Rethinking the idea of peace

Published: April 9, 2011
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The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore
khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

It appears that the normal state of human affairs is war; and peace is an interregnum that invariably feels like unstable matter, ready to evaporate. Nations at peace take great care to display their military arsenals on their anniversary days, while neighbours watch them carefully for the induction of new weapons in order to do likewise. If you want peace, they say, prepare for war

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.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Ravi
    Apr 9, 2011 - 10:13PM

    No body in india needs trade with pakistan……. unless people who are killed by pakistanis in mumbai are given justice……
    With this article I also read that a pakistani court has adjourned hearing of mumbai attack case for the nth time.
    With this attitude of pakistani government how could the author believe trade could overcome the psychological imprint of mumbai attack which is still afresh in indian minds.
    As always pakistani authors are so naive that they write as if india is in dire need of trade with pakistan or has it something to achieve from peace with pakistan……
    India have lived with a hostile pakistan, it continues to live and prosper even today….
    So for peace with pakistan – JUST KEEP THEM OFF THE TABLE…………
    Ignore pakistan and pakistanis and the world will let them know their place….. Recommend

  • Ashok
    Apr 9, 2011 - 11:59PM

    Mr. Ahmed,

    First I want to let you know that I’m pleased that you have started to delve into the idea of peace in the context of relations between people of the Indian subcontinent and how achievable or practical it really is.

    I have reiterated this earlier, but it seems to have been in vain – that the ideology of Pakistan does not allow for peace. Why should someone who resides in India, let’s say a well to do Sindhi businessman who is the progeny of a refugee from Sindh, want to invest in Pakistan, when it is due to the very concept of Pakistan that he can no longer live with a sense of ease or security in his own homeland?

    I don’t even think Jinnah really believed the ‘two nation theory’ made any sense, and it was just euphemistic nonsense to address something that would not have been presentable in its purest form to educated audiences around the world. That underlying phenomenon is largely a continuation of a hostility and antagonism based ideology that does not seek peace.

    India, having the highest percentage of arable land in the world, and an overall neutral or inward looking sense of purpose (accepting itself for what it is and accepting most of the rest of the world for what it is culturally) can reside with a sense of ease in investing in itself rather than Pakistan.

    If Pakistan were to exist purely as a geographical entity sans ideology, I would have no problem with India investing in Pakistan and vice a versa. In fact, I would love for this to happen.

    However, why should someone from India invest in Pakistan when that would generate tax revenues on the Pakistani side that would be used to purchase bullets to pump into Indian soldiers in Kashmir by proxy forces employed by the Pakistani state? In other words, why should India invest in Pakistan when really that also becomes an investment in the ideology of Pakistan which is anti India in its sense of purpose?

    Why did Zoroastrians have to move from their ancient homeland to India? Why did native Afghans (surname Khandar, Pakhta etc), native Tajiks(surname Kambhoj, Kapur etc) and native inhabitants who were practitioners and preservers of the Bengali, Sindhi, Kashmiri, and Punjabi cultures have to migrate towards what is today India out of coercion?

    The answer lies in the very same ideology that gave birth to what is today Pakistan. Until that ideology is devolved and thrown out, the chance for enduring peace remains limited.Recommend

  • Apr 10, 2011 - 12:48AM

    Both nations are perpetuating a system where smuggling and indirect trade is earning billions for those who realize that regardless of the nationalistic saber rattling, they are some items that are mutually demanded by either side. Let goods, services, money and people flow..it may not guarantee perpetual peace, but it will help to make hostility unlikely. Recommend

  • Vicram Singh
    Apr 10, 2011 - 2:11AM

    Pakistan is in the Af-Pak region, which is an associate area of the Middle-East. Pakistan is not in South Asia any longer. It is advisable that Pakistan look westward for friends and partners.Recommend

  • ali
    Apr 10, 2011 - 2:30AM

    wonderful. Khalid Ahmed wrote as he writes. very philosophical. a dose of sanity to our societyRecommend

  • sharma
    Apr 10, 2011 - 2:33AM

    Yes,

    we dont need to have peace with pakistan.

    Their ideology is anti indian.So no peace until we grow too big.Wait for 10 years at least.

    we need to have superb economy and defense and then it will be pakistan who will need india !!Recommend

  • John
    Apr 10, 2011 - 3:06AM

    In Pakistan’s history, whenever a civilian gov try to mend fences with her western or eastern neighbors, the Army makes every effort to thwart it.

    In world history, peace is established when army is defeated either militarily or constitutionally. All peace treaties survived only after army went back to barracks.

    Until that happens in Pakistan, She is going to be in a perpetual state of war with her neighbors. Eastern or Western neighbors depends on her fiscal strength.

    For next ten years Pakistan theater of operation will be on the west of Durand line. During this time, there is a period of window to establish good trade with eastern neighbor by a civilian government.

    Whether this trade will bring peace with eastern neighbor is hard to tell.

    Gut feeling is no, at the moment.

    Everything depends on who has the fiscal stamina to stay in the game. Based on SBP reports, and state of affairs in middle east, 15 years of quietness is likely with the eastern neighbor.

    The rest depends on people of Pakistan. Recommend

  • neel123
    Apr 10, 2011 - 5:42AM

    This article, which is largely hollow but pretends to be intellectual, is interesting as there is not a single mention of Pakistan, India mentioned once with the implication that it is in danger of collapse due to internal conflicts.

    The author represents that section of the utterly unethical and opportunistic Pakistanis that would like to see Pakistan to have a slice of India’s economic progress and not miss the bus, while keeping the 60 year old conflict hostage to Indian concessions on a variety of issues to Pakistan …. ! Recommend

  • MAK
    Apr 10, 2011 - 6:04AM

    Hindus commentators, why don’t you reject the paganism of your forefathers before you ask your enemies to give up their faith and identity ? Are you that daft or delusional to think that any body in Pakistan would consider your way of life and religion having any meaning or worth for them ? Recommend

  • Rahim Uddin
    Apr 10, 2011 - 6:40AM

    Mr Khaled Ahmed,

    I really appreciate your thoughts & rethinking the idea of peace,

    In Europe they had 2 world wars between them but later they joined together to formed European Union in order to prosper & grow together.

    But I think we still don’t have that intellectual to think forward..

    I considered it useless to reply on the comments above of Mr Ashok & Ravi as it will damage peace further.

    Nice Work… Keep it Up …Recommend

  • Avi Dear
    Apr 10, 2011 - 7:36AM

    If “war is continuation of politics by other means”, than the policies of violence (open and proxy warfare) pursued by Pakistan since 1947 can be easily understood. Politics of Two-Nation theory and unfinished agenda of partition requires unremitting hatred of India.

    To continue that political agenda, Pakistani public has be continually brain-washed with anti-India propaganda by the Military-Media complex, which fortunately, most Pakistani politicians realize is false, though they are totally helpless.

    Post-9/11 military and economic support has been god-send to Pakistani Army to pursue its never-ending hatred of India. There is nothing to be done than wait for winding down of Afghanistan war and than the obsolescence of the weapons received from U.S., to expect any sense from Pakistan army. Only, when the great Pakistani generals realize that their toys have again become obsolete and they are no longer the U.S blue-eyed boys will any sense come to them. Unfortunately, that process will take another 25-years, so let us all be really, really patience!!Recommend

  • Usman Ahmad
    Apr 10, 2011 - 10:35AM

    Two CYBER SENAKS and YUDDHAS of India have already delivered sermons….not anymore please!Recommend

  • Tajik
    Apr 10, 2011 - 11:15AM

    @Ashok: the Kambhojs and Kapurs are native Tajiks??? Interesting.
    As a Paki, i’ve come to hate the very WORD ideology but that’s just me…
    They’re actually Tajiks?!Recommend

  • Ravi
    Apr 10, 2011 - 1:07PM

    @TightDhoti:
    Please let us through the list of items that pakistan produces and india does not?????
    Its pakistani businessmen who barge in 3rd country markets like singapore to buy indian products????
    And no vice a versa happens here…..

    And you came about a very interesting topic of smuggling??????
    Mostly arms, ammunition, drugs from afghanistan are smuggled through pakistan into india.
    Even if both he countries start trade such kind of smuggling is not going to end….

    Let goods, services, money and people flow.
    No thank you, nobody in india wants free flowing of pakistanis in indiaRecommend

  • palu
    Apr 10, 2011 - 1:22PM

    Do these Indoos really deserve peace? A serious point to ponder! We should stop bending backwards to convince the Indoos of our such genuine desire. Indoostan is in deep amnesia. It will take them a while to grow to mature realisation. Leave them to their doings. Let’s clean our insides. There is a lot to do here. Just as terrain drives its own patterns and all else flows, time has its own designs and events take their place.

    What Khaled says is right but Indoostan wishes to remain in a groove. Let them be. They need time to climb out of their fox-holes. Recommend

  • FactCheck
    Apr 10, 2011 - 4:18PM

    @Ashok:

    It will take 1000’s of years for the ideology to devolve. By the time geography would have changed anyway. Why bother?

    It is better for India to learn to live with the thorn its side and to take necessary precautions. Recommend

  • FactCheck
    Apr 10, 2011 - 4:25PM

    @MAK:

    Hinduism is not a religion, it is way of life and has stood for 10,000 years and evolved as the world evolved. Basic tenant of Hinduism is seeking knowledge and living peacefully with nature and what it has to offer. In another 10,000 years, Hinduism will be here, the other so called religions will destroy each other and most of you will follow another messiah and do the same damn thing over and over again.Recommend

  • FactCheck
    Apr 10, 2011 - 4:38PM

    @palu:

    We Indian’s like our amnesia rather than the reality in Pakistan which happens to hallucinations of grandiosity.Recommend

  • MAK
    Apr 10, 2011 - 7:10PM

    Hindus, you are not going to change any minds in Pakistan by swarming their online newspapers. We still think of you as belonging to the ‘Area of Darkness’ – a land populated by mean-spirited emaciated delusional souls with over-sized ambitions and undersized historical achievements. Your inflated sense of self is great target for ridicule and it is not just us.Recommend

  • Nakamura
    Apr 10, 2011 - 8:08PM

    @Ravi:
    I believe your comments are more of a sentimental nature and reflect only a small %age of indian people. They do not reflect reality. The fact is that for the last 40 years or so, Indian business market has been demanding open access to Pakistani Markets, route to Afghanistan and ground route access to Iran and central asia. But since Indian government is not willing to reciprocate this kind of thing with providing Pakistan access to Bangdladesh, Nepal and India’s own market, no trade aggreeement in earnest has worked.
    If you do not need business with Pakistan, thats fine, we are also not dying to do business with you guys especially when you are still living in 1947 and not in 2011.Recommend

  • Ajit
    Apr 10, 2011 - 10:06PM

    Some dishonest intellectual this author is! By his logic, USA should stop war with al-qaeda and Taliban and offer to start trade with them. Trade happens in peaceful times and not among warring nations. Until pakistanis control their defacto rulers aka army and ISI, that won’t happen.

    @tightdhoti, Pakistan has nothing to offer to us, seriously, apart from occasional shortage of sugar,atta etc. Same goes for Pakistan, India doesn’t have anything to offer to pakistanis.

    @nakamura,
    From your nominal government to your intellectuals (ref. This article) to your cricketers and artists, pretty much everyone begs to do business with india. Get real.Recommend

  • Ravi
    Apr 10, 2011 - 11:05PM

    @Nakamura:
    I believe your comments are more of a sentimental nature and reflect only a small %age of indian people. They do not reflect reality
    No man if you want a proof for it, just go over any international policy forum and type a question ” Do indians want any interactions with pakistanis???”
    You would get the same answer……this is a reality hence forth keep no doubt.
    And yes you talked sentiments , i tell you all indians have got over the friendly sentiments about pakistanis thanks to mumbai attack.
    The fact is that for the last 40 years or so, Indian business market has been demanding open access to Pakistani Markets, route to Afghanistan and ground route access to Iran and central asia.
    Don’t worry about indian business tycoons, they know how to get their way out…..
    For your information we have already built a seaport in iran to get access to iran, afghnistan and central asia.
    We have also completed construction of 200km road connecting the seaport in iran to kabul in afghanistan.
    So chill……….
    If you do not need business with Pakistan, thats fine, we are also not dying to do business with you guys
    That is worth a watch when pakistani businessmen throng into third country markets like singapore to buy indian products.
    you are still living in 1947 and not in 2011.
    No we have moved on but you are definitely heading back to stone age arabia……Recommend

  • Nakamura
    Apr 11, 2011 - 1:50AM

    @Ravi:
    I do not need to go to google to find what Indians want or do not want. I have been to India 6 times and have interacted people from common grocer to the people in chambers of commerce to the high officials in Dehli. I am surprised I did not see what you are describing.
    Business between countries is based upon mutual interest and opportunity. India is way head in technology and in any trade aggrement will have more to export to Pakistan than to import. So naturally, indian business community is eager to explore the vast pakistani market. Just one example. Pakistan imports every year about 2 to 3 million computer processors including new and used mostly from Germany, Holland, china and Hong Kong. If Pakistan and India would have aggreement, these 3 million market will be of India’s. Whenever, India and Pakistan engage in dialouge, Indian demands besides securitya nd terrorism has always been trade and open trade routes. So I do not know if you are really related to indian business community or not.
    You might have seen pakistani business man looking for indian goods in singapur, so have I seen indian business people trying to buy Pakistani rice in dubai and then repacking it as indian rice and exporting to US.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Apr 11, 2011 - 9:58AM

    Why does Pakistani authors think Indians are dying to trade with Pakistan? Nothing can be further from the truth.

    Pakistan can give India no benefits in terms of trade – India produces everything Pakistan does. And India can do well to keep Pakistani dementia and intorelance at arm’s length…

    Besides – India doesnot want to have anything to do with Pakistan and it;s jehadi exports…India should leave Pakistan to trade with it’s islamic ‘brothers’ – Afghanistan and Iran…..China is anyway dumping all it’s junk on Pakistan and wreaked havoc with it’s traditional industries!!Recommend

  • Rana Asghar
    Apr 11, 2011 - 3:00PM

    I agree why Pakistani think that Indians are dying to trade with Pakistan. They are self sefficient & confident about their future unlike we Pakistanis. Ten years from now India would be light years ahead of us & we will be still stuck on Kashmir & Kargil issues. Sad & pathetic situation. No foresight in us to look in the future. Recommend

  • Ravi
    Apr 11, 2011 - 4:49PM

    @Nakamura:

    I do not need to go to google to find what Indians want or do not want. I have been to India 6 times and have interacted people from common grocer to the people in chambers of commerce to the high officials in Dehli. I am surprised I did not see what you are describing.

    I am describing truth, since i am an indian live here by birth.
    On the other hand you have been here just for six times and what ever words you have heard in india about pakistan are no more than courtsy gestures.
    You be at my place in india and i will do the same gesture again and again.
    Pakistan imports every year about 2 to 3 million computer processors including new and used mostly from Germany, Holland, china and Hong Kong. If Pakistan and India would have aggreement, these 3 million market will be of India’s.

    I told you in my earlier post that india has and will do miracles without pakistan.
    So dont be frantic….

    I seen indian business people trying to buy Pakistani rice in dubai and then repacking it as indian rice and exporting to US

    I dont deny that in the first place because such are stop gap arrangements in case of emergency commitments.
    India as the second largest producer of rice does not need pakistan rice and other grains.
    I would encourage you to use google for information on these things.

    PS : You still import used computers from other countries…..patheticRecommend

  • Ravi
    Apr 11, 2011 - 5:11PM

    @Nakamura:
    I do not need to go to google to find what Indians want or do not want. I have been to India 6 times and have interacted people from common grocer to the people in chambers of commerce to the high officials in Dehli. I am surprised I did not see what you are describing.

    I am describing truth, since i am an indian live here by birth. On the other hand you have been here just for six times and what ever words you have heard in india about pakistan are no more than courtsy gestures. You be at my place in india and i will do the same gesture again and again. 

    Pakistan imports every year about 2 to 3 million computer processors including new and used mostly from Germany, Holland, china and Hong Kong. If Pakistan and India would have aggreement, these 3 million market will be of India’s.

    I told you in my earlier post that india has and will do miracles without pakistan. So dont be frantic….

    I seen indian business people trying to buy Pakistani rice in dubai and then repacking it as indian rice and exporting to US

    I dont deny that in the first place because such are stop gap arrangements in case of emergency commitments. India as the second largest producer of rice does not need pakistan rice and other grains. I would encourage you to use google for information on these things.

    PS : You still import used computers from other countries…..patheticRecommend

  • M.Asad
    Apr 12, 2011 - 12:20PM

    Mr.Author,

    You mentioned about regional trade and investment.Is this possible for India?? No….Why??
    Here comes the answer. Pak doesn’t allow India to use its route for exports,at the same time it allows Indian imports.What kind of mean mentality it is?? Now even Afghans raise the same issue.Why should Indian companies invest in Pak where there is not an environment of business and there is every possibility that your money and technology will be used against u.Recommend

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