Reconciliation for survival

Our very survival depends on peace and cooperation between the two countries.


Akmal Hussain April 04, 2011

The real victory at Mohali was for the people of both India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an act of visionary statesmanship, gave an invitation to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch the match together and he graciously accepted it. The two prime ministers used the opportunity to give a clarion call for peace as the basis of building a better future for their people. An analysis of the political and natural forces at play suggests that our very survival depends on peace and cooperation between the two countries.

Let us begin by examining the danger of a nuclear war. There are three features of the nuclear stand-off that make nuclear deterrence unstable in the India-Pakistan context: (i) The flying time of nuclear missiles being less than three minutes, and the lack of a second-strike capability, means that misperception about each other’s intentions, particularly during periods of high tension, creates an incentive for first use of nuclear weapons. (ii) If the Kashmir issue and the emerging water disputes remain unresolved they create an underlying persistent tension. (iii) In a situation where the Indian establishment believes that Pakistan uses terrorism as a state policy, and where the Pakistani establishment accuses India of supporting the separatist insurgency in Balochistan, another Mumbai-style terrorist attack can induce a punitive conventional military raid, which, war-gaming exercises suggest, could quickly escalate into a catastrophic nuclear exchange. This would kill hundreds of millions of people, destroy animal and plant life, radiate soils and undermine the prospects of production and social life in the subcontinent for the next 90 years.

Even in the case of the Soviet-US Cold War context, where the flying time of nuclear missiles was at least 20 minutes, where there was no territorial dispute or operation of non-state actors in either country, the two states came within a whisker of nuclear war three times during the seven-year tenure of US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara. Given the current India-Pakistan situation, the probability of having a nuclear war is higher than in any other region of the world, in any given period. If the people of the two countries are to move out of this shadow of death, the search for what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called “permanent reconciliation” must inform the conduct of interstate relations.

Consider now, the environmental threat. Cutting-edge research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) shows that, due to global warming, the frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events will increase. In South Asia it is predicted, with high probability, that floods will follow droughts and coastal populations will be pushed back by rising sea levels, resulting in large-scale dislocation of communities. Perhaps the most sobering prediction of the IPCC is that, in the decades ahead, South Asia will suffer a 30 per cent absolute decline in yields per acre of food crops. On the basis of this evidence, it can be argued that there are likely to be severe shortages of food, high food inflation rates and critical food insecurity, unless urgent mitigation and adaptation measures are undertaken through cooperation in South Asia. India and Pakistan, in particular, need to collaborate for joint watershed management, increasing efficiency of irrigation and water use and development of new heat-resistant varieties of food grains. Finally, close cooperation is required to build food silos in every district across the region to enable timely release of food stocks and avoid localised famines in case of severe food shortages. This is why Prime Minister Gilani’s wise counsel that India and Pakistan need to eschew conflict and focus on their people is so important.

It is clear from the above analysis that if the threat of annihilation of our societies through nuclear war is to be defused, and if our economic and social survival in the face of the environmental threat is to be achieved, then the paradigm of conflict must be replaced by the paradigm of peace. The choice is stark: Cooperate or perish.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th,  2011.

COMMENTS (22)

amoghavarsha.ii | 11 years ago | Reply Dear sir, I have read your other articles, I am going to read this also, but your heading " Reconciliation for survival " seems to me in appropriate. We should not Reconcile for survival. We should always fight for survival. We should definitely Reconcile for happiness, growth and properity for our People ( not to ourselves ) Don't make compromises / don't reconcile now for survival, because when you have survived or further grown strong, you will get ideas of turning the clock back. We should Reconcile for our people well being, our people happiness and coexistance should be paramount. Only if we can co-exist and be happy together in times of hardship we will be able to co-exist and be happy in times of prosperity.
Amin Kalimuddin | 11 years ago | Reply Please find another profession for yourself, Robert M was the chief architect of the Vietnam war so do not give his reference. Blood thirsty hindus are our enemies and we do not bowe to enemies. Please remember the words of Tipu Sultan. Read some history and decide who you are.
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