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?
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.