From an Indian to fellow Indians ON Pakistan!
The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?
I am an Indian and I am not ‘anti- Pakistan.’ I know there will be voices from the other side of the border this minute reiterating, I am a Pakistani and I am not ‘anti – India’. Still, I will not be granted an immediate parental consent to go visit a friend in Lahore or Karachi, nor would a young person in Pakistan be granted easy access to India. And if by chance it did happen, the Visa story is one that can make for an essay by itself.
It is disheartening to note that the heritage of 8000 years of shared glory has been sidestepped for sixty four years of rivalry on eight critical issues, between India and Pakistan.
Before I could write this article, I was met with severe opposition. I was told, “This is a sensitive issue.” The larger question here is, Who defines the magnitude of sensitivity? Is it the media waiting like an over- enthusiastic mother hen for the egg- shell to crack, or the politicians, each one trying to get some political mileage when the government is unable to build consensus or is it the antipathy of the masses. The simple answer is all the aforesaid factors have contributed in various degrees to this predicament.
However, the issue has been blown out of proportion by the Press and Media. Parallel commentary when infantile steps are taken towards a resolution followed by sharp criticism is a classic example of much ado about nothing. More importantly though it is a sign that the time has come when we must decide whether we want to re- live 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 when we sit across the table or do we start mending the walls by building the foundation on the year 2012.
The problem with Indo-Pak relations is that there is light at the end of the tunnel, we only have to get to the end first! Post- Kargil both countries have displayed veiled animosity towards each other. Failed symbolic attempts like the Lahore Bus Service and later the attack on the Parliament, Osama's entry and the multiple attacks on various major cities only contributed to the discord.
The Fate of these two countries hangs in the balance of Time. The Gordian knot of inadequate diplomatic talks coupled with the ineptitude and unwillingness of both sides to break the gridlock has only added to the chaos.
Unfortunately apart from stinging media criticism and brief Press- statements from both India and Pakistan, the Indo-Pak Diplomatic conundrum has left citizens on both ends of the border to ask, ‘Is the stance adopted aiming at a dead-end diplomacy?’
The butterfly effect was seen most recently when the Chief Minister of Kashmir, Mr. Omar Abdullah was stopped from addressing a seminar on Kashmir in an Institute in Pune because it was speculated that his statements may be controversial. Unfortunately we chose to thrive on pre- conceived notions as to what he would say rather than hear what the gentleman actually had to share. Whatever happened to the Freedom of Speech and Expression?
In the less than quarter of a century that I have lived, I have studied more of the cautionary measures that India adopts in its foreign policy than the actual historical foundations that my country shares with the its Asian neighbours in the sub- continent. The year 1947 is highlighted as the Year of the Agony of Partition more than the year that brought with it the Ecstasy of a free and Independent country.
In this article, my aim is to establish the inter-twined destiny of History’s longest showcased unresolved dispute. The aim is to lay the bare facts without accusations and allegations. Quite clearly the lapses have been at both ends.
We played host to the Pakistani Premier a few weeks ago, which was dubbed as the ‘Dargah diplomacy’ by the Indian media. The fact that the gentleman was in India on personal reasons to visit the shrine was used by the Media on both ends who began to fantasize on whether these were new beginnings on the bureaucratic horizon.
If we talk of rivalry, here are some highlights on why India and Pakistan umbilical cord is not yet been cut.
As a child one of the first patriotic songs I was taught was Iqbal’s,
“Saare jahan se achchha Hindustaan hamaara Hum
bulbulein hain iski yeh gulistaan hamaara”
Not many of you reading this article are aware that Iqbal is the National Poet of Pakistan. And this is just one of many examples to start with. Must I forget that my Prime Minister was born in Pakistan, only one of many leaders including Mani Shankar Aiyyar, L.K Advani and scientists like Subramanyam Chandrashekar who have played an active role in the building of the nation for the past six decades? Or must I forget that President Musharraf was born in Delhi but ruled Pakistan again one of many to have that distinction to their credit? No, I cannot forget either. In fact I am amazed at how much we have in common. No one could have put it better than Mani Shankar Aiyyar, who in his book wrote that the exclusion of a neighbour is possible in summits but one cannot exclude the country physically from the sub- continent.
When a journalist from The Guardian, visited Stella Maris college in Madras, the question posed to the students was, With which country in Southern Asia did they feel the strongest affinity; pat came the answer, ‘Pakistan.’ This is proof that whether the elitist and radicals choose to accept it or not, we cannot and must not deny the roots that our countries stand on.
Unlike many other sparring neighbours of the world, India and Pakistan probably share the most integrated history. Etymologically, the names of both countries originally have Persian roots. Hindustan in Persian literally means Land of the Hindus or Land of the Indus while the name Pakistan in Persian stands for Land of the Pure.
If in India, 80% of the population is Hindu closely followed by Muslims at second place, conversely in Pakistan the maximum are Muslims while Hindus are a close second; minority religions existing in both countries. The smudges of the Mughals who introduced Persian literature and high culture evince the roots of Indo-Persian culture in the region.
In India, a Muslim prays in the Mosque just like his brother in Pakistan or any other part of the world. The same is true of all the other religious followers. So the vital question arises, ‘Is the resentment merely the result of the cicatrix in diplomatic relations?’
The answer unfortunately is. ‘Yes!’
Where have we failed as Neighbours?
The only isochronal event in the last six decades of our diplomatic relations with Pakistan is the occurrence of a certain event that is called ‘Diplomatic Talks.’ The reason I address these talks as events is because they are down- played by the Media which makes the entire process look like a Curry- Kebab Diplomacy. There is a lot of camaraderie, ministers cross the border, enjoy the hospitality of neighbours and talks which lead everywhere but a concrete conclusion. Apart from this ‘Cricket’ too has been used in a desperate attempt to derive something good, the ‘ek dhakka aur do’ policy prevailing on both ends.
Even as you read this article, there are thousands of faceless persons moving around in search of a definite identity. These are caught in the seemingly unending saga of this struggle. A nation entrusts its foremost responsibilities to three classes of individuals; Politicians to deal with the domestic issues primarily, Diplomats to smoothen the flow in the International milieu and Judges to interpret the Rule of Law.
With all the Diplomatic sophistry, all that the Global community perceives today is the existence of two countries sharing limited oxygen on a common life- support system which if not catered to soon may lead to the termination of hope of a new lease of Life.
If Pakistan has the Taliban, India has the Naxal movements. If Pakistan is suffering from internal dissent, India too is dealing with its own fair share of problems. The point is are we to build our relations on the differences or can we look at constructing a Covenant of Similarities.
Since 1999, both neighbours have adopted a lackadaisical approach to the resolution of the problems.
Although Kashmir is the highlight of a strained relationship, there are in total 8 major concerns that have been identified:
1. Kashmir issue
2. Water crisis
3. Sir creek issue
4. Rann of kutch
5. MFN status
6. Siachen issue
7. State sponsored issues
8. Nuclear Deterrence
For these eight issues to be dealt, deliberated and discussed thoroughly both participants must actively contribute to an Agenda for dialogue.
Reasons for Failure and some proposed solutions:
The following reasons have been contributed to the inefficaciousness of Indo- Pak relations:
• A shabbily planned agenda on the part of both States has led to inconclusive and largely unplanned talks or at least they are perceived as unplanned.
• Interrupted phases of discussion and deliberations: This is the most important factor. To give an effective example, the U.S – Vietnam held continuous talks for six years to reach a conclusion. India and Pakistan must look at ‘continuous’ flow of talks because the stop gap arrangement that we pursue gives rise to new issues. The temperament changes and the talks have to start afresh. It is the prerogative of mischief- mongers to work as divisive forces. Every time, the countries take five steps ahead, the occurrence of an ‘incident’ makes them retract. The key is to continue the dialogue.
• It is interesting to note that when the Pakistani Premier visited India, an invitation was extended to the Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan. This sparked off a debate as to what should be a good reason to go? Should it be the Prime Minister’s roots, should it be the surrendering of a terrorist or something else. Why are we waiting for reasons to move ahead? Let’s not forget that a wound when left unattended turns septic.
• Focus on solutions rather than over- simplification of the problem with short labels like ‘War on Terror.’ It seeks to exacerbate the dilemma rather than alleviate it. Diversion from the pivotal issues slows down the process.
• Too many interlocutors: A well balanced and comprehensive panel of leaders is the need of the hour. If too many cooks spoil the broth, it’s definitely time to retire a few.
• The need for a fixed venue has been felt by diplomats. It has been proposed that the ‘Wagah- Attari’ border may perhaps serve as the best option.
• Another important facet is the restriction on the Media to comment on the on- going talks. It is easier if the Media reserves its comments till something concrete has come up rather than create speculations, raising false hope in the masses.
• Both countries must adopt bilateral talks rather than multi-lateral talks. The nucleus of the Shimla Agreement was to bind both countries to solve issues bilaterally. Since both countries capable of solving issues amongst themselves, why allow other countries to interfere?
• Exploiting Soft Power in terms of student and professional exchange programmes, literature festivals, smooth passage for pilgrims wanting to visit will only help to mitigate the hostility that exists in the common man.
Dial D for Diplomacy:
The crux of the Indo- Pak gridlock is to leave diplomacy to the diplomats and politics to the politicians. The overlapping of the two is severely impeding the peace talks. It is proposed that the politicians must refrain from hindering the diplomatic process, instead working constructively on the periphery to steer the talks to meet a definite end.
We must realise that a lot of time has been wasted. Time has come that we share the burden, pick up the pieces and surge forward as friends.
Before I end the discussion I share with you the optimistic words of a Hindi poet who writes:
Dosti acchi ho toh rang laati hai
Dosti gehri ho toh sabko bhaati hai
Dosti nadaan ho toh to toot jaati hai
Par agar dosti hamari jaisi ho…..
Toh itihaas banaati hai!
Someday I’d like to walk the streets of Lahore, visit the famous Mohen-jo-Daro and Harappa sites without any fear and someday I want to welcome a Pakistani friend to see my land and together revel in the joys of a new future.
History is waiting to be re- written. The first step must be taken together.
@katie_abraham on Twitter
The Writer is a Law Student and Aspiring U.N Diplomat
The Writer is a Law Student and Aspiring U.N Diplomat