Sunday, May 30, 2010

If Not Lecture, Then Mentor

William Hague's "hands off" policy on India/Pakistan relations a bad idea

Speaking recently about bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, British Foreign Secretary has announced his intention to adopt a "hands-off" policy on the matter.

“It will not be our approach to lecture other countries on how they should conduct their bilateral relations and we won’t tell India and Pakistan how to conduct their bilateral relations,” Hague announced. “We have noted the recent improvement in bilateral relations between Pakistan and India which is good for the future peace in the world but cannot lecture the two countries on finding a way out to resolve the outstanding issues.”

Understandably, matters related to India and Pakistan -- or any of the Commonwealth countries -- are fairly sensitive in Britain. Britain cannot be seen to be unduly meddling in the affairs of its colonies. To do so would be interpreted by many as a form of imperialism.

Lecturing India and Pakistan about their diplomatic relations would be precisely that.

So naturally the British government shouldn't want to lecture the two countries. Mentoring them would be another matter entirely.

India and Pakistan are both sovereign states. But as far as sovereign states go, they are both young states. When one considers the amount of time it took Britain to settle its historical animosities with France, and when one considers how deeply-engrained the Indo-Pakistani region is within British and global interests, it becomes clear that no one can afford to wait for a centuries-long reproachment process leading to a stable peace between the two countries.

Mentoring India and Pakistan through a successful peace process isn't a burden Britain should have to carry alone. Britain has allies within the Commonwealth of Nations that share British heritage with India and Pakistan, and are well-poised to help Britain mentor India and Pakistan through such a peace process.

Considering the spiral effect tensions between India and Pakistan have on neighbouring states -- particularly Afghanistan -- India/Pakistan relations are simply too important to be left alone.

There's no shame in two young states like India and Pakistan needing a little help to get through a peace process. There's no reason in the world why Britain shouldn't poise itself to help.

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