Quest for peace

Published: February 11, 2013

The writer is a public policy analyst and former interior secretary

A drive to my hometown, Sialkot, in the 1990s presented an interesting spectacle of graffiti on the city walls exhorting the youth to enlist for the ongoing jihad in Kashmir. With time, these inscriptions faded away. The city started presenting different visuals. Banners could be seen along the thoroughfares with an appeal, “Sialkot-Jammu road link bahaal karo”. This turnaround was taking place in a city, which had been battered the most during the three wars with India. It was in no way, a mean development. People wished to be part of the peace process and connectivity. This phenomenon signified slow, yet incremental gains for the peace lobby. That trend, however, is still in a frail state. Any untoward incident upsets the apple cart. It not only wrings the peace constituency but also, on both sides of the divide, gives instant spurt to hawks by many notches.

Recent conflagrations along the Line of Control (LoC), with casualties on both sides, are a pointer to the follow-up events. While Pakistan’s reaction was measured, the tone and tenor of the Indian reaction rattled the ongoing processes. The new visa regime was put on hold, the bus service was suspended and Pakistani visitors were shown the door. Indian fragility in the wake of the Mumbai attacks is understandable. But this time, it was a bloody stand-off between regular troops. It was not fair to see the incident through the Mumbai spectrum with orchestrated media hype. This time, Pakistan had been as much an aggrieved party. While the alleged decapitation of an Indian soldier’s body is a most reprehensible act, what is stopping India from accepting Pakistan’s proposal for a thorough probe?

Such a flare-up in a nuclearised region alludes to the fact that we are building peace on brittle foundation. This vindicates Pakistan’s stance that there can be no meaningful progress on normalisation unless we address the core issue. Pakistan and India had adhered to the ceasefire and status quo along the LoC for the past decade. This declared intent, however, presages rigorous operating procedures for maintaining the status quo as there could be no unilateral build-up by either side. Any movement in the sensitive belt requires prior exchange of information. Before starting the blame game, the Indians have to do some soul-searching as to what impelled them to make unilateral moves, which resulted in the bloody clashes. Status quo, once disturbed, has the potential of making the situation volatile.

We have recently witnessed an alarming Sino-Japanese stand-off in the East China Sea on account of tinkering with the 40-years-old status quo over the islets of Senkaku-Diaoyu. Both countries claim sovereignty over these islets. In the 1970s, the elder generation of the leadership of the two countries agreed to maintain the status quo over the disputed islets, which were transferred from the US to Japan, along with Okinawa. Last September, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abes’ nationalist government tinkered with the status quo by nationalising these barren islets. This invited a strong Chinese reaction followed by a protest wave throughout the country, which has also hit its economic interests and led to the suspension of key operations of Japanese companies in China. Aerial scrambling over the East China Sea is a common sight now.

India and Pakistan have ventured to alter the status quo in this sensitive region on two occasions since 1972 — once in Siachen when the Indian forces scaled the heights, and the second time, to the stunning disbelief of the Indians, with the presence of Pakistani forces in Kargil. The latter incursion was reversed but the former still persists. Both countries, however, have not been able to get over the far-reaching consequences of these misadventures.

In the years to come, however, progress and development rests on greater connectivity and mutual sensitivity to persisting issues. We are in the neighbourhood of Asean, which despite interstate issues, is turning into an economic union in two years time. Are we prepared to ride on its tailwind? With episodic flare-ups, spikes in the ongoing processes, venom-spitting by hate campaigners and heated hype by the embedded media, it may look to be an elusive goal.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2013.

Reader Comments (16)

  • G. Din
    Feb 12, 2013 - 12:28AM

    “… it may look to be an elusive goal.”
    And, may it forever remain so!

    Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma
    Feb 12, 2013 - 5:22AM

    @author: “… It not only wrings the peace constituency but also, on both sides of the divide, gives instant spurt to hawks by many notches. … “

    Apart from a peace constituency, Pakistan badly needs a HISTORY and LOGIC constituency. Please for heavens sake, teach real history and if that is too over-whelming, at least teach a correct interpretation of the non-binding U.N. Resolution on Kashmir.

    And please instead of parroting things such as “we ruled you for … (whatever imaginary time period you like) …. “, realize that you are the remnants of a civilisation severely brutalized by invaders. Enough said.

    Recommend

  • vasan
    Feb 12, 2013 - 6:55AM

    We have recently witnessed an alarming Sino-Japanese stand-off in the East China Sea on account of tinkering with the 40-years-old status quo over the islets of Senkaku-Diaoyu.

    That is the important point. The similar attitude of Pakistan to change the status quo of LOC from 1947 by means of jihadists, archestrated and institutionalized religious bigotry to fuel hate against India, non state actors, etc etc is the root cause of all problems. I only wish Pak unilaterally respects LOC and let the problem thaw for another 60 years. Hopefully India and Pak will have the economic strength and political strength to view the problem in a much more matured way. Fortunately India did not and does not wish to alter LOC or international border either on the east or on the west.

    Recommend

  • Jim
    Feb 12, 2013 - 7:04AM

    Here are the answers to some questions the author asks and points he makes; hope ET has the good sense to publish this for benefit of its readers

    ”…what is stopping India from accepting Pakistan’s proposal for a thorough probe?” Because a Pakistan probe has no credibility. This is a country in constant denial which does not even credibly probe the murder of its former prime ministers, presidents, and generals…

    ”…Indians have to do some soul-searching as to what impelled them to make unilateral moves…” the so-called unilateral moves to neutralize fir from a Pakistani post which led to the flare-up came because Pakistan was using the firing to infiltrate terrorists into India. Stop infiltrating terrorists and the problem will be under control. Maybe Pakistan ought to do some soul searching on this.

    Re Siachen. The ingress started with Pakistani cartographic and expeditionary aggression when it starting giving permits to areas which were unmarked territory. That is when India moved in. Go back to the original agreement, give up claims on unmarked territory, and things will be fine

    The fact is India is the status quo power here. It is Pakistan which is constantly seeking to change the line in the sand…or ice. Talk of “core issue” and “unfinished business of partition” is what is leading to confrontation…and Pakistan’s demise. If Pakistan want to resolve Kashmir issue then the U.N resolutions enjoin it to vacate PoK first (with no such demand on Indian side of Kashmir, as per resolution); Pakistan also has to get back the part of Kashmir it gave up to China. And roll back the demographics of settled population. Kabool? No? Then get on with life.

    Yes, India is in the neighborhood of Asean and is a member. Pakistan isn’t. Pakistan is getting left behind everywhere and left out of every organization and grouping. It is making itself irrelevant except as an international headache, as someone put it. These are harsh truths which Pakistani establishment can wake up to. ET can help by publishing this letter which is written without malice.

    Recommend

  • Anjaan
    Feb 12, 2013 - 7:31AM

    1. You are absoultely right …. the foundation is brittle, on which no peace can be built. The low intensity proxy war initiated by Pakistan in 1989 has to stop first. The talk of peace while two nations are at war, is hogwash.

    2. After four failed wars, you Pakistanis have to realize that there is no such thing as core issue between India and Pakistan …….. it is only in the minds of the Pakistanis ….. get over it …… !!Recommend

  • Manoj Joshi India
    Feb 12, 2013 - 8:47AM

    Uncertainty with regard to the calm on the Indo-Pak boundary along with an elusive kind of peace and a ceasefire that has of and on been breached from both sides on some pretext or the other have been a history with regard to India and Pakistan. This is a fact that cannot be denied and the result of this uncertainty and breach of ceasefire have resulted in deepening the distrust and antipathy between the two neighbouring nations that share a commonality of culture, language and customs. Pakistan although an Islamic Republic is quiet liberal when compared to the other Islamic states of the world and the society in Pakistan is quite accommodating to people of other faiths and India off course is a Secular Democracy wherein people practicing different religions live harmoniously. There are occasional conflicts be it India or Pakistan which cannot be considered as conclusive that the societies of the two countries have turned fanatic. Pakistan is facing the major challenge from religious fundamentalist groups who want to prevent any kind of ‘Renaissance’ within Pakistan’s society or let it remain liberal. Unfortunately the history of Indo-Pak relations that has not been very cordial in the past as a result of which the entire gamut of bilateral relationship has suffered setbacks despite the best of efforts done to improve relationships. The hawks on either sides have promoted antipathy and distrust along with malice making them a yardstick of patriotism. Hence, an approach most distorted that has grown that the entire perception of patriotism when it comes to the Indo-Pak context has been based on the degree of antipathy and distrust a person shares towards the neighbouring nation. This is true for both India as well as Pakistan and any kind of neutral or unbiased perception or perceptions are perceived as most unpatriotic. This perception is what needs a change infact a drastic change which has so far not been the case. The reactions and passions observed during various sports events are a periodic reminder of Indo-Pak antipathy which needs the change. Economic relations is a way of furthering amity and trust between the two nations but along with it the need to neutralise the influence of the hawks; on either sides; within the political echelons as well as society is a must as it is these elements who defile or pollute the atmosphere of amity, trust and friendship thus preventing the political and social environment in India and Pakistan from becoming congenial. The people of the two nations as well as the governments of India and Pakistan must work towards promoting a congenial environment and push forward trust and amity.

    Recommend

  • Udaya Bose
    Feb 12, 2013 - 10:10AM

    Peace will come when Pakistan reconciles to the reality of the Indian Republic. So long as Pakistanis live in the past and yearn for Mughalistan, it is Pakistan that will continue to suffer. Best of luck.

    Recommend

  • BlackJack
    Feb 12, 2013 - 10:30AM

    A couple of points:
    1. ..what is stopping India from accepting Pakistan’s proposal for a thorough probe? My dear sir, your people never suggested a joint probe. Within the speed of an email, your foreign minister managed to ascertain that there was no culpability on the side of the Pak armed forces and declare it to the world, saying that we could bring in the UN to investigate. Once you have established this position, there isn’t much to actually probe.
    2. India and Pakistan have ventured to alter the status quo in this sensitive region on two occasions since 1972. The de jure status of Siachen is easy to agree on – all you need is a copy of the Karachi Agreement, a compass, and a pen to sign on the AGPL. If you cannot validate your own earlier agreements, we need to continue to occupy the heights.
    3. Indians have to do some soul-searching Yes – we do. We have moved too fast down this normalization road and need to take a pause to think. It is true that the foundations are brittle – we need to observe Pak moves in the wake of the US exit- will you try and divert jihadis to Kashmir once again? Even today’s ET shows that Pak is happy to meddle in Kashmir while its own country burns. As long as the Pak army makes foreign policy decisions, we must assume that India, as their raison d’étre, will always be in their sights.

    On an aside, even the point about Shinzo Abe is wrong – he won the elections in Dec 2012 and returned to power. It was Yoshihiko Noda’s government that purchased the islands and provoked this escalation.

    Recommend

  • Sanity
    Feb 12, 2013 - 12:16PM

    Why should the peace process be enslaved to sporadic individual event? Even more ironical are the comments by literate ones who are proponent of extremist mindset and see peace from a position of power and victory only. For heaven’s sake, let peace be given a chance by looking beyond past, mistrust and curbing the flare to seek political mileage on every act may it be done by own people like incident of Samjhota Express or Gujrat riots.

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Feb 12, 2013 - 3:16PM

    ” With episodic flare-ups, spikes in the ongoing processes, venom-spitting by hate campaigners and heated hype by the embedded media, it may look to be an elusive goal.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    True the goal is elusive. With the Pakistani Jihadis free after 2014 US Afghan exit, a much more ferocious attack can be expected on India.
    India is no longer ready to play the ‘ soft state’ .So indeed unless Pakistan realizes its limitations , peace will be elusive.

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Feb 12, 2013 - 3:17PM

    ” Quest for peace ” or Questions for peace”?
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Feb 12, 2013 - 3:26PM

    There is ‘ peace’ between North Korea and South Korea
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    In times to come similar peace will prevail between India and Pakistan. Expecting Friendship is Utopian. No prize for guessing who will be North Korea!

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Feb 12, 2013 - 3:30PM

    @Sanity: ” For heaven’s sake, let peace be given a chance by looking beyond past, mistrust ”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Those who forget the lessons of history are apt to repeat the same!

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Feb 12, 2013 - 3:34PM

    ” The latter incursion was reversed but the former still persists.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Here is an attempt to set a false equality between Siachin and Kargil.
    Dear Author pls . expand your hypothesis so that its weaknesses become self evident.

    Recommend

  • Anwar Shahid
    Feb 14, 2013 - 5:55AM

    @Tariq Malik.. my compliments as you appear to be the only one who has tried to tackle the issue in a academic manner as it should have been instead of sentimentality and bullshitting…Hood Bhai should have quoted from The Reconsideration of the Religious Thoughts to prove his point if any.He should have compared prose to prose instead of prose to poetry…which is not fair…It might also be mentioned that Iqbal was equally critical of Mullahs including the so called jehadees and he wrote explicity about them calling.. Dene Mullah fee sabeel ellah fasad in Javaid Nama..

    Recommend

  • Sanity
    Feb 15, 2013 - 3:20AM

    @ palpot
    Must learn from history but don’t live in past. In this book of hatred relations, don’t forget to pick the lessons from the chapters of brutalities by largest democracy in Kashmir, mass killings of innocent Muslims, massacres of Sikhs in Punjab, Samjhota train incident by extremists, Riots in Gujrat etc, etc. Appetite for blaming others for all wrongs and misgivings based on diplomatic strength and economy would never lead to enduring peace. Instead of fueling anger and hatred towards others, both need to put own house in order. And don’t forget that with power comes the added responsibility.

    Recommend

More in Opinion