Trying to make sense of it all!

The world situation has undergone a sea change over the past few years


Khalid Saleem May 06, 2019
The writer is former Ambassador of Pakistan and ex-Assistant Secretary General of OIC

It is not at all easy to make sense of what is going on in this region. For one thing, the Indian establishment keeps harping on the mantra that Pakistan must first eliminate what they continue to call “cross-border terrorism”. Just when this hackneyed phrase — conjured up by the spin-doctors of South Block — appears nearing the end of its shelf life, some statement from across the border promptly brings it back into vogue. The rub in the Indian narrative lies in the unwritten caveat that it is India alone that is to be the sole arbiter to decide when and if this wretched ‘CBT’ has at last come to an end. The much-vaunted ‘peace process’ between India and Pakistan, it appears, has degenerated into a dialogue of the deaf.

The prime movers of the bilateral dialogue in question, while it lasted, appeared to be going round and round in circles, with nary a goal in mind. There was no shortage of optimists who talked with fervour about such things as light at the end of the tunnel. No one bothered to see the possibility that this light may well turn out to be the headlight of an express train moving in the wrong direction!

While on this subject, one must not ignore the ‘Track-II’ charade that has subsisted for a longish time on sustenance of make-believe. A chosen few, meeting in an exotic location, conjure up a scenario. If they like it, they not only proceeded to swallow it — hook, line and sinker — but also to sell it to their gullible sponsors. The champions in this field are erstwhile retired gurus who specialise in giving a positive spin to everything they can conjure up. Our own ‘liberals’, more than anyone else, help raise expectations sky high. Then, horror of horrors, the whole structure begins to crumble simply because it was erected on a foundation of sand, and people search around in vain for its architects, who have meanwhile flown off to another exotic location.

The oft-repeated (and ill-advised) attempts to somehow draw a parallel between the India-China border issue and the Kashmir dispute is something that drew no refutation. The former is primarily a classical territorial dispute i.e. defining the land frontier between two states while the latter is essentially a case of denial of the right of self-determination to millions of people — a right that had been formally pledged to them not only by both the governments of India and Pakistan but, indeed, by the world community through the United Nations.

And what did our horde of liberals hope to achieve by constantly harping on the outmoded theme of ‘quest for peace’ in an environment where the two sides have yet to grasp the concept of entering into a meaningful dialogue to settle the contentious issues? The transition from ‘discussion mode’ to a ‘settlement mode’ is, or at least should be, the quest of the two sides, rather than carrying out an inane exercise in platitudes. The need of the hour is to somehow vault over the hurdles.

The world situation has undergone a sea change over the past few years. Nearer home, the era of posturing, knee-jerk reactions and scoring debating points at the expense of each other is no longer of consequence. Contentious issues are crying out for settlement in an equitable and principled manner. The name of the game is to look to the future. Time has come to turn a new leaf and eschew the debilitating habit of knee-jerk reactions and/or jumping to unwarranted conclusions.

Above all, there is need to show maturity and to usher in a ‘settlement mode’ in our bilateral dealings. Past experience has shown that hostile posturing aimed at scoring brownie points will lead us nowhere. And let us hope that people who matter on both sides do not lose sight of the axiom that those who opt to live in the past are condemned to repeat it.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2019.

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