Peace and Politics in South Asia

Peace and Politics in South Asia

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Sumit Ganguly, distinguished professor of political science and Rabindranath Tagore chair in Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University Bloomington, discusses peace and politics in South Asia in advance of India’s 2019 general election, as part of CFR’s Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.

Learn more about CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Program.


Sumit Ganguly

Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations, Indiana University Bloomington


Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

FASKIANOS: Good afternoon from New York, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call Series.

I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and the audio and transcript will be available on our website,, and on our iTunes podcast channel, Religion and Foreign Policy.

As a reminder, at any time during this call you may dial *1 to enter into the questioning queue for the Q&A session.

We are delighted to have Sumit Ganguly with us today for a discussion on peace and politics in South Asia in advance of India’s general election. Sumit Ganguly is distinguished professor of political science and the Tagore chair in Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University Bloomington. He is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is associate editor of the journals International Security and Security Studies and serves on editorial boards of many others.

In 2018, he launched an open access journal entitled Indian Politics and Policy for the Policy Studies Organization. He is a specialist on South Asian politics; the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of twenty books on the region, including the Oxford Handbook of India’s National Security, which came out in 2018; and he is currently working on a book on the origins and evolution of India’s defense policy.

Sumit, thanks very much for being with us today. It would be great if you could begin by talking about the renewed tensions that we are seeing between India and Pakistan, how these tensions are affecting the campaigning for the upcoming Indian general election, and what you think the outcome will be.

GANGULY: Thanks very much for this opportunity, Irina.

Let me go directly to the heart of the matter. The current tensions between India and Pakistan were precipitated in the wake of a terrorist attack which was traced back to Pakistan on the 14th of February. Shortly thereafter, India launched an airstrike, and this was the first use of air power that crossed the international border between India and Pakistan since the 1971 war. During the 1999 Kargil War, Indian warplanes scrupulously avoided even crossing what is called the line of control in the disputed territory of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. But this time, in a remarkable development, Indian air force jets, particularly Mirage 2000s, crossed the international border—not merely the line of control—the de facto international border in Kashmir to strike into Pakistan.

Whether or not the strikes were successful remains a matter of some debate. There has been some satellite reconnaissance imagery which suggests that the bombs did not hit their targets, but this remains controversial and unsettled.

But in the wake of the Indian air strike, Pakistan struck back within twenty-four hours, aiming at certain military targets in the Indian portion of the disputed state of Kashmir, but those strikes were mostly unsuccessful. However, an Indian air force aircraft, a MiG 21 Bison, while following a Pakistani F-16 was actually shot down. There is again a controversy about whether or not the Indian pilot successfully shot down a Pakistani F-16. The Indian air force is claiming that it did, and just as of twenty-four hours ago, they released some radar intercepts that showed that indeed the MiG 21 Bison successfully shot down a Pakistani F-16. But the Pakistanis continue to deny that happened, and so that matter also remains controversial.

All of this activity has generated a good deal of passion, both in Pakistan and India, and in India it matters more because India is on the verge of elections which are about to start within the next two weeks, and which will continue on until May. And obviously the Indian ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has sought to make political capital out of its muscular response to a Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack.

Whether or not this will have a major effect on the outcome of the Indian election is a matter of speculation and debate in India. It is likely that at least in northern India, which is in close proximity to Pakistan, it will probably end up swaying the sentiments of some voters, but on a nationwide basis, my suspicion is much more bread-and-butter issues of unemployment, of rural distress, of the effect of certain government policies like demonetization, of removing certain high-value notes of the Indian—out of the Indian economy rather abruptly last year—these are likely to sway voters, to influence voters far more than whether or not the government took a particularly muscular stand towards Pakistan.

On the other hand, the very weakness of the principal political opposition, the Congress Party, is also likely to affect the outcome that Congress, I doubt, will manage to win a majority of seats. At best it can hope for a plurality of seats in parliament. But some of the early polls suggest that the ruling party may not be able to have a simple majority in parliament and may have to depend upon allies to form a government.

FASKIANOS: Fantastic! Sumit, let’s go to questions from the group.

GANGULY: Excellent.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our first question comes from Vineet Sharma with the Hindu American Foundation.

SHARMA: Thank you, Professor Ganguly.

Yeah, I want to discuss what I think is a foundational and systemic error in thinking among policymakers in the U.S., especially in the last two decades since 9/11. This group-think has exacerbated problems in Pakistan and India and has created failed policies in the Middle East and many other places. And this lack of understanding among U.S. policymakers arises from the conflation of the modern political entity of a sovereign state and this nebulous concept of the Islamic world.

The confusion was probably most apparent in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009 when we had the constitutionally elected president of the United States, Barack Obama, reach out to the Islamic world with a metaphorical hand. The speech was supposed to somehow mend the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world, but this seems kind of laughable ten years later.

So to the average person with common sense, this effort was doomed from the start because it seemed absurd for a secular political leader who holds a constitutional office acting as if an equivalent political entity is on the other side. So no serious political leader would like reach out to the Christian world or Buddhist world.

But I think the real danger is far greater because this kind of policy legitimizes supranational religious organizations, it validates the arguments made by the caliphate, and ISIS, and al-Qaeda, and in countries like Pakistan and Turkey, this flawed attitude on Western leaders has made it more difficult for reformist leaders to modernize, to separate religion and politics, and to promote cohesion in their own societies.

And I think the flawed approach partly affirms what Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi say to their followers. So we have gone from President Obama reaching out to the entire Muslim world to having President Trump trying to ban all Muslims. Neither makes any sense, and this is something that is not discussed in your book on ISIS last year, and I would like your thoughts on how this kind of flawed approach can be changed to discredit the extremists and help the reformers in places like Pakistan.

Thank you.

GANGULY: A couple of different responses—first of all, I’m not talking about American foreign policy today; I’m really talking about tensions between India and Pakistan and the upcoming Indian elections, so I’m not really competent to address questions about American foreign policy.

Second, our book on ISIS did not deal with American foreign policy. It simply dealt with the future of ISIS as an organization and its likely evolution. So that’s we did—it was not a book about American foreign policy towards ISIS; rather it was a book about the internal organization of ISIS, its goals, its ideology, and the dangers it poses to the United States and the world.

So that—this is my response.

FASKIANOS: Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Dr. Tarunjit Butalia with the Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations.

BUTALIA: Thank you Irina and Sumit. Thank you for your very good remarks that you gave.

I have two brief questions. I will state both of those. The first one, as somebody who is from South Asia, I feel that many South Asians on both sides of the border are very strongly nationalist, but being nationalist also means that they have a lot of strong prejudices that are held whoever lives on the other side.

So one part of the question is what can be done about reducing prejudice on both sides of the border, and the second is it seems to me much like President Trump has been using Islamophobia not just as a beating stick for the Muslim community, but also using it—it seems it appeals to some of his voters.

The ruling party in the BJP has also it seems, under the guise of Hindu nationalism—seems to either promote or look away when Christian, Muslim, Sikhs, and Dalits are persecuted, so I’d like your opinion on those two matters.

And thank you so much for presenting today.

GANGULY: Thank you. On the first issue on mitigating prejudice in India and Pakistan is that—you know, there are elements of civil society in both countries that have tried to address this issue. Of course civil society in India, even under the BJP regime, is much more robust and energized, and much larger, in part because India is a larger country, but also because of India’s long democratic tradition with all its laws, which I recognize.

But Pakistan for the most part has been a military dictatorship except for small interregnums of democracy, and consequently the political space in Pakistan is much more constrained. And often people point to liberal voices in Pakistan, but those are mostly a minuscule minority and limited to the English language press. So we make a fallacy of composition when we somehow infer from that—from those small liberal voices and think that they represent a much wider body of sentiment. They do not.

Whereas in India, there is a much wider political spectrum because of the experience of democracy despite its limitations and flaws, and consequently there is a wider constituency that exists in India which can speak with multiple voices and can also speak out against nationalistic and chauvinist prejudice even though we are witnessing a good deal of chauvinism at the moment in India, in large part promoted by the regime in power.

Which enables me to turn to my next point that—yes, that this regime has been hostile toward religious minorities, has been callous in its behavior towards religious minorities, and has sought to promote a kind of ethnic nationalism which is also being promoted in this country by President Trump. There are remarkable parallels in terms of this kind of highly prejudicial and extremely parochial nationalism that both Modi and Trump have promoted and have sought to demonize minorities.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Piyush Agrawal with the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin.

AGRAWAL: Good afternoon everybody. This is Piyush Agrawal.

Professor Ganguly, I’m very happy that you took a very balanced approach to your presentation. Actually, the last sentence about your comment on the nationalism and demonizing the minorities, is not a fact. I hope you stay in your balanced mood because people on both sides express their different opinions.

So the question is this. How do you judge that the nationalism is a bad thing and is against the minorities?

GANGULY: Nationalism in itself is not a bad thing. Nationalism involves a certain affection for a particular country, and loyalty and allegiance to a particular country. But the demonization of minorities is more than evident from speeches by, say, for example, Swami Adityanath, who has been lauded and supported by Modi in the very large state of Uttar Pradesh which has a population of almost 200 million. The lynchings of Muslims in India on utterly specious grounds—not that lynchings under any circumstances should be tolerable in a democratic state, but Muslims have been repeatedly attacked on extremely dubious grounds, and I don’t mean attacks verbally, but violent physical attacks including deaths, and this is absolutely intolerable.

And hence, I don’t think that one can be balanced on this issue. One has to speak out vigorously if one believes in democratic values and human equality.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question is from Howard LaFranchi with the Christian Science Monitor.

LAFRANCHI: Oh, yes, Professor, thank you so much for doing this.

You mentioned in your opening about the election that you thought the Indian voters would be much more interested in bread-and-butter issues. That was one of the issues that you mentioned. And so how do you see—in the campaigning so far, how do you see the government addressing those bread-and-butter issues when the economic situation hasn’t been so bright, or in the past few years the situation has not lived up to what the prime minister pledged when he came in? So how is the government campaigning and approaching those bread-and-butter issues given the sort of difficult past couple of years on the economy?

GANGULY: First, a factual matter. The last couple of years have not been bad for the economy. The economy actually has been humming along quite nicely. But economic growth alone is not everything.

Inequality in India has been worsening. Unemployment is dreadful in India. So while you can have economic growth, you can have growth without jobs, and we have witnessed that here in the United States on particular occasions where the economy is humming but you get jobless growth. And one has witnessed quite a bit of that in India, and the government has not been especially sensitive to this issue and has even attempted on occasion to fudge the statistics or to obfuscate the statistics on this matter.

It has not made a concerted effort to run on the platform of economic advancement, of economic prosperity for all, and instead it has turned to ethnic chauvinism, particularly in the recent past. It has also sought to play up its muscular stand towards Pakistan. So instead of addressing questions of rural poverty, of rural deprivation, of urban unemployment, of the lack of economic opportunity, it has tried to deflect attention from these issues in the recent past.

And Congress—the principal opposition—has come out with a series of populist gestures including a guaranteed minimum income without quite specifying how it is going to pay for these social programs that it has in mind in opposition to the BJP.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Barbara McGraw with Saint Mary’s College of California.

MCGRAW: Oh, thank you for taking my question.

I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about nationalism and its influence on the election, especially the degree to which it is supported by the current regime versus on-the-ground individual or small group violence. I often see those two things conflated, and perhaps because of your expertise, you have some way of either separating them out or making a connection—and then how it’s influencing the election.

Thank you very much.

GANGULY: A good deal of the local violence that has transpired in India, particularly against minorities, is because the current government has either given leeway or flung a loose rein to a lot of miscreants in a number of different parts of India, or is tacitly supporting this violence. And so I actually see a climate of intolerance that has gripped India, particularly since the 2014 election outcome; that far from reining in these forces, the government actually has given an opportunity for them to flourish, has not forthrightly condemned these acts of violence against vulnerable minorities, and thereby has emboldened a number of individuals and groups to act in a feckless fashion against minorities who are in an extremely vulnerable position.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Thomas Walsh with the Universal Peace Federation.

WALSH: Yes, thank you. Thank you for a very fine presentation and a lot of good questions.

I wanted to see segue here from a little focus on Pakistan to India’s relationship to China. There is a territorial dispute on the border, and some argue that China has expanded into areas on the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka.

I’m wondering if the so-called China threat plays into the political landscape in India.

GANGULY: Yes, it does, but it will not have significant electoral consequences. It is mostly an elite concern. Only a small segment of India’s population have the time, the leisure, and the knowledge to follow Sino-Indian relations. It is mostly confined to the intellectual salons of New Delhi, to think tanks in New Delhi, and to a handful of other metropolitan areas where people are affluent enough, knowledgeable enough, and informed enough to worry about the Sino-Indian competition. For most people in rural India, this is not an issue that directly impinges on their lives.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Thomas Uthup with Friends of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

UTHUP: Hello, Professor Ganguly. It’s great to hear from you. I’ve been following your writings since the ’80s and the ’90s when I was in graduate school.

GANGULY: (Laughs.) Thank you.

UTHUP: Thank you for your talk.

I have two very specific questions, first related to the prospects—although it does not look—you know, in the near future it looks kind of bad, but I wonder if Imran Khan’s position as the prime minister in Pakistan is going to have a positive or negative effect.

I remember that when this fracas broke out between India and Pakistan, that Imran Khan was praised for his restraint and, on the Pakistani side at least, I think there were people talking about nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize for his restraint. So the first question is really about the impact on Indo-Pakistan peace because of Imran Khan.

And the second question relates to the elections. I’m curious as to the influence of gender in this election particularly since this is the first election in which Priyanka Gandhi is taking a leading role. I mean, so far it has been Rahul Gandhi, and I believe his charisma is, to put it mildly, quite underwhelming.

So what is the influence of gender generally? I mean, are women now a significant factor in voting for one side or the other? And what is the influence of Priyanka going to be specifically in attracting female voters to the UPA?

[audio break]

 OPERATOR: Rejoining Sumit Ganguly.

FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Sumit?

GANGULY: Hi, Irina. Very sorry, something went wrong with that call. Everything turned into static.

FASKIANOS: Yes, and likewise. So we’ll go on to the next question. So Tom, go at it.

UTHUP: My second question was about the influence of gender in this election, particularly since Priyanka Gandhi is now standing for elections for the first time. I recall that under Indira Gandhi’s time she was attractive, of course, to a lot of women. So is Priyanka Gandhi’s candidacy going to be a significant enough force to attract women to voting for the UPA? Is that where it can make a significant difference? Because the polling that I’ve seen shows that the BJP coalition has still got a substantial lead, but I don’t know reliable the surveys are in India. So the question was about the influence of gender and the influence of Priyanka on attracting perhaps more women.

GANGULY: It is not entirely clear that Priyanka will necessarily be able to attract more women. For one thing, she has not emphasized the women’s vote or women’s issues in particular. She has mostly attacked Prime Minister Modi, which is to be expected in an election. So I do not see a—Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into the election having a major impact on women voters.

She will probably have some influence in her constituency, but that’s less because of her gender as much as her ability to speak in the common idiom, something that Rahul Gandhi simply cannot. His speeches come across as rather programmed, formulaic, and stilted. He is not a natural campaigner. And Priyanka seems to have the knack that her grandmother possessed in ample measure. So the—it’s not so much gender as much as her personality and her ability to speak in a language that appeals to Indian voters that could prove to be decisive.

FASKIANOS: Sumit, while we wait for more questions to queue up, or comments, in your March 5 essay for that we circulated as advance reading for this call, you sustained that the nuclear war between India and Pakistan is unlikely. Can you talk about your thesis there? And what does history teach about past conflicts?

GANGULY: Right. I think a nuclear war between India and Pakistan is unlikely because both sides understand the sheer destructive powers of nuclear weapons and the inability to control events once one crosses a certain threshold, that even a small nuclear detonation may not remain—it would not remain confined but could quickly escalate to a much higher level. And consequently, both sides are—or will exercise a certain degree of caution to go over the brink; that while they may peer into the abyss, they will also step back from the abyss because neither side has a particularly sanguine view about the ability to control events in the event—if they push beyond the envelope that far and actually precipitate a nuclear war.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: And we now have a question from Ghalib Victor Begg.

BEGG: Yes. My question so far to your excellent presentation is about the influence of the Hindu Americans on the Indian elections. As I understand, there is big-time support from—and they have a strong lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., and BJP has many connections in America. So how are Hindu Americans supporting this nationalistic government of Narendra Modi?

GANGULY: Hindu Americans, to begin with, do not constitute a monolith in America. Hindu Americans are divided on the basis of social class. Based upon—they are divided on the basis of their educational attainment. They are also divided in terms of their ideology. They are not all marching in lockstep to the BJP’s ideology and not all of them are BJP supporters. There are many Hindu Americans who are quite secular and who do not support the BJP, and in fact are vociferously opposed to the BJP. So it would be somewhat incorrect to suggest that Hindu Americans constitute a distinctive voting bloc who all are BJP supporters. I would submit that they are not—that they have varying views, they differ on a number of different axes, and particularly are not all BJP supporters, though there are segments of the Hindu community who definitely are fond of the BJP, are supportive of the BJP, and are probably inclined to see the BJP come back to power, and would—and to the extent that it is permissible under the law they may even provide financial support to the BJP, thought there are serious restrictions on India on foreign funding in Indian elections.

FASKIANOS: Sumit, can you talk a little bit more about the future of the Jammu and the Kashmir region?

GANGULY: Absolutely. The Jammu and Kashmir region has been the subject of an international dispute between India and Pakistan since the very creation of the two states in 1947. It has been the site of at least three wars—in ’47-’48, in 1965, and most recently in 1999—and more skirmishes along the border than I can possibly keep count of.

And what is the future? Much depends on both sides. Much depends on whether or not a government in India can offer the Kashmiris who are under India’s rule a fair political dispensation where the Kashmiris do not feel alienated from the Indian state, particularly Muslim Kashmiri. On the other hand, it also depends on Pakistan, that if Pakistan continues its dalliance with terror and support for organizations like the LET—the Lashkar-e-Taiba—or the Jaish-e-Mohammed, well, or the Hizbul Mujahideen—the Hizbul Mujahideen, by the way, is mostly composed of native Kashmiris, though supported by Pakistan—as long as it continues its involvement with terror, it’ll make it that much more difficult for the Indian state to reduce its military presence within Jammu and Kashmir, and thereby the area will remain a volatile region for the foreseeable future.

So both things need to happen. Pakistan needs to finally come to the realization that its support for terror is really untenable. And India, by the same token, has to treat Kashmiris as equal citizens of India and not treat them as potential fifth columnists, and also needs to address very legitimate grievances which exist amongst the youth in Jammu and Kashmir who have known nothing but a life of curfews, checkpoints, searches, cordon-and-search operations for all their adult lives. And this is not a population that currently feels particularly well-disposed towards the Indian state. So both of these things need to happen in tandem.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Gujari Singh with the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

SINGH: Hi. Thank you for this really interesting conversation.

My question is, how do we—how do we identify the use of propaganda by either side? And whether or not there’s a way to combat that, maybe, to create a more—a more honest conversation about getting towards a peace process. Thanks.

GANGULY: The propaganda is bad enough, but the real issue is not propaganda. The real issue involves addressing fundamental differences of interest. It’s policies more than propaganda that’s the problem. It’s the policy of Pakistan to support terror in Kashmir that feeds the right wing in India, that generates hostility in India towards Pakistan. By the same token, it’s—the flawed policies of the current government in Jammu and Kashmir have also given Pakistan an opportunity to meddle in India’s affairs and to stir the pot in Kashmir and to sow discord in Kashmir.

So I would focus more upon policies rather than statements and propaganda. The propaganda is something that practically all states engage in, particularly when they are in a situation where they are fundamentally at odds over an issue or over a particular set of issues.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Thomas Uthup with the Friends of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

UTHUP: When you were talking about the fact that Hindu Americans are not a monolith and you mentioned several divides, I was curious, you didn’t mention the divide of region. That is, south Indian Hindus are generally—to me appear to be a little bit less eager to support the BJP than the people in northern India. I don’t know if the same pattern holds among Hindu Americans in—overseas as in India itself because the BJP has had a lot of trouble, although it has been successful now in some states, in making headway in the south.

GANGULY: That’s correct, but I don’t know if that is mirrored in the diasporic population in the United States. I simply don’t have the survey evidence or statistical evidence to back up such a claim, and consequently I would be hesitant to suggest that those patterns are replicated in the United States.

FASKIANOS: Than you, Sumit. Could you talk a little bit more about the status of religious minorities in each country, and in particular the Sikhs?

GANGULY: The status of religious minorities in both countries is bad, but in Pakistan it’s been bad for a very long time. This is nothing new. This is pretty much a constant that minorities in Pakistan—because it is a self-proclaimed Muslim state, minorities are at an inherent disadvantage; whereas in India, matters have waxed and waned depending on which government has been in office. But I would argue that since this government came to power, the current government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, matters have certainly worsened since 2014.

And in terms of the Sikhs, currently their position in India is not particularly distressing. But there was a time in the 1980s when there was a major Sikh insurgency in the Punjab, when Sikhs were being singled out, Sikhs were facing discrimination, and Sikhs were the subject of widespread suspicion because of their potential involvement in the insurgency in the Punjab.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. And to circle back to where we began, what is your predication of what will happen to the Congress Party if it loses in the 2019 election?

GANGULY: It will continue to function as a political party, but it would—it would behoove it to engage in some serious introspection about its leadership. The continued obeisance to the Gandhi family in the Congress Party is actually hurting the prospects of the party. The party needs to open up its ranks, allow other individuals to enter the political arena, and they need to reduce their dependence on the Gandhi name. This sycophancy that characterizes the Congress Party in considerable part I think has damaged the party, and continues to damage the party, and will damage the party in the future unless it opens up its ranks, allows greater participation, permits newer voices to emerge, and thereby rejuvenate itself.

FASKIANOS: And would a Congress victory renew the country’s commitment to religious pluralism?

GANGULY: At least in part. The Congress, to my dismay, has flirted a bit with religious nationalism in a foolish attempt to outbid the BJP, but it will not succeed in this endeavor. One never can outbid zealots. Zealots will always outbid you. And this is a lesson that, unfortunately, secular political parties don’t seem to understand, whether in India or elsewhere—that one can never win against zealots of any political stripe, that they will always end up outbidding you. And these attempts at soft Hindu nationalism that Congress has engaged in will be actually perilous to its future.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Anthony Akaeze, a freelance journalist.

AKAEZE: Yeah, thank you. My question—although I came in a bit late. I regret and I apologize for that. But my question is I would like to know the role of religious leaders, to what extent religious leaders have tried to help promote peace between Pakistan and India. You know, I ask this question in regard to Nigeria, where I come from, where religious leaders tend to either inflate or kind of create crises as they choose to. People who preach in the mosques and those, you know, speaking to their people in the churches, we have issues about how they tend to—how they tend to take sides in matters of either peace or war. How would you rate that of India and Pakistan?

GANGULY: Frankly, religious leaders have played virtually no role in trying to improve relations between India and Pakistan, and on both sides there are religious leaders who have actually inflamed passions. In Pakistan, many of them speak absolute venom about India. And unfortunately, in the recent past some Indian religious leaders, though not all, have spoken in equally venomous terms about Pakistan, thereby making matters worse in both countries.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. And for my final question is, what in your view—you’ve been—you’ve been studying this for a very long time. What are the prospects for peace? Is there a way forward? Any optimistic note you can leave us with, Sumit?

GANGULY: The biggest hope for peace lies in about two or three different factors. One, one would have to see a Pakistan emerge where the military is no longer primus inter pares, first amongst equals, when the military returns to the barracks and focuses on simply issues of national defense, and legitimate national defense, rather than interfering in the politics of Pakistan and maintaining a steady drumbeat of hatred against India.

It would also help if one got a more moderate regime in India which was committed to peace with not only India’s other, smaller neighbors, but also with Pakistan, and could reciprocate any gesture from Pakistan that was genuine—that was genuine and credible. And this would require, obviously, a return of the military to the barracks.

From a more hardheaded standpoint, over time if India and Pakistan’s economic and other trajectories continue to diverge, India will be so much further ahead of Pakistan that whether or not Pakistan likes India will simply become irrelevant. The political science literature tells us that this is one of the pathways by which rivalries die, when one rival becomes so much more powerful than the other that what the other rival feels simply becomes irrelevant. That may also happen. That could be another possibility.

And so these are at least two possible pathways by which we could see the beginnings of reconciliation between India and Pakistan.

FASKIANOS: Well, Sumit Ganguly, thank you very much for sharing your invaluable insights with us today. We appreciate it. It was great to have you lead this discussion and to all of you for your terrific questions.

We encourage you to follow Sumit’s work at Indiana University Bloomington and to be on the lookout for his upcoming book on the origins and evolution of India’s defense policy. When will that be out, Sumit? Not to put you on the spot, but—

GANGULY: Hopefully late next year, if all goes well.

FASKIANOS: Wonderful, wonderful. So thank you again.

GANGULY: Thank you, Irina, for this opportunity.

FASKIANOS: We also encourage you to follow CFR’s Religion and Foreign Policy Program on Twitter at @CFR_Religion for announcements about upcoming events and information about the latest CFR resources, and to reach out to us at [email protected] with any suggestions on future calls or events.

So thank you all again, and we look forward to your continued involvement with CFR and the Religion Program.


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