorism there.” Unfortunately, despite the ongoing rights abuses in India-administered Kashmir, Pakistan’s international isolation prevents it from exerting any pressure on its neighboring rival. The rise of Islamist extremism globally in the past few decades has prompted world powers to tacitly side with India to prevent Kashmir from becoming a hub of terrorism like Afghanistan.

Pakistan is seen as an unstable state convulsed with violent elements that punish the common man in the name of ideology. The world sees Pakistan’s vulnerability clearly enough: the ideology of the state and the terrorist is the same, only the terrorist claims to have “purified” it with aggression.

How does a normal state behave toward a powerful/hegemonic neighbor? It can lean on international support, as Pakistan did during the Cold War, or it can resort to a so-called “proxy” war—a dangerous prospect with its proven history of backfiring.

Pakistan is currently in a post-proxy war situation—or the stage where it faces negative fallout in the shape of internal upheaval. As a nuclear power, Islamabad doesn’t need to fear an Indian invasion, but that doesn’t mean it can challenge India to keep its territorial revisionism alive. Pakistan must offer a flexible response to India’s power while keeping an eye on the diminishing international support on Kashmir.

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