All you need is trade: What PM Modi can learn from UAE to improve Indo-Pak ties

The UAE’s leadership was astute and far-sighted enough to understand that the key to their survival was to morph into what Rosecrance called ‘trading states’.

Wajahat Qazi August 17, 2015 10:55:29 IST
All you need is trade: What PM Modi can learn from UAE to improve Indo-Pak ties

Narendra Modi, before heading to the UAE for a state visit, stated that the Gulf region is vital for India’s security, energy and economic interests. He added that India was keen to foster a strategic partnership, particularly in the security, energy and investment sectors, with the fastest growing Arab economy and its visionary and pragmatic leadership. Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the UAE in 34 years.

The visit assumes significance against the backdrop of churn and flux in the Middle East. While the region is drifting into chaos and anarchy, and its security complex undergoing some mutation after the signing of the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States, there are some regions that stand out as a beacon of prosperity and peace. The UAE is one such region. India reaching out to the UAE is a reflection and manifestation of this. India is not alone in reaching out to the UAE; scores of other countries, including Western ones, have and hold an abiding interest (commercial and economic) in the federating units of the UAE.

All you need is trade What PM Modi can learn from UAE to improve IndoPak ties

PM Modi in Abu Dhabi. PTI image

There are a few broad lessons and implications that flow from this: first, we live in a world that is defined by contradictory impulses and themes- a feature that Richard Rosecrance called the ‘two worlds of international relations'. This is a world the structure of world politics is defined by territorial states and conventional themes like sovereignty, territory, maximization of power and politico-military considerations. The ‘other’ world is what Rosecrance called the oceanic or trading system where the motivating premises are trade, commerce and economic development. James Mittelman posited that we inhabit a world defined by ‘fragmegration’ – a coinage accruing from the synthesis of fragmentation and integration.

In this 'fragmegratory' world, nations occupy different niches or steps in the ladder, so to speak. This is determined by how paramount and important the politico-military dimension or the trading aspect is to the particular state of states. Closer home, the Indo-Pakistan relationship may be said to constitute a classic example of the primacy of the politico-military dimension. The hallmark of this relationship is zero sum, militarized conflict. (The cross-LoC skirmishes between the two arch rivals is a case in point here). The UAE’s relationship with the world at large is exactly the opposite. India’s interest in the federating units is an example of this relationship. Here trade and commerce are key.

So how did the UAE do it?

The UAE’s leadership was astute and far-sighted enough to understand that the key to their survival was to morph into what Rosecrance called ‘trading states’. Trade and commerce were elevated and accorded primacy over other aspects. This also entailed the synthesis of tradition with modernity (albeit in a weak sense of the idea) and openness to the world (globalising). The world noticed and appreciated this and the UAE became a beacon of stability, prosperity and peace. The question now is: can arch rivals like India and Pakistan draw any lessons from the UAE’s trajectory and example?

Of course, they should. But this is a normative assumption. Indo-Pak relations are characterized by deep and enduring hostility. However, this does not mean that the countries remain stuck in this conflictual paradigm. What could potentially break the log jam between the two countries is embracing what has been called by Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane, as ‘complex interdependence’.

‘Complex interdependence' is characterized by three characteristics, involving:

(1) the use of multiple channels of action between societies in interstate, transgovernmental, and transnational relations,

(2) the absence of a hierarchy of issues with changing agendas and linkages between issues prioritized and the objective of

(3) bringing about a decline in the use of military force and coercive power’.

The adoption of complex interdependence by India and Pakistan along the lines adumbrated by Nye and Keohane would mean increasing the volume and density of ‘transactions’(trade and people flows) between the two. This would not mean disavowing the military and security aspects of the relationship, but merely elevating trade and commerce over this.

Cynics may point out that this is well nigh impossible given the intensity of animus and hostility between India and Pakistan. But if China and the United States can be ‘enmeshed’ into a complex interdependence paradigm, there’s no reason why India and Pakistan cannot. Being enmeshed in this paradigm would naturally and inevitably mean disturbing the linkages and dynamics of the increased density of trade and commerce between the two.

Throwing into disarray these linkages would mean hurting each other: something that would be avoided if the volume of transactions is robust, deep and far reaching. The corollary then would be resolving issues and disputes with each other in a prudent and peaceful manner. Will this day ever arrive? Perhaps.

The large, mega-trend of historical import, known as globalization , will one day, envelop the whole world in its tentacles. Both India and Pakistan will not be immune to it. But, given the nature of the relationship between the two, this day is far off. Prudence , however, suggests that both India and Pakistan read the tea leaves, and make endeavours towards this end.

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