India Today - - OPINION -

With hys­te­ria dou­bling as pol­icy, the world com­mu­nity is tir­ing of Pak-India squab­bles A sense of déjà vu. It’s like a brawl be­tween school­child­ren, ex­cept that the play­ers are pol­i­cy­mak­ers. Bang in the mid­dle of this brawl, the Kash­mir up­ris­ing con­tin­ues, only to be quelled by lethal pel­lets that have blinded teenagers. Many In­di­ans too are crit­i­cal of it.

It all started with the un­for­tu­nate Uri at­tack that left 18 In­dian sol­diers dead. The lat­est from the In­dian prime min­is­ter is, “Blood and wa­ter can­not flow to­gether”. This was fol­lowed by news of India’s de­ci­sion to re­view the In­dus Basin Wa­ter Treaty of 1960 and dis­cus­sions on lim­it­ing trade. In Pak­istan too, there are calls to ban In­dian planes from Pak­istani airspace and to fur­ther limit the pas­sage of In­dian trade goods via Pak­istan. The prime min­is­ter of Pak­istan has opted to stay clear of is­su­ing threats to India. In­stead, he has re­mained sin­gu­larly fo­cused on the Kash­mir is­sue, specif­i­cally the hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. In fact, by not men­tion­ing India’s ag­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion on Baluchis­tan or the In­dian spy mas­ter Kulb­hushan Ya­dav, Nawaz has earned some crit­i­cism at home. Nev­er­the­less, he re­mains a man look­ing for peace with India and a so­lu­tion on Kash­mir.

India’s list of diplo­matic ‘favours’ to Pak­istan, re­called re­cently by In­dian for­eign min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj at the UN, in­cluded an in­vi­ta­tion to Pak­istan’s PM to Modi’s in­au­gu­ra­tion and Modi’s stopover in La­hore. Yet, Nawaz too re­peat­edly went the ex­tra mile—by at­tend­ing Modi’s in­au­gu­ra­tion de­spite crit­i­cism at home, by sign­ing the weak Ufa agree­ment with India and en­sur­ing an in­quiry on Pathankot. Things be­gan to fall apart when Delhi in­sisted that the postUfa visit by Sar­taj Aziz could not ac­com­mo­date a meet­ing with Kash­miri lead­ers. This was fol­lowed by the fence­mend­ing Modi visit—and then came the Kash­miri up­ris­ing. But it was hard for India to blame Pak­istan un­til the Uri at­tack.

Has India’s fin­ger­point­ing helped Delhi? The is­sue of Kash­mir with Kash­miris as the pri­mary party still needs a res­o­lu­tion and for both Pak­istan and India nor­mal­is­ing re­la­tions is im­per­a­tive.

Nawaz Sharif’s only com­ment on the Uri at­tack was that the in­ci­dent may have been linked to In­dian re­pres­sion in Kash­mir. Pak­istan’s first re­sponse to the Uri at­tack was to hold an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry on the in­ci­dent. India’s re­ac­tion has been ac­com­pa­nied with its stated pol­icy of “iso­lat­ing Pak­istan in­ter­na­tion­ally” for al­legedly be­ing a ‘ter­ror­ist’ state. Ob­vi­ously these words carry lit­tle weight other than the po­lit­i­cal gains the In­dian prime min­is­ter be­lieves he may make on the home front. Mean­while, the Rus­sians came to Pak­istan for a first­ever joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cise.

Hys­te­ria is a poor form of pol­icy and the world com­mu­nity has gen­er­ally stopped re­act­ing to com­plaints that em­anate from the two sides of the Pak­istan­India border. The two gov­ern­ments will have to talk to re­solve bi­lat­eral is­sues of trade, trade routes, Sir Creek, Baluchis­tan, Pathankot, Samjhauta, the Mum­bai at­tacks, wa­ter prob­lems, cli­mate change etc. On Kash­mir, how­ever, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is in­ter­mit­tently forced to re­act.

While the K word clearly lies at the core of our en­dur­ing ad­ver­sity, the litany of mu­tual griev­ances is a long one: India’s ac­tive role in the breakup of Pak­istan, Pak­istan’s role in pro­mot­ing the Khal­is­tan move­ment, India’s pre­emp­tive oc­cu­pa­tion of Si­achen and Pak­istan’s blun­der­ing into the Drass­Kargil heights, proxy wars, in­tel op­er­a­tions, light­ing up the LoC, be­head­ing sol­diers, ban­ning flights and lim­it­ing or stalling trade. Nei­ther na­tion has gained any­thing be­yond pro­pa­ganda from the brawl­and­scream pol­icy that has shad­owed their dis­mal his­tory.

So let’s step back to look at what is pos­si­ble be­tween our coun­tries. We must do so be­cause we need—and above all our re­spec­tive lead­er­ships need—to be­lieve that an­i­mos­ity and ad­ver­sity is not our des­tiny.

That brings us to the ques­tion of what has worked so far. The Fe­bru­ary 1999 La­hore sum­mit was a break­through mo­ment in Pak­istan­India re­la­tions. It put the two coun­tries on the path to re­solv­ing out­stand­ing is­sues and in­deed Kash­mir as well. Then Pak­istan’s Kargil blun­der struck all this progress down. In an ironic twist, it was the Kargil man, General Pervez Mushar­raf who opted to take for­ward what the Sharif govern­ment had ini­ti­ated. The four­point for­mula, which did in­volve the Kash­miris without giv­ing up Pak­istan’s UN po­si­tion on Kash­mir, was a good be­gin­ning.

De­spite the war cries, the In­dian PM now needs to set­tle down to an un­con­di­tional di­a­logue with Pak­istan. The is­sues are well­known. And in Kash­mir, a new in­ter­net­em­pow­ered gen­er­a­tion is pas­sion­ately and au­tonomously chart­ing a course for its fu­ture. Mean­while, the key ques­tion is: will Nawaz Sharif find a part­ner for peace in India?


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