Peacebuilding as policy approach

Published: August 31, 2016
The writer is a freelance journalist specialising in International law, rural development and public policy, and a director of the Centre for Social Justice

The writer is a freelance journalist specialising in International law, rural development and public policy, and a director of the Centre for Social Justice

Recent vibes from the ministry of foreign affairs deserve space in the public discourse as they represent Pakistan’s proactive approach towards peace and security. In August, Mr Sartaj Aziz, the advisor to PM on the foreign affairs reiterated Pakistan’s suggestion made in March this year, for an accord between India and Pakistan to freeze nuclear tests.

In May, he informed Senate about government’s intention to introduce a resolution in UN General Assembly to declare the Indian Ocean a zone of peace, to bar movement of nuclear weapons and carriers. On August 23, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, presented Pakistan’s vision at the Security Council on Challenges in addressing proliferation of WMDs (inter alia). She stated, “The global disarmament landscape presents a gloomy picture. The principal reason for this is the lack of progress made by Nuclear Weapons States in fulfilling their legal nuclear disarmament obligations. That has negatively impacted on the efficacy of the non-proliferation regime. Disarmament and non-proliferation are inextricably linked. It is unrealistic to expect progress on one without movement on the other.”

Pakistan’s intentions of playing a part in international peacebuilding and disarmament have not been received well in the past. India specifically, turned down the proposal including a ‘no war pact’ and ‘no first use of nuclear weapons’ presumably because of its ambitions to become a regional power. Similarly, India floated peace proposals that were unacceptable to Pakistan.

Indian leaders expound their goodwill for peace repeatedly and worked hard to have Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday declared the International day for non-violence (2007). The Indian foreign minister Shuma Sawraj mentioned this development in her speech at UN in 2015, as evidence of India’s preference for peace.

On the contrary, both countries have evaded any serious engagement when it came to walking the talk. Neither India nor Pakistan has yet become party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1970) and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (draft). Same is the case in the Arms Trade Treaty aimed at controlling illegal transfers of small arms that came into effect in December 2014.

Both countries maintain mistrust against one another — manifest in demands for reciprocity where neither is ready to actualise first. Hence, either for the sake of hegemony in the region or to break it, the race for arms and ammunition has continued, leaving large part of the populations on two sides in bloody conflicts and without adequate living standards.

Hence, Pakistan’s recent moves in the direction of arms reduction and peace have an added significance in the current context. Besides opening a window of opportunity for peacebuilding in the region and global security, the moves might make both countries eligible for membership of nuclear suppliers’ group.

India and Pakistan would have to deal with the mutual mistrust, continuously reinforced by propaganda machineries on both sides, disabling internal and external policies by negative perceptions and practices.

We don’t know about India but in Pakistan at least four federal ministries have tried to make peacebuilding part of their policy in recent past, without much success i.e. ministry for planning, development and reforms, ministry for religious affairs, the interior ministry and ministry of law, justice and human rights. The first gave up after creating a ‘peace unit’ in the ministry (2014), second was unable to show a policy document for interfaith harmony (2015) when asked by national commission for human rights. The third mandated to implement national counterterrorism action plan is yet to elaborate its policy concerning peacebuilding (2014). The last was partitioned into two ministries recently which produced an action plan for human rights without a human rights policy (2016). Education ministry could have played an instrumental role but it hasn’t produced any blueprint on its responsibility in peacebuilding. The ministry for commerce backtracked from giving India an MFN status.

The disruptive tendencies in the domestic power dynamics as well as regional influences can be defeated if the nuance of non-violence and peace finds enough appreciation amongst the state apparatus and opinion makers.

The flicker of hope in vibes from the ministry of foreign affairs reaffirms the commonsense choice for peaceful coexistence. It is the most reasonable way out from the clutches of poverty, extremism and underdevelopment, only if we can craft the goodwill for peace into policy approach or a cause to live for.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2016.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Gram Massla
    Aug 31, 2016 - 11:48PM

    The NPT recognizes five nuclear states and no other. If India and Pakistan were to sign the NPT they will have to do so as non-nuclear weapon states. This is unacceptable to both. The NPT is largely irrelevant as nuclear weapon states will not get rid of their nuclear weapons as espoused in the NPT Charter; indeed many are seeking to make them more destructive. Also the major nuclear weapon states will wage war than to allow more nuclear states. Nuclear weapons have eliminated mass murder but not proxy wars. Signing the CTBT may be a better option for both India and Pakistan.Recommend

  • Vaidyanathan
    Sep 1, 2016 - 7:48AM

    Can pakistan’s NA pass resolution unanimously to authorise PM NS to deal with india on peace moves. If yes, there will be peace. Other actors in pakistan responsible for the turmoil.Recommend

  • vinsin
    Sep 1, 2016 - 9:50AM

    @Gram Massla:
    Not true, nuclear weapon states especially Russia and USA has got rid of close to 90% of their Nuclear weapons.

    Nehru categorically rejected idea that India ever have a nuclear bomb but later India changed her policy and exploded Nuclear bomb in 1974 to promote Muslim appeasement as secularism policy. Having Nuclear weapon state has no relation to genocide.Recommend

  • Zafar
    Sep 1, 2016 - 10:29AM

    It was Indian that brought the nuclear mayhem in this region, it another long story of hypocritical and deceitful nature of Indian nuclear programme; what an irony to name it ‘Smiling Buddha’. The nature of Indian state and society is what poses the real problem to this region and there aren’t any signs to let go of false grandeur and delusions of Akhand Bharatt, there never was one and will never be. India was lucky to have got a consolidated chunk of land that was brought under administrative control by efforts of the Mughals and the British, and trying to tie it up under Hindutva or Akhand Bharat is going to be its undoing. Recommend

  • Feroz
    Sep 1, 2016 - 1:16PM

    Talk is useless brother, when actions talk louder than words. Pakistan has made many promises to every global interlocutor it interacted with, not a single instance where its actions matched its words. No one will believe a word said till actions can match the rhetoric. That this common sense has eluded all in Pakistan, tells its own story.Recommend

  • Manoj
    Sep 1, 2016 - 1:58PM


    do not understand what is the definition of “region” for you. China is immediate neighbor to most of the SAARC nation, do not you think China belongs to this region only. Hence, China should be blamed to bring Nuclear bomb in the region not India. India did it only as defensive measure against China as Pakistan seems to have done vis a vis India. Same applies to China Vs Russia and Russia Vs USA.

    Therefore, nuclear arms race is truly global problem and ostrich like assessment by Pak intellectual for blaming it on India can only fool the mostly uneducated population of Pakistan and NOT to the world. Hope, Pakistani intellectual do not make themselves a laughing stock by presenting such absurd theory.
    No war pact can not be entered with Pakistan, which has history of sending regular army in India in the grab of Tribal. Kargil is the latest examples. Tell me if there would have been a NO war Pact with Pakistan at the time of Kargil, what option India had to vacate the Kargil.

    Pakistan needs to first get it’s foreign and defense policy in the domain of Civilian govt, then only it can expect any kind of support to peace building efforts. Recommend

  • Fayyaz Baqir
    Sep 1, 2016 - 6:40PM

    The bottom line is whether India sees a trade off big enough between its territorial and economic interests to agree to come to a negotiation table with Pakistan to either freeze the conflict or resolve it. Alternatively , can Pakistan make the conflict expensive eonough for India to compell it to relinquish hegemonic foreign policy. People of both the countries will gain if the resources going for war preparation are invested in economic development. This can be done by civil society. Are there any pragmatic idealists to lead the way?Recommend

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