A Les­son from His­tory

War hav­ing failed to re­solve any is­sue, it is time to give peace a chance. The Franco-Ger­man model could pro­vide a blue­print for Indo-Pak friend­ship?

Southasia - - Cover Story - By S. G. Ji­la­nee

For sixty-five years In­dia and Pak­istan have been at each other’s “throats.” The two coun­tries have fought four wars over the span of this time. Some­times they ap­pear to come closer, but then a catas­tro­phe hap­pens that throws a span­ner in the works and all the progress made is wiped out.

Take the most re­cent ex­am­ple. Mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and some­what cor­dial re­la­tions were mak­ing progress on a num­ber of is­sues such as Si­achen and Sir Creek, bet­ter trade and eco­nomic re­la­tions, de­vel­op­ing en­ergy-sec­tor co­op­er­a­tion and lib­er­al­iz­ing visa regimes, in­clud­ing a five-city visa-on-ar­rival for se­nior ci­ti­zens at Wa­gah. Pak­istan was also gear­ing up to grant MFN sta­tus to In­dia. Sports and cul­tural ex­changes – in­clud­ing joint In­dia-Pak­istan mu­sic per­for­mances – and me­dia in­ter­ac­tions had, in their own way, contributed to con­fi­dence build­ing.

Then, sud­denly, all the good work came to a halt and war drums be­gan to beat, yet again. In­dian elec­tronic me­dia went ber- serk. Mil­i­tary lead­ers is­sued bel­li­cose state­ments. In­dian Air Force chief NAK Browne threat­ened, “to look for some other op­tions” to se­cure Pak­istan’s com­pli­ance with the cease­fire. Army Chief Bikram Singh as­serted In­dia’s right to re­tal­i­ate ag­gres­sively. De­fence Min­is­ter AK Antony de­scribed Pak­istan’s con­duct as a ‘turn­ing point.’

This de­ba­cle started when the In­dian army started con­struct­ing bunkers on its side of the Line of Con­trol in Kash­mir. They thought that the bar put on such ac­tiv­i­ties in the 2003 cease­fire agree­ment would not ap­ply in this case be­cause the bunkers faced in­wards. But the Pak­istani side viewed it dif­fer­ently. The re­sult­ing fire­fight cost the lives of two sol­diers on each side of the bor­der be­fore good sense fi­nally re­turned on both sides.

And yet, the lat­est in­ci­dent was nei­ther the first, nor it may be the last, which war­rants ur­gent at­ten­tion from saner el­e­ments on both sides, es­pe­cially be­cause they are nu­clear states. In this con­text the As­so­ci­ated Press report dated 22 Jan­uary, say­ing that “po­lice on the In­dian side of the Line of Con­trol have warned peo­ple in Srinagar to build un­der­ground bunkers equipped with toi­lets, col­lect two weeks’ worth of food and water and en­sure they have a sup­ply of can­dles, torches and a ra­dio,” to pre­pare for nu­clear war. A report from a third-party or­ga­ni­za­tion such as AP is par­tic­u­larly alarming. There­fore, though guns have gone silent for the umpteenth moment, it is im­per­a­tive for the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers and thinkers of all call­ings, as well as the me­dia, to put their heads to­gether and find a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to this pro­longed stand­off. That is the only

way to ban­ish the

threat of a nu­clear war that hangs like the Sword of Damo­cles over both coun­tries.

France and Ger­many seem to of­fer a model for such rap­proche­ment. In WWII Ger­many in­vaded and oc­cu­pied France. Though Ger­many was de­feated, yet, re­la­tions re­mained sour for eigh­teen long years. Even­tu­ally, they came to re­alise that per­pet­ual hos­til­ity was coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and signed the El­y­see Treaty in 1963. The Treaty ended the chap­ter of pro­longed en­mity and opened the doors to mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion in the fields of de­fence, for­eign pol­icy, se­cu­rity, health, ed­u­ca­tion, econ­omy, cul­tural ex­change, and youth pro­grams. Peace and co­op­er­a­tion ben­e­fited both sides and this year, both coun­tries proudly cel­e­brated the golden ju­bilee (50 years) of their ded­i­cated part­ner­ship.

The ques­tion there­fore arises, why In­dia and Pak­istan should not take a leaf from the Fran­coGer­man ex­pe­ri­ence to ex­or­cise the ghost of war and her­ald an era of en­dur­ing peace. The an­swer to that ques­tion is not easy, sim­ply be­cause In­dia and Pak­istan are not France and Ger­many. There, the ca­sus belli ceased af­ter Ger­many’s de­feat. But here, though Pak­istan was de­feated by In­dia in 1971, the bel­liger­ents did not sign any peace treaty. The stand­off has con­tin­ued with a ma­jor flare up at Kargil in 1999 and oc­ca­sional breaches of the Line of Con­trol. The CBMs and other mea­sures men­tioned above have there­fore had only a pe­riph­eral ef­fect that can be ru­ined at any given moment as the lat­est in­ci­dent proved.

To bring about an agree­ment be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia on the Franco-Ger­man model would re­quire pol­i­cy­mak­ers on both sides gifted with a fu­tur­is­tic vi­sion; peo­ple, who would not think in terms of In­dia shin­ing or Pak­istan shin­ing but about the ben­e­fits their co­op­er­a­tion would spell for the en­tire re­gion. What is needed is a rad­i­cal change of ap­proach to the is­sues that be­devil mu­tual re­la­tions. It may look like a for­bid­ding task in the given sit­u­a­tion to change the mind­set that has taken deep roots over six decades but it is not im- prac­ti­ca­ble. The prac­tice is well known both in med­i­cal treat­ment and mil­i­tary pol­icy. One changes the line of treat­ment; the other al­ters strat­egy, if de­sired re­sults are not achieved within a rea­son­able pe­riod of time.

Kash­mir is the bleed­ing wound be­tween the two neigh­bors. Other is­sues, such as Si­achen, Sir Creek and Wuller Bar­rage are its off­shoots. Pak­istan has tried ev­ery trick to force In­dia to agree to a plebiscite in Kash­mir so the peo­ple may de­cide which coun­try they would wish to be a part of. The coun­try has sent raiders, armed in­fil­tra­tors and ter­ror mon­gers. It has sulked on im­prov­ing re­la­tions with trade and other ex­changes. Pak­istan failed to re­cip­ro­cate In­dia’s over­ture of grant­ing it MFN sta­tus and has even had sev­eral bouts of war. For sixty-five years Pak­istan has pur­sued the pol­icy of hos­til­ity and the use of force to re­solve the is­sue. But the re­sult has been zilch and even coun­ter­pro­duc­tive; the loss of East Pak­istan was the di­rect con­se­quence of Pak­istan’s war with In­dia in 1971.

Now, there­fore, it should ex­per­i­ment with over­turn­ing its strat­egy for a change. Friend­ship may achieve where en­mity failed. Mil­ton wrote in a let­ter to Cromwell “peace hath her vic­to­ries no less renowned than war.” The pos­tu­late is as true to­day as it was then. The ar­gu­ment that In­dia should be given a taste of its own medicine by Kash­miri peo­ple adopt­ing the Gand­hian prin­ci­ple of non-vi­o­lence as the sole weapon to fight for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion makes solid sense. Why not try it? As a first step, both coun­tries should sign a No-War Pact. Pak­istan should start with a dec­la­ra­tion stat­ing that it would not ini­ti­ate or sup­port the use of force in any shape or form by any­one in pur­suit of self-de­ter- mi­na­tion for the peo­ple of Kash­mir nor al­low any­one to plan any hos­tile act against In­dia, within its ter­ri­tory. A No-War Pact should clear the way for both sides to pull out of Si­achen and de­mil­i­tarise it. Sir Creek and Wullar Bar­rage set­tle­ment should fol­low as corol­lar­ies.

Naysay­ers may, with a sneer, ask, “what if In­dia does not re­spond to the non-vi­o­lent ap­proach in the Kash­mir strug­gle?” The an­swer is sim­ple. First, it will be put to in­ter­na­tional shame if it uses force to sup­press a non-vi­o­lent strug­gle on the Gand­hian pat­tern as the Bri­tish did be­fore. And sec­ond, there is the anal­ogy of how Amer­ica con­tin­ues its drone at­tacks de­spite Pak­istan’s end­less protests, yet, the lat­ter has not adopted any com­bat- ive ap­proach.

Six decades plus, of war hav­ing failed to re­solve the is­sue, it is high time to give peace a chance.

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