Verbal tantrums of a writer & an anxious spectator of life.

Month: November, 2010

Marriage First, Love Later

Adverse Effects of Arranged Marriages on Female Empowerment in South Asia; in particular regards with traditional societies of rural Pakistan.

Arranged marriages are still prevalent in many traditional societies of Pakistan. The family is a vital cause of this prevalence, as they regard themselves as the sole benefactors who are ‘all-knowing’ in making the decision to unify their child with someone. Indeed, arranged marriages fundamentally join two families together, not just two individuals. There are several reasons behind such parental participation in making the decision of marriage and behind the commonness of arranged marriages. These include, the daughter’s responsibility to uphold the family’s honor, retaining wealth within the family, avoiding societal gossip, reducing the likelihood of divorce and, parental concern for safety of their child.

Many of the reasons behind arranged marriages are concerned with the ‘role of the female’ and in fact greatly hinder female empowerment. This is because typically females are forced into marriage at an early age, required to submit to a domestic role and not allowed to pursue a career, compelled to bear children, must uphold the husband’s standard of honor, forced to undergo physical and emotional abuse due to their position of being the female gender in the marriage and last but not least, females usually suffer from no right to love, as they are forced to marry a specific man chosen fro them. The notion of love is specifically highlighted to contrast with the modern ‘western’ understanding of ‘love.

Since ‘love’ in the western and developed world (where females are arguably in a much better position) is seen as an ‘individual’ decision, in arranged marriages, ‘love’ is the result of a decision that two sets of parents or elders made. It is love that leads to marriage in the modern societies of the West, whereas it is marriage that results in love when they are arranged. Therefore, the emphasis laid upon love is crucial to the theme of this paper, which aims to characterize arranged marriage, its reasons and subsequent consequences on female empowerment via a native Pakistani female’s perspective and the anthropological views of Leela Dube and David Schneider. The native offers a personalized view of ‘love’ in an arranged marriage. The anthropologist, Schneider provides information on the Western view of marriage and love, and anthropologist Dube presents a comparative perspective on gender and marriage in South Asia. Altogether, this paper confirms that arranged marriages do impede the advancement of female empowerment.

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The Management of Marriage

The parents’ decision is the key deciding feature of a marriage. The management of marriages in these societies is seen as the natural responsibility of elders (parents, grand parents or closely related relatives). In fact, giving young individuals the option to seek their own partner is often times rendered scandalous. (Dube, p.110) Parents residing in these traditional societies view their children as young until they are married, which is when their status is changed to ‘adults’. Therefore the decision of their wedding is automatically the responsibility of the parents and elders, not the children.

Muslim societies make clear that the honor of the family lies with the daughter, and she must not engage with men, emotionally or sexually. If she is to indulge in any interaction with a man that is not seen as appropriate by her elders, she is held accountable for ruining the image, status and respect of the family. The family requires that she does not indulge in any sexual activity with any man, even her husband-to-be before marriage. This includes no option to hold hands or share any type of kissing. She must guard her chastity with her life and remain a virgin till after marriage. Therefore, the female is not permitted to find her own partner, because in most circumstances if she does attempt to personally interact with a male, any prospects of her being eligible for an arranged marriage are eliminated. Interestingly, a “young man is [also] not expected to make serious advances towards a young woman, unless he is prepared to marry her.” (Dube, p.111) However, this rule only loosely applies to men, who openly pursue women and are rarely held responsible for their behavior. What is ironic is that even though they are not allowed to, but engage with women, they choose not to be married to women who do the same; they ask for females with no past relationships. Therefore, arranged marriages are seen as a productive way of ensuring no option of contact between a daughter and another man.

Many family members prefer marrying their children off within their relatives in order to retain familial wealth. Anthropologists have studied these ‘endogamous marriages’ in great detail and such anthropological literature finds that, in such traditional societies, a set of siblings shares the income of their parent’s one factory, one industry or one business. All the revenue and profits are to be used solely by the same family. In order to keep the money inside the family, they marry their son or daughter off to their cousin, whose parent is part of the same family business. The same applies for property retention. Land and territory owned by a family is to be enjoyed by just them and not shared with any ‘outsiders.’ Henceforth, arranged marriages are a suitable solution to force children to marry within their relatives in order to retain, and then be able to enjoy the wealth of the family.

The whispers of the society can cause much shame to the name and grace of a family. These rural and traditional societies are more prone to engaging in gossip, because females are usually bound to housework, and they do not have much other to do with their free time, but spend their time talking and discussing such issues. Undoubtedly, parents want to avoid the torture of having the community badmouth their daughter and ruin her chances at marriage, by creating exaggerated stories about how she was seen talking to, or kissing a man, hence the parents do not allow for personal contact between female and males. They make it clear that their decision is required for a marriage to take place. In this manner, the “community does not gossip” (Dube, p.112) as they know that there was no unacceptable behavior, but the parents’ explicit role of unifying a couple together. It reconfirms that no interaction had taken place outside of marriage as that could have potentially lead to a scandal that would have reached the community members. If their parents are marrying them off, it is assumed to mean that they have secured their eligibility to be married.

Many of these parents or elders regard arranged marriages to have a lower divorce rate than love marriages. Various Western cultures have criticized arranged marriage for its brutal and unjust system of selecting a partner for someone, and stripping them of their right to choose their own ‘lover’. Such behavior greatly contrasts with the vision of ‘individuality’ found in Western perceptions of marriage. However, an interesting reality lies in the success rates of arranged marriages. Comparing and contrasting the divorce rates of countries that greatly foster arranged marriage with those that rarely indulge in it underlines the rate of success in any given marriage. Gavin Jones[1] contribution to the “Population and Development review”[2] (Jones) highlights that “in all Western countries where divorce was legal, divorce rates have risen gradually since 1990; in the United States this rise has been continuous for over 100 years… when divorce rates were rising sharply, divorce rates in [Muslim Asia] declined rapidly”. (Jones) It is fascinating to analyze such data, which puts into question the ability to make individual choice to marry someone and have a higher chance of getting a divorce, than having your parents decide your destiny for you!

Another reason why arranged marriages are so prevalent is due to the parents’ concern for the safety of their child. They believe they can make the best decision of choosing a suitor and a family that will never hurt their child. Since physical abuse and rape is commonly found in such traditional rural areas, this is a great cause of concern for parents, which is why they take it upon themselves to ensure, as much as possible, that their son or daughter will be treated well by the new family. By carrying out background checks, meeting with the suitor and his family on a personal basis and by simply asking around the community about the potential suitor’s family’s values and morals, the parents try to seek their best option. Henceforth, due to safety being a prevailing problem, parents are even more inclined in choosing the suitor for their child.

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Hampered Female Empowerment: Unjust treatment of the woman

As described above, there are various reasons that continue to make arranged marriages prevalent and popular in traditional societies. However, these reasons put the ‘female’ in a very iniquitous position and their growth in society is hampered. Arranged marriages put-forth unjust requirements that females must fulfill before and after marriage. Unfortunately, since marriage is considered as ‘destiny’ (Dube, p.110) for all women in such a traditional Muslim society, they do not have any other option but to succumb to these requirements. It is also important to note that in many cases, societies that still believe in arranged marriage still uphold the following requirements for females.

These requirements include how females tend to be married off at a very young age, usually as soon as they have hit puberty. In many cases, their arranged marriage is planned the day they are born, so that when they become of age, their suitor is already chosen for them. These young girls are not given time to complete their schooling, or even mature into adults. At that age, they are even less likely to be given any position to voice their needs and wants. Their lives drastically change as soon as they are married, and there is no turning back for them.

Even if they are not married as soon as they hit puberty, as soon as they become wives, they are usually bound to managing household affairs and cannot pursue their own careers. Their lives are restricted to domestic chores and they are not given an option to engage in any professional field. Cleaning, cooking, attending to guests and catering for their husbands emotional and sexual needs becomes a routine for them. They do not have the luxury of individualism; which is afforded by education, experience and exposure. In these traditional rural areas, the house becomes the permanent home for the wives, and their husbands’ are their sole caretakers and commanders. As long as they do as they are told, or as they are expected to behave by their husbands’ family, the husband guards and appreciates their honor. As soon as they attempt to do more than housework, or try to emerge as strong, individual minded women looking for any jobs, they are usually shunned by the family and treated with the greatest disrespect. They are no longer allowed to return to the home, and it is at the discretion of the females’ own parents to take her back into their home or not. In areas where families have such traditional perspectives, the female is not accepted back into the family and must fend for herself completely.

It is not shocking to recognize that females are usually forced to have children. This is especially unjust in arranged marriages, where they are expected to have sexual intercourse with a man they have recently met, and who they do not necessarily feel comfortable with. Irrespective of the woman’s feelings, she must submit to her husbands’ needs and demands, as that is her duty. If she does not, she must face serious consequences of physical abuse by her husband. Additionally, in traditional communities, it is assumed that the more children you have, the better. Therefore, it is her duty to bear as many children as possible. Interestingly, David Schneider’s[3] account on the role of the women in marriage is similar to what those engaging in arranged marriages believe. Schneider states; “Women bear children, nurse them, and care for them. This, according to the definition of American culture, is part of a woman’s nature.” (Schneider, p. 35) In arranged marriages, the daughters’ parents make a promise to the parents of the son, that she is fertile and acknowledges her responsibility to have children, making her more appealing in the eyes of the boy’s parents to choose her as their daughter in law to-be.

Furthermore, the same way the female must uphold her father’s honor before marriage, now she is responsible for upholding her husband’s. Such an arranged marriage survives on the basis of female behavior. She must only have physical interaction with her husband, which includes kissing, hugging, holding hands and of course sexual intercourse. She must remain shy around other men and maintain physical distance, by never standing too close to them and not communicating with them for more than a few minutes. These are accepted norms and details of how women can interact with other men, well understood by traditional community members.

Arranged marriages have a high likelihood of causing emotional and physical pain to the female. This is because the husband knows that the wife does not have a choice, but to stay with him and accept his flaws because this will maintain her own family’s honor and dignity. When her parents married her to this man, their decision imposed a responsibility on the daughter to keep her parents decision out of respect. Due to this, the husband can have a tendency to exploit his wife’s position. He can ask her to have sexual intercourse with his male friends and he can engage in extramarital affairs himself. The wife must accept and remain quiet; otherwise it is her own honor and respect that is adversely affected. Traditional societies where arranged marriages continue to be a common practice also continue to view the female gender as the vulnerable one. These societies allow for men to do as they please whether they are married or not, but prohibit any freedom to women. Therefore, the position of the wife can be abused greatly.

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The Logistics of Love

Arranged marriages continue to hinder female empowerment in many more ways. A very significant area in which they suffer is their no right to love. This part of the paper will explore the American perspective and the native’s perspective on love. It will explain why arranged marriages can, conversely to above, actually develop into relationships where the husband and wife fall in love. However, this section will also highlight the ways in, which arranged marriages rob females of their right to what traditional societies call ‘love.’

Undeniably, arranged marriages are still prevalent in many parts of Pakistan, where courtship is seen as sinful and love seen as a result of a ‘forced’ relationship. Love, as described here, refers to the emotional and sexual relationship that comes out of interaction between male and female. This love is seen as a result of a relationship, which is an arranged marriage, where two individuals are compelled to spend their lives together. Individuals from these societies tend to believe, or are taught to believe that they can emotionally and sexually engage with each other after marriage, and that this engagement results in love. Indeed, it is implied that love is to be developed only after the marriage has taken place and it is an emotion that can grow within the couple after such a union. The parents or elders in charge of arranging the marriage render ‘love’ and courtship impermissible before the wedding has taken place. Since they are in charge of finding, selecting and approving of a partner for their child, there is no room for ‘love’ to exist between the unmarried couple yet, because any individual interaction between the couple is prohibited.

A Native’s Perspective on Love in Arranged Marriages

A native Pakistani woman, my own mother, provided a personal account of her notion of love having had an arranged marriage, which reaffirms the above-mentioned. “Love…” she said, “can be found after you are united with the man you are to spend your life with. Love is a result of solid companionship; it is a product of compromise and trust. Not only trust in him, but in your parents’ decision to have selected him, and knowing that the reasons, which made your husband stand out, are reasons enough for you to fall in love with him.” In my mother’s view, and in her understanding of love in her native language of Urdu (national language of Pakistan), she defines it as an emotion having to do with trust and patience. It is about learning to live with someone and then learning to love them. From being “shy strangers to becoming friends and most importantly, companions.” Since there is no intimate, whether it be emotional through communication, or physical through sexual activity between the two individuals before the wedding, the couple has no other option, nor any better knowledge, than to understand that love comes after marriage, not before. Henceforth, it is understood as a feeling that has the potential to develop once the couple has formed a relationship with each other after the wedding.

Sometimes, love does develop once the union has taken place. Other times, it does not. In either case, there is a huge risk of unifying two individuals because they may never fall in love. They are not able to share a relationship with one another and determine whether they feel love, and whether that is even enough for them to spend their lives together. Love becomes not something they have a right to, but what has a chance to develop. This puts females at a particular disadvantage. This is because, as mentioned above, they are the gender in the society that cannot let go of their family’s honor. They do not have the option of interacting with someone they might be attracted to, or even find good looking, because any such interaction would have serious consequences involving them being banished from the family or being burned alive. Traditional societies have extreme views about unacceptable behavior on the female’s part, therefore she is not allowed to develop any feelings, except for her husband, after she is married to him. Contrastingly, men have the luxury of doing so. Since they are seen as superior in such rural societies, they can afford to engage in relationships and affairs before and after marriage. They can learn what love is to them and feel it, without having the society turn against them. However, sometimes even if they fall in love with a particular person, they can be forced to marry a girl that their parent chooses for them. In this way, the couple is compelled to spend their lives together, and share an emotional and sexual relationship, without any prior interaction. Conversely, the modern world views such ‘love’ to be simply unjust for many reasons as discussed below. Furthermore, the following section compares and contrasts the ideals of marriage in American kinship and traditional and rural Muslim societies of Pakistan.

An Anthropologist’s Perspective on Love in American Kinship

In David Schneider’s American Kinship, a Cultural Account, a parallel can be made between the accounts provided by Leela Dube, David Schneider and my mother on the topic of ‘sexual intercourse’. Sexual intercourse is directly linked to love and marriage in all three anthropological accounts. Dube compliments the native’s perspective on love, which is a result of marriage, which permits a couple to engage in sexual intercourse. The female must remain chaste and untouched till the day of her wedding, as this is a matter of her honor and dignity. Once the couple has been wed, they are encouraged to have sexual intercourse with each other. Similarly, Schneider corroborates that in American kinship, “it [sexual intercourse] should be between husband and wife and between no other persons…between any other persons it is wrong and prohibited.” (Schneider, p.51) He adds that “sexual intercourse between persons who are not married is fornication and improper” (Schneider, p.38) which is similar to the views on sexual intercourse in arranged marriages.

However, when it comes to love, Schneider argues that Americans relate love with individualism and that, “…love is closely linked with the fact that in love it is personal considerations which are the crucial ones… Love is a relationship between persons.” (Schneider, p.48) The male and female both are openly able to develop feelings and emotions. The female in this equation of love is not stripped of her right to feel what she wants to feel. The right that man and woman possess to develop feelings for each other without an official contract cannot be left unacknowledged in American kinship. Indeed, those who find what they see as love can agree to get married as “Marriage is for love” (Schneider, p.49), contrasting with the characteristics of arranged marriages, where ‘personal considerations’ are replaced with that of the parents and elders of the family. Arranged marriages are not necessarily for love, but are arranged in order to provide protection to the son or daughter so that they may have someone to depend upon in the long run. Love is not the priority in arranged marriages, whereas in American kinship, love is the center of marriage and/or relationships.

*****

As we have seen throughout this paper, the causes behind the commonness of arranged marriages and the subsequent consequences of these marriages adversely affect female empowerment. Whether it is forcing females to marry as soon as they hit puberty, or compel them to bear more children than they would personally like to, women must endure severe costs due to their gender in the prescribed traditional and rural societies of Pakistan. Even though there are a few advantages, such as a lower divorce rate in arranged marriages, the undue requirements imposed on women hinder their advancement in society. The purpose of this paper has been to shed light upon a certain pattern of marriage that takes place in specific types of rural societies in Pakistan. The reasons behind the prevalence of arranged marriages, as described above, are deep seated in the minds and culture of people who dwell in these communities. It is important to note that a subtle shift is being felt within traditional cultures of Pakistan towards a western oriented approach of marriage, where one’s own choice is given ground. However, the consent and blessings of the parent are still considered necessary, therefore the role of the family will continue to exist in the future.


[1] Jones, Gavin. Modernization and Divorce: Contrasting Trends in Islamic Southeast Asia and the West. Vol. 23. Population Council. Population and Development Review. JSTOR. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <http://jstor.org&gt;.

[3] David M. Schneider. American Kinship, a Cultural Account. Second Edition. 1968, 1980. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London. Print.

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The West and well, The Rest

Essay written in relevance with

World Markets: Anthropological Perspectives by Schneider, Jane

Schneider raises several issues, which relate directly to the persisting debates on global development today. As ‘capitalism’ has become hegemonic, the questions that steadily arise include, firstly, whether the developmental speed of existing European societies plays a significant role in pushing the ‘Bottom Billion’ (Collier, Paul) even further below. Secondly, will Western norms continue to set the trends in the developmental arena? Thirdly, should we conform to a “universal” culture lead by the West in order to attain Western standards of living?  In fact, most significantly: Can the assistance provided by Western nations actually prove beneficial for developing nations or does it only hinder their developmental process?

History provides us with facts that the colonies of Europe were responsible for supplying various primary products to the centers of wealth. While the resources of the colonies and dependent nations were depleted and received close to nothing in return, their hard work and production encouraged further development in the Western nations. In this way, developed societies did not allow the developing nations to emerge and compelled them into a ‘periphery’ role, offering them trivial necessities for survival. Today, unfortunately this behavior continues as developed nations benefit from the victimized position of underdeveloped countries by asking for resources, providing assistance in the production of those specific resources, enforcing certain bans, increasing export rates and significantly allowing capitalism to run the show. Since only developed nations are able to afford great investments in the word markets, they benefit from capitalism, while the ‘Bottom Billion’ do not benefit and fall increasingly into debt. In fact, as income in the wealthy nations increases, so do their demands, which have to be met by the peripheral nations. Therefore, existing Western societies do play a role in pushing the ‘Bottom Billion’ further down on the development ladder. However, they play a more, if not equally pivotal role in helping these nations rise.

To come onto the map of the world, underdeveloped nations have to prove their worth. We can take Pakistan as an example. If Pakistan, with the status of a developing country, did not cooperate with America, the sanctions and bans the Americans would subsequently infer on the poverty-stricken nation would accelerate its downfall. Therefore, to be recognized, the norms that the West sets, have to be followed at least to a certain extent. Economically speaking, when dealing with imports and exports in the global markets, underdeveloped nations must accommodate Western customs of market trade. If not, the wealthy nations will simply find no reason to indulge in trade with such states. Essentially, the wealthy nations can change the desperate position of poorer nations by facilitating internal development, leading to a position where the underdeveloped countries can be the ones setting trade norms themselves. However, this calls for a very productive form of assistance to the developing nations, which will be discussed further in the paper.

Schneider raises an interesting point whether nations should adopt a “universal culture” or not. In many cases, most nations do not have a choice. As mentioned above, to gain recognition or to become a player in the field of development, western standards of living have to be aimed for and attained. This is in relation with how Western societies dominate the globe today. Conversely, the more complex issue arises when dealing with preserving culture and heritage and to what extent such preservation can be made possible when trying to gain participation in the global run for power. It would be almost naïve to claim that developing countries do not have to change in any way to house rules and regulations set up by the leading nations. However, culture can be preserved. We can take China as an example. Although China has adopted socialist mannerisms to run their social arena, we cannot deny the existence of the capitalist economic structure that puts them in a most powerful position. Indeed, unlike the leading Western nations, they are not a democracy but they function on a branch of democracy, namely capitalism, which has enabled them to dominate world markets today. Similarly, for an example, Pakistan can safeguard its traditional heritage, but it must prepare itself for drastic changes such as ridding itself of the feudal system, gradually providing a singular curriculum of education to all, focusing on developmental efforts rather than the provision of luxuries to the elite and importantly, focus on defeating the extremists and adopt a balanced political system. With an education system similar to that of the US and opposite to that of the fundamentalists, where equal opportunity for all is the norm, Pakistan can potentially leave its close association with the ‘rock bottom’ and make its way up. Therefore, Pakistan does not have to conform to a “universal culture”. In fact, it can preserve its cultural heritage and still enter the global arena but it must take rigid steps to liberate itself from the religious fundamentalists, which prevent it from developing.

In dealing with the question of giving and receiving Western assistance, the Global Development Studies seminar posed various angles to this topic throughout the semester. Initially it was easier to believe that the West does not have the right to intervene and should allow for a nation to develop itself with time. This perspective was based on the reality that many of the developed nations today used to be in one or another form of chaos in history. It took them time and courage to arrive at their leading position, therefore, intervening and imposing Western visions and ways could be harmful and that developing nations should be allowed time and space to develop on their own. However, with the technological advancements in the world, the peripheral nations have no time life. In fact, with the course of time and exposure to various lectures, student debates, speaker events, books including Maggie Black’s ‘The No Nonsense Guide to International Development’, my position has found a happy medium between Western provision of assistance in development and a developing nation’s fundamental responsibility in committing to change in the name of progress.

Again, we can take Pakistan as an example. Today, as Pakistan fights against the War Against Terrorism, it is evident that without the assistance of foreign soldiers and field workers, the situation would experience dramatic failure. Pakistan needs foreign help in the form of troops and in the form of development workers who can create and help sustain a viable and secure environment. It would be extremely difficult for the country to flourish amidst or even after such chaos without foreign provisions of funds and development resources. Another example to illustrate a fine balance between foreign aid and intervention is South Africa. The country has so many internal divides that it is almost impossible to create an atmosphere, which could potentially lead to a fair journey of leadership and serenity. The presence of foreign troops keeps the situation in control. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to also recognize the difference between ‘assisting’ and ‘imposing’. It is usually when this recognition is lost that even more chaos occurs. Mr. Carter’s speech on his experience was most interesting, especially when he said that Africans need to change their mindsets. This offered a challenge to genuinely think about the intention of helping the Africans. I believe this statement assumed that the African way of life was incorrect, hence the need for change. In this context I found a certain element of ‘enforcement’ onto the citizens of the developing nation. Global Development Studies has invariably taught that having any preconceived notions when entering a nation and regarding the citizens as a ‘project’ and not as ‘people’ can be a direct walk into catastrophe. Henceforth, this experience only advanced my belief in the significance of ensuring a lack of inflexible beliefs and the worth of an open mind.

Seeking for a light to guide me to learn and understand how development works, serving Pakistan, my homeland, has been at the forefront of my goals. Over half the population there has no access to education and with my fortunate disposition of attending a private school and gaining colorful exposure to the world, I believe it is my responsibility to bring back a cultured viewpoint, productive strategies and an educated mind to help change the ways of life there. A preconception accompanied me to class the very first day: I need to save Pakistan and the only way to do is to argue over its potential and worth. A reality accompanied me out of class on the last day: I can save Pakistan by promoting an educated strategy of development, which calls for an acceptance of foreign assistance and education at the top of the agenda. Those who have access to private schools, foreign universities and such resources can facilitate a positive change. They have the ability to take a stand. They must be reminded of their responsibility and as a Global Development Studies major, I can participate in spreading such awareness. I came to be educated in this course and I hope to share my education to bring a change in my homeland.


Have Pakistan & India been through the Worst?

 

The history between Pakistan and India makes evident their turbulent relationship; they have been through near wars, conflicts and even experienced a limited war. There is no doubt that currently the parameters of an Indian and Pakistani settlement is very narrow. Furthermore, there is a high likelihood that another explosion will take place in India, which will probably have a Pakistani base. However, there are very low chances that both countries would wage war against each other, or resort to worse conflicts than before, as that is a step that neither nation can afford to take. Nuclear optimists add that rationality tends to prevail and that the increased command and control Pakistan and India have acquired due to their past experiences will foster an environment where a conflict could be kept under control. Moreover, we can see that both nations have displayed great self-control and self-restraint in the past when tensions were very high, which makes evident their capabilities to maintain order when necessary. There have been plenty of opportune moments in the past where India and Pakistan could have attacked each other, for an example when Pakistan wrongly crossed the Line of Control during the Kargil Crisis. However both nations managed to avoid confrontation on a larger scale. Therefore, in the event that there is another explosion in India, India will use alternative ways to avenge Pakistan rather than opting for war. Alternative methods include using Pakistan’s unjust move as a reason to better its own relations with the US, achieve more investment and resources, and be recognized as a stable and peacemaker nation internationally. Indeed, there are several reasons, which make the case for India and Pakistan to have been through the worst of it. However, the opposing argument also makes for a very robust case that the worst is yet to come, as another attack in India will undoubtedly unfold many a disastrous events, much worse than ever before. Below, I have provided solid reasoning for both sides of the argument, first dealing with why some predict the worst is yet to come, followed by a systematic analysis leading to my understanding of why India and Pakistan have in fact been through the worst already.

It is true that India and Pakistan have managed to avoid major conventional and nuclear wars in the past, however, the past attacks in Mumbai really brought India to the brink, and in the event that there is another explosion in India, the situation could really steer out of control. There are many reasons that solidify this argument that there are extreme conflicts in store for Pakistan and India. First, history has shown that miscalculation and misinterpretation have been two key characteristics of the relationship shared between India and Pakistan. They have continuously doubted each other and even come close to a war. This miscalculation has led them to test their nuclear weapons and pose unnecessary threat. In fact, the major reason why Pakistan attained its nuclear weapons was to deter India. Their major goal has been to compete with India and ensure that their nuclear weaponry is of equal standard, if not of better quality and more quantity. With increasing tensions between both nations, in special regards to the fact that Indian conventional military forces are of a much higher standard and this provokes Pakistan to increase its nuclear threshold, there is a great possibility that if India uses its conventional military forces to fight Pakistan, the latter will be compelled to use its nuclear capabilities since it cannot compete conventionally.

Nuclear deterrence pessimists argue that irrationality does prevail and that accidents can happen. Even if in the past Pakistan and India have contained themselves, there is no reason that if an enormous explosion is to take place in a popular location in India, India would not resort to combat. South Asian dynamics have proven that the situation between both nations has remained to be very tense and if this tension was provoked, the situation could cause great damage. The Kargil Crisis can be used as an example, where if the US President had not personally intervened, there was no reason for India to contain itself. It was an extremely trying task for President Bill Clinton to convince the Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time, Nawaz Sharif. There is no guarantee that such an agreement could be made again between the US and Pakistan to promote stability in a volatile region.

The security and insecurity felt by India and Pakistan calls for major concern as well. India is secure in its belief that it can outdo Pakistan; such statements undoubtedly infuriate Pakistan, which would strike back if things were to reach an extreme level. Pakistan wants to prove itself to India and to the world of its capability to attack if necessary; which is a major reason why Pakistan acquired the nuclear Bomb. It is very important for this nation to use its Bomb as a symbol of power, as the country itself cannot currently offer alternative symbols of authority such as a booming economy, welcoming investments etc. The only weapon of power Pakistan has is the Bomb, or so it believes. Therefore, there is increasing reason to recognize that if there is a time of need, Pakistan will use its capabilities to defend its nation and prove its worth to India and to the world. Indeed, the struggling nation evidently uses nuclear capabilities as a measure of success; therefore there is a high likelihood that in an event of another catastrophe, nuclear exchange would become a probability.

Another major reason why the worst is not over yet is the increasingly improving alliance between India and the US. These calls for much jealousy in Pakistan; a nation, which greatly depends on US support. In particular, Pakistan has been the country calling for US engagement in the South Asian region, especially in regards with Kashmir, whereas India has always opted for bilateral agreements. Now if Pakistan felt that the US was clearly tilting towards India, despite it’s single-handed persistent efforts to involve the US in the region, the jealousy could prove to be hazardous. This is because if there is an explosion in India, and Pakistan is blamed, in the eyes of Pakistan the US, siding with India, will only add pressure onto Pakistan to take things under control, and not see the situation from Pakistan’s perspective. Indeed, Pakistan would react by retaliating with extreme force in order to show India that even if they have the US on their side; Pakistan has its own individual capabilities, which can cause great damage.

Furthermore, Pakistan has made clear its ‘red lines’ to India; in a way, this has given India a license to attack because they are aware of the precise areas that would cause most harm in Pakistan. On the other hand, India has kept its ‘red lines’ vague and not made them clear to its rival. If Pakistan wanted to strike India, it would do so with its own understanding of what may cause damage in India. However, India would react in the specifically ‘red’ designated areas of Pakistan, as it knows where Pakistan would be most harmed. Therefore, if an event was to take place that would bring India and Pakistan to the brink of war, a single step taken by India into Pakistan’s territory or vice versa could result in a major disaster.

Contrastingly, it is no secret that India and Pakistan have managed to avoid major confrontation in their past. Their portrayal of restraint has called for faith in their statuses as responsible states. There are several reasons why each country can make a convincing case that they have been through the worst of it. First, History shows that in the 1960’s, India’s was the leading voice for non-proliferation. They only attained nuclear capabilities to serve as a political symbol of power and authority, because India felt that until and unless it gained the Bomb, other countries with nuclear status would bully and treat India as an inferior. Therefore, it is not hard to believe that they take their Nuclear program less seriously than Pakistan, in fact India regards its nuclear weapons to be ‘political instruments’, whose purpose is to deter threat and represent the sovereign right to power of India. This makes clear that it is very unlikely for India to engage in a nuclear battle, even if explosions were to take place within the country. Although Pakistan takes its nuclear program much more seriously, it is in a very insecure position, where they use their bomb to deter any threat that India may pose, since Indian conventional forces are many more in number than in Pakistan and the only way Pakistan reassures itself of its capability is by adding to its nuclear weapons. However, nuclear deterrence optimists argue that there has been no use of nuclear weapons since World War II, therefore what will give Pakistan the legitimacy or the strength to indulge in nuclear warfare. Even India has made clear its doubt that Pakistan, if provoked, would involve itself in nuclear warfare as it simply cannot afford to do so due to its geographic location, War against Terrorism, depleting resources, internal security situation and struggling economy.

The democratic nation of India is also greatly occupied with its economic game plans. Any conflict with Pakistan would greatly damage their strategic economic planning as the emphasis would be taken off the economy of India and a huge amount of the financial resources will be used for war. India cannot economically afford to go to war or engage in tremendous violence with Pakistan, be it conventional or nuclear, as the costs of war would clearly outweigh the benefits. Similarly, Pakistan is already suffering from a dangerous internal security situation, where extremist groups residing within the country are exploding bombs and creating chaos. Many of the available resources are being used to stabilize the current situation using military and police forces. Furthermore, Pakistan is struggling for survival via its dependency on foreign aid and investment; it has depleting supplies of financial resources, which are mainly being provided to the military forces fighting the War against Terrorism. The rest of the financial resources are tied up in providing basic facilities such as water, electricity, food and shelter in order to keep Pakistan above the water. A war against India would completely wipe out any financial or developmental resources Pakistan has. Therefore, India and Pakistan are both not in a position to go to war against each other, even if matters were to get out of hand. Violence due to religion is an expected result of an explosion in India where Muslims may have to undergo severe treatment; India’s military may even fight a limited war with the soldiers of Pakistan but anything beyond the Line of Control would cost both countries much more than they can afford.

Another reason why Pakistan and India have been through the worst of it is timely US intervention. In the past, especially during the Kargil Crisis, we can find that timely US intervention has helped avoid a conflict. Since Pakistan is a key player in fighting the War against Terrorism, there will be US presence in South Asia for at least a certain period of time. With the US physically being present, they will be able to keep an eye on the situation and keep things under control. India and Pakistan will be under surveillance hence any actions would incite immediate US intervention. Therefore, if Pakistan and India were to reach an extreme level where they would ponder upon waging war or other extreme measures, the presence of the Americans would make them question their plans. Furthermore, history has shown that even if the US is not physically present, their engagement with this region has usually stayed alive. Such an active US role will be key in maintaining stability in the region. As Michael Krepon includes in his essay “The Stability-Instability Paradox, Misperception, and Escalation Control in South Asia”, the US is treated, by India and Pakistan, as an insurance against escalation into war. Each country believes its individual relationship with the US to be personal, where the US shares the perceptions of that country. Therefore, since the US will physically be present in Pakistan in the upcoming years, the relationship shared between the US and Pakistan could play a positive role in making decisions concerning India. Similarly, we can see that the current alliance between the US and India is much stronger than before, therefore the Indians are more likely to listen to the US in times of urgency.

Both the South Asian countries share much ‘mutual fear’. Ganguly Sumit is correct in pointing out that India makes very clear its superior position; Indian leadership has even told Pakistan that there is no doubt that India could wipe Pakistan off the map. This has incited fear in Pakistan, who is not willing to take risks. On the other hand, even though India is skeptical of Pakistan’s capabilities, it fears Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. When the Kargil crisis took place, the conflict was purposefully contained by both sides within the disputed territory of Kashmir. This is because India did not want to allow for its military to expand its operation beyond the Line of Control due to its fear that Pakistan may use its nuclear weapons, since Pakistan’s conventional forces were not up to par with India. Indians recognized that Pakistan’s only option to retaliate would be the Bomb, and they feared the use of it. Therefore, both nations learned a lesson at this time that although they have nuclear weapons and both also indulged in a limited physical battle; the very fact that both nations had nuclear capabilities was enough to deter an outright war. The mere threat of nuclear usage can invoke a fear from either country in order to defend their nation from potential harm. This proves that next time the fear of nuclear involvement would deter either side from wanting to go to war.

Another main reason why the worst is over is the increasingly positive role China has started to play. The relations between China and Pakistan have always been profoundly friendlier than the relationship shared between India and China. In fact, China has done damage in Pakistan by helping them attain the Bomb in the past and there has been fear that China would enable Pakistan to indulge in a conflict as well. However, China has now become a leading partner to the US in maintaining peace in the region.  If Pakistan was to beg China for something in extreme circumstances, China may help them but the odds are much better today than before, that China would act responsibly. China has also made clear that in case Pakistan does opt for war, it will ask Pakistan to settle the crisis without violence. Therefore, the role that China plays now of the peacemaker along with the US gives strength to why a conflict would not escalate out of control between India and Pakistan.

As mentioned above, miscalculation, nuclear deterrence pessimism, security and insecurity imbalance, PAK-US and India-US relations, and Pakistan exposing its red lines have been major reasons for one to predict a gloomy future for the South Asian nations. However in recent years we have seen that the leadership of both India and Pakistan has willingly taken steps to undertake a cooperative path. What has been an unfortunate obstacle in the journey to improvement has been the atrocious attack in Mumbai, which halted all communication between both rivals. If Pakistan can make clear and use actions to make evident that they are taking steps to sever all ties with the extremist groups causing the havoc in India and around the globe, India is much more likely to extend its hand towards Pakistan. It has become obvious that the internal security balance in Pakistan can play a vital role in building ties with India; in fact, it is almost a precondition for both to continue onto a productively positive pathway. Since leadership of both nations can take steps to make communication more viable, the timing is ripe for better relations. If another explosion was to occur in India but Pakistan would take steps to show India that they share the same goals of eliminating terrorism, then India would be more likely to react in a softer manner. Although accidents happen, history shows that even in events where Pakistan has purposefully trespassed onto Indian Territory, India has managed to contain itself and its military reaction, therefore in the event that an accident was to take place, Pakistan and India could potentially reach an understanding. Additionally, nuclear competition has been a great cause for worry home and abroad. In particular, the United States is worried that the increased number of nuclear weapons will add to the already existing tension in the region. However, India and Pakistan have been competing for nuclear capabilities since they first tested in 1998, since then they have not emerged in nuclear combat, therefore there is less reason to believe that the future will compel them to do so as past events have been extremely intense and challenging for each nation already. The fact that India acknowledges its position as superior to that of Pakistan is no reason for Pakistan to proliferate, or attack. This is because in an event of an explosion, Pakistan will have to show the international community its support against extremism; it will prove to India and the US in particular that it is indeed not inferior as it is able to control its reactions when provoked. More than ever, Pakistan is in a position to prove such a responsible status now as it emerges at the forefront of the War against Terrorism. Gaining loyalty and trust from the international community has become its priority because without that, Pakistan is unable to fight the battle against terrorism alone. Pakistan also has increasing reason to gain faith in its relation with the US, despite US and India’s persistently friendly alliance. This is due to the reality that the US has currently put Pakistan on its agenda as a nation to be assisted, financially and developmentally. The aid being provided to Pakistan by the US is a solid measure of US investment and commitment to Pakistan. Therefore, the current status of US and Pakistan relations is such that there is limited reason for them to doubt US loyalty. Due to this, in the event of an attack in India, the US will be able to play a strong role in controlling matters, as both nations rely and use America as insurance against escalation of conflicts. Furthermore, although Pakistan making its red clines clear can be seen in a negative light, it should also be noted that these lines have no specifics or definite parameters. Therefore, India does not, in fact, have a license to hit Pakistan below the belt or right on target. In fact, making public its red lines, Pakistan can also be seen to have taken a bold step to warn India that it must indulge in extreme action to cross the lines. Since crossing these lines would cause reaction on the side of the Pakistanis, India’s fear of nuclear combat would discourage it from provoking Pakistan.

Henceforth, it is safe to say that India and Pakistan have been through the worst of it. Even if many dangerous events are looming in the future, each country is better equipped to deal with the circumstances and push for stability in the region. Significantly, Pakistan must recognize its position as a nation that can gain control of its future. It can focus on developing its various institutions and work on ridding itself of extremists, which are only worsening the situation. Pakistan also has the ability to use foreign aid and resources as a way to foster internal development, which could lead to a more prosperous future. If Pakistan commits itself to this, and follows up these resolutions with actions, India would have more reason to believe in Pakistan’s commitment to improving ties with its neighboring country, hence disavowing the potential for future disasters.