ANIMOSITY IS NOT OUR DESTINY
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?