“Policy of Productive Engagement”
By Zia Siddiqui
12/28/2012

 

Popular phrases to make a policy statement more acceptable by the people have long been practiced by the states. Sometime these are aimed at domestic consumption, and other times these are to impress the international audience. Sometimes these phrases reflect the mindset, desire, ambitions, and other times it directly shows the intentions to achieve the desired ends. Some of the popular phrases or policy statements read; Détente, Rapprochement, Constructive Engagement, Confrontation, Denial, Pain and Punishment, Preventive or Preemption, so on and so forth. States believe that these policy phrases or slogans carry the Administration’s image and would be long remembered whether they achieve their objectives or not. Perhaps, it is true also.

But, one needs to look deep into these phrases that how much of politics is embedded in these statements. Are these of any consequences to the people of the state and whether these signatures would achieve the desired results or not remains to be investigated through empirical evidence? For instance, in the context of India-Pakistan relations, the popular phrase of Composite Dialogue is the centerpiece of conflict management mechanism between the nuclear neighbors, having a long history of wars and conflicts. The costs and benefits of the agenda items of the Composite Dialogue are debatable, but it is the outcome that one is interested in after years and years of interaction under this banner. Understanding fully that the India-Pakistan relations are very complex and the issues involved can not be easily resolved in the existing environment. This calls for a relational transformation from the conflict management mechanism to conflict resolution mechanism, and move from Composite Dialogue to Productive Engagement. One could argue that there is a huge gap of trust and understanding between the governments and people of the two states and the ongoing Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) under Composite Dialogue may be given more time to improve the existing environment. But, one could argue that without any headway on the dispute resolutions on even the less complex issues of Siachin or Sir Creek, whether the trade diplomacy alone would be of any benefit to Pakistan or not. Secondly, if relationship is so complex and disputes so intricate; are the Track-II efforts or Aman Ki Asha-like initiatives good enough to influence the mindset of Administrations or not?
Back to the need of the policy of Productive Engagement, if Pakistan, at all has decided not to insist on Kashmir first, it is suggested that it must insist on propagating this policy, which may break the ice. The main contours of this initiative include re-orientation of policies towards dispute resolution. Secondly, this would give confidence to the governments and the people of two states that this forward movement would not be derailed by an odd incident. This would also ensure that ‘Aman Ki Aashi’ is not a one way affair, and both the states desire to have peaceful relations through resolution of disputes alongside bilateral trade, cultural and sporting ties. As far as the complexities of the disputes are concerned, it is agued that it is a matter of looking at the motivation of approaching it. If the political will exists, the policy of Productive Engagement would deliver, however if the political statement is narrated to pacify the people without any tangible effort, this term would also become part of table of international affairs’ terminologies.