Détente: A Foreign Policy Paradigm for a Safer South Asia


Détente: A Foreign Policy Paradigm for a Safer South Asia
March 4, 2016

Dr. Imtiaz Bukhari, renowned scholar and expert on South Asian policy, held a roundtable discussion in Information Technology University where he talked about using “Détente” as a foreign policy paradigm for a safer South Asia. Dr. Imtiaz Bukhari stated that détente does not mean friendship, rather it implies lessening of tensions among adversaries. He said, “It implies that you are not going to give up your conflicts but you will be working both as a partner and as an adversary. And you will be working together in unison against a common group of enemies.”

Dr. Bukhari has a PhD and MA in International Relations with majors in security/strategy studies, the Middle & South Asia from Johns Hopkins University. He is a prolific writer and has taught at various premier educational institutions (civil and military) in Pakistan, the Middle East and Turkey. He said that Pakistan and India relations have always been complicated; the two countries are both cooperative and adversaries. However, there are three issues that they both have in common: nuclear weapons, poverty and radicalism.

Dr. Imtiaz Bukhari commented that since prehistoric times, the type of weapons that we have used have changed drastically. In the past, war was a rational tool of policy but the appearance of nuclear weapons has revolutionized warfare and now these weapons can’t possibly be used as a rational policy. The cost of using nuclear weapons is so huge that it cannot be justified at all. The issue of nuclear weapons also arose between the United States and Russia but they took the time to resolve this matter between themselves and made sure that they didn’t have a nuclear crisis. There was a distinct possibility that the two countries might go to war during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and it signified that the two needed to talk. This led to the 1972 signed agreement between them signifying détente as the paradigm of their relations.

Unlike the United States and Russia, Pakistan and India are threatened by each other by a far greater degree because they share a common border and are neighbours, so they should be even more careful in making their foreign policy. A good move for Pakistan and India relations would be to follow the policy making set by the US and Russia and being careful not to formulate policies that can make preparatory actions seem like aggressive moves. “Pakistan and India need to be sitting on one side of the table and putting nuclear weapons on the other side of the table so that there is greater lessening of tensions between them,” said Dr. Imtiaz Bukhari.

The second common issue is the issue of poverty in Pakistan and India. Dr. Bukhari said that instead of one country trying to domineer the region, if all major countries including India had carried South Asia with them, then it would have been a much richer region instead of merely being the region that has the largest number of poor people in the world. Dr. Imtiaz Bukhari also addressed the third common issue of radicalism that has spread in both Pakistan and India. The countries should make sure that no money is being given to radical elements because the rise of radicalism in Pakistan would be extremely dangerous, especially for India. So India needs to be strengthening Pakistan for mutual benefit.

“By taking détente as a paradigm for resolving issues in Pakistan and India, they could simultaneously take steps as partners to eradicate poverty, radicalism and nuclear weapons as their enemy so we can start playing cricket again. Pray that both countries get leadership that we can define as statesmen rather than politicians,” said Dr. Imtiaz Bukhari.

This talk was held at the Center for Governance and Policy at Information Technology University.