Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar has nailed it with this phrase: “Uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue” is, no doubt, the ‘come hell or high water’ sort of steadfast commitment required from both, Pakistan and India, if we hope to make any real progress towards a relationship of trust and friendship.
The recent Line of Control (LoC) incident, sadly, highlights the ease with which positive efforts and years of hard work towards trust-building can come tumbling down with a single incident if not tackled sensibly.
It is quite clear that this is not the first time that violations of the LoC ceasefire have taken place. A recent report in The Hindu quotes a 15-year-long list of allegations by Pakistan, of executions and beheadings in secret cross-border raids by Indian troops. Whereas minor violations by both sides have not been uncommon, never in the past have reactions been so heated and tensions escalated to this extent. One wonders, why now?
It is notable from the response of the two countries that Pakistani media, politicians and people acted with far more restraint and composure than their Indian counterparts. Whilst the Indian media let the war drums roll, the Pakistani media must be commended for refraining from warmongering and openly declaring the LoC killings as detestable and deplorable. Despite the belligerence of Indian politicians, the Pakistani foreign minister pleaded for reason to prevail and invited India to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels. Tempers seem to have calmed now and there is a softening of tone by India, but only as an afterthought. As expected, the immediate casualty of all this warmongering was the people-to-people interaction. Such a dent in years of hard work by peace activists and doves on both sides of the border and no one can still establish what really happened at the LoC.
In his article ‘The hostility industry’, published in the Indian Express, Aiyar despairs that “the mindset in Pakistan is changing — but Indian hawks still don’t get it”.
No doubt, today, Pakistan more than ever before recognises the need for peace with India and is willing to forsake the prejudices and hesitations of the past for a genuine relationship of trust and cooperation. But why is it that every time we are close to cementing positive initiatives on the governmental and people-to-people level, close at heel occur incidents timed strategically to blow it all to bits. The LoC incident reeks of mischief. We don’t yet know who was behind this ghastly act, but one thing is certain — the people responsible for this are neither friends of Pakistan nor India. They serve no one’s interest but their own and their survival is dependent upon creating anarchy within our two countries as well as at our borders. The day India and Pakistan learn to defy the urge to go for the jugular each time they are played up against each other, these elements will be out of job. Each time we throw a stone at each other, we both lose and a third party wins. Those seen gloating today at the unravelling of the fragile fabric of Pakistan-India friendship are our real common enemies.
Undoubtedly, Pakistan needs to purge itself of all non-state actors that are products of its ill-conceived political and military strategies of the past. These heinous elements have only created hell in Pakistan and are playing havoc with its foreign policy. No Hafiz Saeed should be allowed to come on Pakistani TV channels to revel in the latest controversy between India and Pakistan. What moral or political authority do heads of banned militant outfits have to speak or act on behalf of Pakistan? And why are we allowing it?
Similarly, India’s support to Baloch separatists and its strategy to keep Pakistan engaged on its Western border is no great secret. India must end its involvement in Pakistan’s internal matters and recognise that only an internally stable and strong Pakistan can be a good friend to India; and only with Pakistan and India as friends can South Asia develop to everyone’s economic and cultural benefit.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2013.