By Sudarshan R Kottai
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special interest in South Asia is laudable. I feel our South Asian diplomatic relations should focus primarily on Pakistan and Bangladesh initially as the three nations are united by a common history and shared heritage and therefore the synergy achieved amongst us would be instrumental in taking diplomatic relations forward with other nations as well. The three nations are physically proximal but psychologically distant even though our people share many similarities in culture, language, literature etc.
It is high time that Pakistan, India and Bangladesh took bold steps to commit themselves to bring about change which is proactive, need-based and deep-rooted. Intergovernmental cooperation coupled with people-to-people collaboration is the need of the hour to build strong, deep rooted relations.
Indo-Pak relations have remained adversarial ever since the two states were carved out in 1947. India-Bangladesh relations have also been waxing and waning, lacking stability. Even though Indo-Bangla relations have been better compared to Indo-Pak relations, they have not reached the acme of what could really be achieved.
Bangladesh-Pakistan relations also speak the same story. Both the countries are moving in a snail’s pace in terms of bilateral cooperation.
Summing up, it will be sufficient to say that Bangladesh-India-Pakistan relations have not witnessed a progressive change in spite of the larger opportunities and avenues inherent in them for substantial engagement.
Applying the Prochaska-DiClemente Wheel of Change Model
Prochaska-DiClemente Wheel of Change Model is the bedrock of Motivational Enhancement Therapy employed with clients with substance dependence and unhealthy maladaptive behaviors in order to bring in adaptive, healthy behavior. It has all the potential to be incorporated into the field of international relations.
Prochaska-DiClemente Wheel of Change Model speaks about stages of change.
- In ‘Pre-Contemplation’, the person does not see any problem in their current behavior and has not considered that there might be some better alternatives.
- In ‘Contemplation’ the person is ambivalent – he/she is in two minds about what he/she wants to do – should he/she stay with his/her existing behavior and attitude or should he/she try changing?
- In ‘Preparation’, the person is taking steps to change
- In ‘Action’, he/she has made the change and is practicing the new set of behaviors is an all-consuming activity.
- In ‘Maintenance’, the change has been integrated into the person’s life – he/she is now more ‘enterprising’.
- ‘Relapse’ is a full return to the old behavior. This is not inevitable – but is likely – and should not be seen as failure. People often relapse several times before they finally succeed in making a (more or less) permanent change to a new set of behaviors.
If we look at the current state of affairs in the relations between Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, it is in the ‘Action’ stage on the Wheel. .
It is a fact that once progress is achieved in the relationship, it loses the momentum as time passes, and consequentially, it falls back to the ‘Pre-Contemplation’ stage on the Wheel.
Thus to maintain the progress and to move beyond the given, we should be motivated enough to take the relationship forward. In the ‘Maintenance’ phase certain measures should be employed which are analogous to ‘relapse prevention’ techniques in Motivational Enhancement Therapy.
The universities in each country should offer courses on Pak-Indo-Bangla studies which should enrich and enlighten the students about the similarities among the three countries.
One of the most vital aspects in maintaining cordial relations between countries is for them to remain in constant contact with each other. For this to happen, there should be planned communication and exchanges between the countries. Even though for countries which are in close proximity to each other, there cannot be unplanned exchanges (which could happen between individuals in proximity), but this is even less probable between geographically close countries marred by hostilities and standoffs. If regular contacts are planned, repeated exposures take place which could create a platform for a deeper level of deliberations.
Tourism circuits specifically targeting Pakistan and Bangladesh should be developed focusing on the ancient links that bond them with India .e.g. Mohan-jo-daro and Harappa in Pakistan will be as interesting to the Indians as Harappan sites in India are to the Pakistanis.
Train services linking the three countries could be a revolutionary initiative.
The South Asian University at New Delhi should open satellite campuses, i.e., branch campuses, in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the students enrolled either in SAU or any of its branch campuses should be able finish their courses while spending half of the total course period in the other two neighbouring countries, e.g. a Pakistani student who gets admitted should be sent to SAU at New Delhi and then to the satellite campus in Bangladesh. The three countries should sit together and work out the modalities.
It is a fact that when top-level exchanges take place between countries, it creates a wave of unity and solidarity in the minds of the peoples. But it is sad to note that such an emotional climate is short-lived as bilateral exchanges become less frequent between unfriendly nations. The less the foreign visits and meetings the more is the psychological gap and the perception of emotional distance.
Bilateral exchanges between the countries should be voluntarily increased in frequency to sustain the emotional climate in the minds of the people that could lead to a decrease in the psychological gap. The less the psychological gap, the more viable the environment for furthering ties.
It is in this context that Pakistan, India and Bangladesh should commit themselves to hold trilateral meetings at the top level thrice in a year in three different venues alternating from one country to the other .e.g. Pakistan-India-Bangladesh cooperation meeting in Islamabad in the first four months followed by Bangalore in the next four months and lastly Dhaka in the last four months of the year (the venues within each country also should be changed each year)
The Pakistan-India-Bangladesh summit should evolve into a platform which recognizes the special relationship between the countries that could be put to best possible use for the betterment of our peoples coupled with a synergistic relationship which would pave the way for overall development of our countries. These frequent exposures should be utilized to explore all avenues for cooperation and enhancement of people-to-people contacts. Exploring varied vistas for decreasing emotional distance should be the main agenda for the trilateral triannual Pak-Indo-Bangla summit.
A progressive change is always possible with a little motivation on the part of the political systems in place as there is nothing permanent except change.
A recent RCI registered Clinical Psychologist, Sudarshan R. Kottai studied his M.Sc. in Applied Psychology from Pondicherry University and his M.Phil. Clinical Psychology from LGBRIMH, Assam. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Psychology at Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad.
He is passionately involved in bringing to the fore sensitive issues related to human mental life such as sexuality. He also follows issues related to Public Administration that has direct consequences to human life in general and human mentation in particular. Solitary activities like travelling, listening to music, reading literature and spending time with animals are sources of immense contemplations for him.
Sudarshan R Kottai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org