Nations not wedded to peace

The talks between India and Pakistan have just not been given a chance, being broken almost as soon as they start.

Seema Mustafa August 22, 2014

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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someone | 8 years ago | Reply

@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.

Gp65 | 8 years ago | Reply

@Deepwater: I agree.

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