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Krishnakanth asked: Is it necessary for India to supply 500MW of electricity to Pakistan when India itself is facing acute power shortage?

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  • Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: Similar questions can be asked about Indian aid/assistance of $2billion to Afghanistan or $1 billion credit line to Bangladesh, when many parts of India are languishing in poverty and disease. Foreign policy of a country is run on pragmatic principles. A nation has to make certain tangible sacrifices in return for intangible gains. As a rising power with a growing economy, India has to maintain its image of being a benevolent, accommodating and peace loving country, mindful of the needs and aspirations of its relatively smaller neighbours. A stable and peaceful neighbourhood is imperative for sustained growth of Indian economy and regional development. While India has managed to establish a better line of communication with most of its South Asian neighbours and has significantly improved its relationship with them, Pakistan has been a major challenge for Indian diplomacy.

    Plagued by internal security challenges and afflicted with a pathological obsession with India, Pakistan has chosen to divert the attention of the local jihadi elements towards India over the years, and sought to build a negative bond of unity through hatred of India. In this context, deeper and continuous engagement with Pakistan is, therefore, an alternative India can hardly ignore. Other options of benign neglect and coercive diplomacy have proved futile in the past. Knowing fully well that the real masters crafting Pakistan's India policy have a vested interest in generating anti-India sentiments though active propagation of senseless fear of India in Pakistan, India needs to act in a manner that would endear it to the people of Pakistan. It is felt by many analysts in India that it is perhaps better to adopt a people-centric approach vis-à-vis Pakistan and hope that things would improve someday when people and not the army would decide Pakistan's India policy.

    In this context, we must take note that the offer of 500w of electricity was received well in Pakistan and there was a sense of surprise and exasperation in some quarters as to how and why India made such a generous offer. While it may take a long time before India actually delivers electricity to Pakistan (because of the technical issues of transmission, supply and fee structure, etc.), a good beginning has been made to alter perceptions about India in Pakistan. The intangible gains from such an offer in the shape of gradual change in mindset can unleash the locked potential of India-Pakistan economic cooperation and lead to prosperity in both these countries and the region as well.