This is not a good way of thinking of peace. Philosophers used to define peace without thinking of war. They thought peace was internal, and that is being proved true. The state of Pakistan should focus on this ascetic truth: Peace is within, it is not produced by efforts to prepare for war. To some extent, India, too, should realise that it is the intra-state conflict that needs to be removed first. But you can’t remove intra-state conflict if you adhere to the paradigm of war.
War, in the traditional sense, requires two combatants. At home, a state feels threatened externally by an enemy state. To preserve its internal peace, it must fight the external foe. For that, it prepares for conflict; hence the prepare-for-war adage. People living in one state have no way of realising that the ‘enemy state’ may also feel the same way. Both states may start acquiring the identity of combatant states through preparation for war ‘to preserve peace’.
Today, intra-state conflict is being paid attention within the paradigm of war. This means that internal disorder is often externalised though the device of accusing the ‘enemy’ neighbour of ‘interference’. When a state is falling apart from the inside, it thinks up not one but many foreign states that could be responsible for igniting this internal combustion. This habit makes peace almost impossible because it puts on the weakened state the burden of going to war with many states at once, before peace can prevail.
Peace is often understood to mean existence that prevails when the threat of war is removed. How is the threat of war to be removed? Sit down with the enemy state and resolve the outstanding bilateral issues that may cause conflict. It is believed that once conflictual issues are resolved, peace will prevail. This is what combatant states often believe after having finished fighting an inconclusive war. The problem with the pledge of ‘talks’ is that warring states are usually not able to become flexible enough in their approach. Each expects the other to give ground. And peace remains elusive.
It is now certain that peace cannot be achieved while talking of conflictual issues. But there is a way out of this impasse. It is based on an inversion of the realisation that when there is peace, there is a lot of trade between enemy states, leading to the prosperity of both. Inversion of this finding means that if there is a lot of trade, it will lead to peace. After realising that ‘talks’ on the basis of two clashing nationalisms will always fail to achieve peace, the international community now recommends ‘free trade’. There is a hidden persuader here based on codependency which inhibits aggression.
Regional trade and cross-border investment today create the codependency that helps the warring state to succumb to combat amnesia through prosperity. This amnesia about war creates the ‘internal’ peace that philosophers used to talk about. Today’s philosopher is the economist who stands above national narratives. You can destroy national frontiers either through proxy warriors or through free trade. One leads to self-destruction; the other to peace and survival with prosperity.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2011.