India and Pakistan have certainly established themselves, over the tedious decades, as nations not wedded to peace. Plagued by successive governments — with few exceptions — the two have excelled in proving to the world that they cannot be trusted to move towards peace in a sustained and mature fashion.
If one talks peace, the other ratchets up the price. If the other says let bygones be bygones, the one insists that nothing can move without the past holding sway over the present and the future.
One can blame New Delhi this time. Or Islamabad the last time, or perhaps, the next time when talks become the casualty. But in this see-saw of bilateral relations, both are equally responsible for not allowing their people to move away from the quagmire of hostility by raising issues when these need to be resolved. Terrorism and Kashmir are the two issues that we use to beat each other with, instead of working like mature nations to see how this gaping divide can be bridged, and how the fanatical constituencies on both sides isolated in the interests of better relations and peace.
At a time when leaders of India and Pakistan want to sound reasonable — for whatever short duration — they bellow forth great speeches about the need for peace to end poverty, and to unite the South Asian countries. Great speeches have been made in the past, by leaders of all the respective political parties that have been in government in India and Pakistan that have even touched on the possibility of a common South Asian bank and currency. But these disappear, as soon as they are made, into the vault of enmity with India and Pakistan holding the region to ransom in their continuing tensions that show no signs of abating.
This time around, New Delhi cancelled the foreign secretary level talks scheduled for August 25 using the meetings between Pakistan’s envoy to India with Kashmiri separatists leaders as the excuse. These meetings between visiting Pakistani leaders and the Kashmiri separatists have always been seen by sections of the establishment as an irritant, but have been allowed even by former BJP leader and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Indian governments have explained this in the past as being part of the back-channel plan to ensure that the Kashmiris are involved to some extent in the talks with India and Pakistan, not as a trilateral, independent group, but as an entity engaging with both New Delhi and Islamabad when its leaders visit here.
The new government has the right to change its mind, but one would have expected this to be done with more finesse and diplomatic tact. And certainly not in the shotgun fashion that it was executed, as that has done considerable damage to India’s own interests as a growing, mature, vibrant democracy.
It is dangerous to subjugate peace to politics. This always has had repercussions that nations find difficult to control, and India and Pakistan certainly can claim no exception from history. This suspicion and bashing has been kept alive by vested interests in both countries, to a point where reason is sacrificed at the altar of opportunism and momentary gain. This muscle flexing as it is really nothing more than just that now with both countries holding the nuclear button.
This time the reversal might be more damaging as the talks have been cancelled on the issue of Kashmir. This makes it almost impossible for both sides to backtrack without serious loss of face on an issue that is of ‘core’ concern in different ways of course to both India and Pakistan. And this heightens the worry for those who believe in peace as essential.
Talks are held between countries to discuss differences and work towards some levels of rapprochement. Talks between India and China have demonstrated the importance of dialogue as from two rivals both are now carrying the olive branch with smiles on their faces. Unfortunately, the talks between India and Pakistan have just not been given a chance, being broken almost as soon as they start. Every government turns the clock back, to restart it again, not once but several times during its tenure. The nerve-racking swing of the bilateral pendulum, thus, takes a toll with terrorists and hardliners being strengthened, and the voices of reason, sanity and development weakened.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2014.
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@Rangoonwala: Your ancestors were Indian ( if you happen to be a Pakistani or Bangladeshi) by the way. Now I wonder if you think of them as mild and lowly people.
@Deepwater: I agree.
@Rangoonwala: Please let me know how your comments get published by ET mods ,even though yours is devoid of any logic or truth and only resorts to name calling when my politically correct comments get zapped
@Gp65: Would honor that, just barely.
@Rangoonwala: This is what Musharraf said of Pakistanis: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/18/AR2005091800554.html
@Modified: We are not born enemy countries. I totally disagree with that. Pakistan may not have a choice but choose enmity due to the deeply ingrained Kashmir issue and for the benefit of its Military establishment but India does have a choice and that is indifference. India should focus on its economy while tolerating the low grade war. As the economic gap widens between Pakistan and the rest of the world, social unrest will erupt within Pakistan. You can see this starting to happen already. Pakistan's strategy of a thousand cuts comes at a colossal price primarily to itself. Karma is a peach.
@Ravi: @Rangoonwala: "Indians, per Sir Richard Burton, are “….a mild and lowly people..”
As Ravi has pointed out Richard Burton died in 1890, when pakistan was still called India.
A United States prosecutor's comment that Pakistanis would 'sell their mothers for a few thousand dollars' has created much ado between the two countries.
He said this in the courtroom when Ajmal Khansi was arrested and flown to US. Read this: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/soc.culture.afghanistan/Jj2smyXsceM Also read this:
Sure enough two Pakistani boys sold their mother for Pakistani rupee 30,000 in Hafizabad, just about $300 which is a third of the amount that US had estimated. It happened in the year 2011. Here is the link to this news that ET published on January 12, 2011
Don't bring in such stupid comments. There are thousands of facts readily available on Pakistan and they are facts and not just some statement or claims.
@Ravi: Not sure which Richard Burton you are talking about but the actor Richard Burton died in 1984.
@Rangoonwala: what is the relevance of Richard Burton's quote? I could provide any number of quotes aout Americans about characters of Pakistanis- so? How some Americans view India or Pakistan is in no way relevant to this discussion. Please stop ad hominem attacks.
Talks between India and China have demonstrated the importance of dialogue as from two rivals both are now carrying the olive branch with smiles on their faces.
A. The Chinese envoy does not hob nob with the Naxals or other kinds of threats.
B. And Chinese forces do not keep on firing across the LAC.
C. And Mumbai was not hatched in China.
Dear Seema Mustafa,
Which country in its border Pakistan has friendly relations? Afghanistan? Iran? India, we all know, is not.
Which in its border India does not have peaceful relations with other than Pakistan? Everyone. You don’t need to write an article to figure it out, do you.
Minor frictions here and there like with Sri Lanka, Nepal, etc. doesn’t count. They happen even with US and Canada.
@Rangoonwala: Everybody has a right to opinion about others. important is what Indians think of themselves and its very obvious, they think very high of themselves. Like Pakistanis, Indians dont shy away from revealing their nationality.
@Rangoonwala: Huh.. Richard Burton died in 1890, when pakistan was still called India. I hope you got the point i am trying to make.
@Sachin Joshi: Aping American English wont change anything, Indians, per Sir Richard Burton, are "....a mild and lowly people.."
I remain satisfied that the “Quagmire Of Hostility” is costing the Islamic Republic of Pakistan significantly more than India and hence am content with India not talking to Pakistan against a background of Pakistani provocations. Pakistan’s delusional obsession with seeking parity with India has resulted in misallocation of resources towards the Military resulting in her falling behind India in a broad range of developmental parameters not to mention having a politically dominant Military that frequently usurps power by overthrowing democratically elected civilian governments. Further Pakistan’s obsession with India has resulted in a menagerie of Islamic Terrorist groups created to harass India by the Pakistan Military, sowing sectarian havoc within Pakistan’s own borders in a blow back of classic proportions.
ET (3rd attempt) - everything is factual and directly related to Ms. Mustafa's post - please publish.
Ms. Mustafa, it is misleading to say that talks were called off over Kashmir and hence it would be difficult to restart since it is a core issue for Pakistan. India has not said it will refuse to discuss Kashmir. India has simply said that talks on Kashmir have to be bilateral between India and Pakistan and no 3rd party can be involved. Further India also objected to the practice of inviting Indian insurgents to Pakistan's embassy in India's capital. The practice may have been longstanding but that does nit make it right.
It is also unclear how calling off the talks have damaged India's 'own interests as a growing, mature, vibrant democracy' as you seem to think it has.
Last but not the least, peace is desirable but peace talks do not always yield peace as Kargill which happened even before the ink on Lahore declaration had dried and 26/11 planning was happening at the peak of 'out of box back channel talks ' that were going on between India and Pakistan.
Lady, there's a new Government in power. It is the duty of the High Commissioner of Pakistan to discretely ascertain, what will now fly and what will not. That's what diplomacy is about, not charge ahead doing something because that was the norm. You may have seen commentaries around the world trying to decipher the consequences of the huge mandate that the NDA, in general, and the BJP, in particular, received at the last elections. The jury is still out. But HC Basit may not be to blame at all. Decisions regarding India in Pakistan (and vice versa), are taken at the highest levels. So this Pakistani provocation (as well as the heightened tension along the LOC) could have more to do with the military's efforts in Pakistan to cut Nawaz Sharif to size and less with India, for the time being.
In matters of India and Pakistan, there are some who will always see and say differently. If India is wrong, blame India and if Pakistan is wrong, blame both countries.
Just because something was allowed in the past does not mean it is rational, or that these should be allowed continually.
@ seema mustafa
India and Pakistan are two different countries entirely. India is a secular country. We have 250 million muslims living here who do not want to go to Pakistan as they were supposed to. And none of these 250 million seem to support India's right over Kashmir. It is a sad state of affairs. Had the Indian Muslims shouted in unison - Kashmir is ours- the strength of this voice will be more than Pakistan's . Unfortunately Pakistan's strength seem to become 500 million during these talks.
Ms Mustafa, India is certainly wedded to peace, but political Islam is not. So long as there are political Islamists in the army or administration in Pakistan, there can be no peace in the sub-continent. There has been a change in the policy and the change is that we aren't going to submit to political Islamist or their sympathizer just to satisfy their ego of us being a 'Dhimmi'. You are advised to pack your bag and move with political Islamists if you have so much sympathy for them.
As Author noted earlier visiting Political leader used to meet Hurriyat leaders but after Modi came to power even Nawaz Sharif did not met Hurriyat leaders,so why Pak Commissioner has called Hurriyat leaders after being told either to meet them or India.Pak High Commissioner want to instigate the Hurriyat leaders to disturb forthcoming election in J&K otherwise he should have consulted other stakeholders Buddhist, Sikhs,Hindu living in J&K also.Earlier Pak Diplomat was expelled on allegation of distributing money to Hurriyat leaders.
Comparing the "peace process" of India with China versus India with Pakistan ... now, that is really, REALLY "rich" dear lady... perhaps you ought to be part of the latter yourself..!!
The two countries are at war, a low intensity conflict since 1989 ... and this lady is talking nonsense about peace ... Modi has made it clear that when the gun is booming, talks can not be heard ... !! ... as long as Pakistan's obsession with Kashmir will remain, all talks will be wastage of time and resources ...
Famous quote by Ambrose Bierce; "Peace: A period of cheating between two periods of fighting.” applies so beautifully to Indo-Pak relations. Best way to handle India Pakistan relations would be to accept the bitter truth that we are born enemy countries. Pakistanis say it openly and some Indians like this author have problem in accepting this bitter truth.