Opinion

After The Polls, Peace

After The Polls, Peace

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won his election and now India will have to adjust to his worldview in the coming five years more completely, its judiciary a little more and the minorities quite a lot. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted Modi to win so that he could readjust to India, change policy from the ground up, because Pakistan is broke. Khan wants to docket Kashmir and open free trade with India, allow India a trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia in order to secure his western border to prevent Pakistan from unravelling once again.

India will change. It will “seek its soul” to achieve recognition and dignity. The entire world is seeking this “thymos”. Francis Fukuyama says: “Thymos is the part of the soul that craves recognition of dignity; isothymia is the demand to be respected on an equal basis with other people; while megalothymia is the desire to be recognised as superior. Modern liberal democracies promise and largely deliver a minimal degree of equal respect, embodied in individual rights, the rule of law, and the franchise.”

But the era of the liberal democracy is gone. The Muslim world or the “umma” has collapsed seeking “democracy”, thinking Islam means democracy. America is seeking thymos under Trump; India seeks it under Modi. Fukuyama, End of History, thought that Trump was a “fantastically ambitious individual whose desire for recognition had been safely channelled into a business and later an entertainment career”. Little did he realise that Trump will lead the entire American nation to a new seeking of thymos.

India and Pakistan have both changed because of social change. And both have returned to religion. If Modi represents Hindutva, Khan represents the new wave of middle-class faith, penetrating the Pakistan army as well. The rise of the middle class in South Asia has ignited religious fires and changed regional politics. Between 1999 and 2012, those spending between $2 and $10 per capita per day in India doubled and became a part of the middle class that forms nearly half the Indian population today.

Economist Nadeemul Haq says: “Pakistan is now more urbanised with a larger middle class than India as percentage of the population. In 2007, Standard Chartered Bank analysts estimated that there were 30 to 35 million Pakistanis earning an average of $10,000 a year.”

If you think the entire world is going crazy hear this from the Brookings, Washington DC: “Something of enormous global significance is happening almost without notice. For the first time since agriculture-based civilisation began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty. By our calculations, just over 50 per cent of the world’s population, or some 3.8 billion people, live in households with enough discretionary expenditure to be considered ‘middle class’ or ‘rich’.”

In Pakistan, Imran Khan must succeed in “normalising” relations with India by not frontloading Kashmir in the coming negotiations with his Indian counterpart. Both states are nuclear powers and given the new “thymos”, the two religions can go to the final Armageddon. Once the Indian Constitution informed the attitude of the Indian middle class, which was tolerant of secularism. This is no longer so.

In Pakistan, the constitution still inclines the middle class to desire sharia and consequently prefer the “harder” sharia of the al Qaeda and Islamic State to state ideology. For once, however, the Pakistan army, path-dependent so far on India despite defeats, is allowing PM Khan to change the India policy on a permanent basis. Now is the time for PM Modi to add another “victory” to his electoral triumph: Get Pakistan to allow bilateral free trade including cross-border investment. Of course Imran Khan will have to play ball by delaying the “peace talks” on Kashmir as “normalisation” with India proceeds.

It is time India and Pakistan put Kashmir to rest, allowing the people there — both Hindus and Muslims — to lead normal lives together as they did before Kashmir became a “dispute”.

The writer is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan