Department of Political Science, JMI organized a lecture by Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, professor in the Department of International Relations, South Asian University, Delhi on the topic: “India-Pakistan Relations and Sub-continental Security” at the Department Seminar Hall on Nov. 11, 2014.
Dr. Kumar began his lecture by stating that the topic of India-Pakistan relations is a popular one. “This is a topic”, he said, “that interests not only academics, it’s a major topic of discussion for journalists, and even for the common masses.”
Apart from its popular imaginations and journalistic interventions, he said, academically also, the whole notion of India-Pakistan relations is inter-connected with how each country, India and Pakistan, actually imagines each other. And to understand India-Pakistan relations, one has to understand how the people of these countries imagine the other. “The very imagination of Pakistan for the Indians, and the very imagination of India for the Pakistanis, my argument is, this actually shapes the current nature of India-Pakistan relations,” he said.
Continuing on this theme, he quoted Steven Walt and said, “there is one world and many theories to interpret it.” And when it comes to the interpretation of international relations of South Asia, he said, he has observed a common interpretation by experts on South Asia; this he termed “methodological reductionism.” Explaining the term he said, it’s an interpretation of relations that offers “a kind of mono-causal explanation.” To support his claim he said if you were to look at some of the major works on India-Pakistan relations you’ll notice the pattern. He cited Sumit Ganguly’s book titled, “Unending Conflict”; T.B Paul’s work titled, “India-Pakistan Relations: Enduring Conflict”; “Military Impasse on the Wagah Border” by another author.
When you examine these works, he said, you note that the relations of these two countries have been attempted to be explained from a — “structuralist logic and materialistic epistemology,” which is a very state-centric discourse based on the old Westphalian notion of nation-state. A discourse which is very academic in nature, he said. However, this is different from the way a common man imagines or interprets, he said. To explain his point, he narrated a personal anecdote. He said, he once went to a small town in Karnataka, where he asked students of a small college: “What is Pakistan for you?” And the three “deadly” and “terrorizing” replies he got, as he put it, were: “Pakistan means war”; “Pakistan means terrorism”; “Pakistan means corruption.”
When that is how Pakistan is viewed in the popular imagination, he said, then how can we actually form our neighborhood policy. How can we have a rational policy when we cannot even imagine Pakistan to be a country inhabited by human beings.
So if you were to combine the two interpretations, the academic and the popular, he said, you will note an uncanny similarity between the two. And that similarity is the common belief among Indians that Pakistan is not and cannot be a normal sovereign country like India. And this Indian perception of Pakistan as some kind of “Shaitan” (Satan), he said, is the biggest hurdle in making India-Pakistan relations better.
He concluded the lecture by saying: “Enmity with Pakistan is beginning in our own minds and it has to be ended there.”
The lecture was followed by a Q&A session.
Listen to the complete lecture by Dr. Sanjeev Kumar here: