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Friday, February 5, 2010

Impediments to Aman Ki Asha


In January 2004 the India-Pakistan peace initiative launched by President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpai, was enthusiastically welcomed by the media, including the Jang-Geo and The Times of India groups and celebrated with much fanfare, by many in two countries; yet the tempo could not be sustained and it failed to deliver in any meaningful way.

An analysis of the failure of this relatively recent peace initiative to normalize relations between India and Pakistan brings forth the stark reality that it had luster but lacked substance. Owing to so-called War on terror, it was designed to introduce cosmetic changes in bilateral relations rather than constructively address the substantial issues that had kept the two countries at loggerheads most of the time.

The high-sounding and well meaning, joint statement by the Jang-Geo and The Times of India groups notwithstanding, the Aman Ki Aasha, many believe, is no different in this respect. If the real issues are highlighted the initiative may fizzle out without much impact.

Experience bears witness that Nations cannot attain peace by mere exchanges of showbiz personnel and sportsmen or pious references to Sufis, Saints and Bhagats. The goodwill generated by cosmetic measures evaporates in thin air when nations’ interests clash. Such moves, at best boil down to confidence building measures (CBMs) and at worst result in aggravated frustration.

For durable peace between states, fundamental issues have to be resolved. It is imperative that politics of confrontation and conflict makes room for politics of accommodation and cooperation.

Hitherto the India-Pakistan peace initiatives did not work because they failed to focus on the issues that divide and went for superficialities.

To move forward the peace process needs to concentrate on:

1. Reconciliation and respect for each others national security interests
2. Resolution of outstanding political, territorial and other disputes
3. Eradication of extremism in all forms
4. Objective review history and curricula aimed at realistic understanding and acceptance of each other’s point of view and ethos.

Obviously, the whole process would be time-consuming, and may take years to achieve its objectives; but it would be result-oriented.

The foremost and the strongest impediment to the success of the latest peace initiative, Aman Ki Aasha, is Pakistan’s well-grounded and genuine perception of threat to its security perennially emanating from India since independence.

This fear is not devoid of substance. The seeds of Nirasha (Naummidi) in Aman ki Aasha, were sown in the resolution of All-India Congress Committee on the Partition Plan, adopted on June 15, 1947, said:

“Geography and the mountains and the seas fashioned India as she is, and no human agency can change the shape or come in the way of her final destiny. Economic circumstances and the insistent demands of international affairs make the unity of India still more necessary. The picture of India we have learnt to cherish will remain in our minds and hearts. The A.I.C.C. earnestly trusts that when present passions have subsided, India’s problems will be viewed in their proper perspective and the false doctrine of two nations in India will be discredited and discarded by all.”

Thus, from the very beginning, India had reservations about the partition of the South Asian Subcontinent, and Pakistan was preoccupied with its security concerns vis-à-vis India.

If the A.I.C.C. resolution was for public consumption at an extraordinary juncture in history, India should have later attempted to dispel the popular concerns in Pakistan that India wanted to reunify the South Asian Subcontinent to establish “Akhand Bharat” or wished to drag Pakistan under its sphere of influence. After the lapse of six decades, still the oft-repeated statement that one hears in Pakistan is; “They have not accepted the partition of India in their hearts and mind.”

At a press meet on Nov 14, 1946, Singh reminds us that Jinnah posed a question: once partition had separated the two warring communities, what reason would there be for the two nations to quarrel?

Jinnah predicted, “The two states … will be friends and will go to each other’s rescue in case of danger and will be able to say ‘hands off’ to other nations. We shall then have a Munroe Doctrine more solid than in America … I am not fighting for Muslims, believe me, when I demand Pakistan.”

Nehru lived long enough to tell an interviewer in 1960 that he and other Congress leaders had accepted partition because “We were tired men and we were getting on in years too. Few of us could stand the prospect of going to prison again.” He added, “None of us guessed how much the killings and the crisis in Kashmir would embitter relations.” For revisiting history with an open mind, the BJP expelled Singh from the party.

Earlier, it had forced L.K. Advani to resign from its presidency simply for visiting the Quaid’s mausoleum and saying that the Quaid was a secular man. If the BJP could be so bigoted towards its own leaders, one can only imagine how it would treat those who live as a permanent minority in India.DAWN.COM | Editorial | Rediscovering Jinnah

The attitudes such as not selecting Pakistan’s Cricket Players, as Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said, “The decision of the franchisees not to select any of the 17 Pakistani cricketers who had been given Indian visas for participation in the third edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was a disservice to the game of cricket.” One may add, such things are disservice to Aman Ki Aasha too.

Shahrukh Khan faces the wrath of extremists for voicing his thoughts on treatment meted out to Pakistan Cricketer.

Even today, the general perception in Pakistan is that the ultimate objective of India is to reduce Pakistan to a spineless, non-nuclear, innocuous state subservient and playing a secondary role to it in the region.

For normalization of relations, India and Pakistan must learn to reconcile their national security interests in the region, in particular Afghanistan, which has become the focal point of conflict. Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kiani has stated unambiguously; “We want a strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it.”

He further added; “A peaceful and friendly Afghanistan can provide Pakistan a strategic depth.” General Kiani’s principal concern is with the growing influence of India in Afghanistan, and proposed creation of 140,000-strong Afghan force with a potential to take on Pakistan.

Indian covert intervention and subversion in Western Region and in Balochistan definitely heightens threat perceptions of Pakistan and its people.

The two neighbors should also address the security concerns of RAW and ISI respectively, instead of foreign offices of both the countries to make the Aman Ki Aasha of people of South Asia.

As next important step, there is, need to sincerely and objectively address and ultimately resolve the outstanding bilateral disputes, most importantly the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.

The credit, for many discredit, goes to Musharraf that he went beyond Pakistan’s, stated position and offered out-of-the-box suggestions to settle the dispute. His proposal of softening the Line of Control and bringing Indian and Pakistan-held parts of Jammu and Kashmir under some joint mechanism, had the rudiments of permanent resolution of this historical dispute, but it too happened to be Aman ki Nirasha for Pakistanis and Kashmiris.

With climate change and melting of glaciers, it has become necessary to ensure that India and Pakistan do not confront each over water resources. It is imperative that both, in letter and spirit, abide the Indus Basin Treaty.

The construction of Buglihar Dam, Kishan Ganga and Wullar Barrages on Jhelum and Chenab Rivers by India amounts to choking Pakistan’s water resources. In such trying times for Pakistan, the Aman Ki Asha appears to be an exercise in futility.

India may accept it or not, the stark reality and immediate threat to Jinnah’s Pakistan or Nehru’s India, both squarely, confront the menace and hydra of extremism in the name of religion that is a mortal threat to the social fabric of the both the countries, besides the region and the world. Pakistan does know, this is the immediate and present danger, with real potential for engulf entire South, Gulf and Central Asia.

What is unfortunate is that, at one time or other the governments in Pakistan and India promoted religious extremism as instrument of state policy or secure electoral gains. At present jihadi / militant organizations in Pakistan and Sangh Parivar in India not only promote mutual hatred but they get sustenance from the Kashmir dispute and India-Pakistan rivalry over Afghanistan. In both cases potentially subverting the peace moves.

The Aman Ki Asha Statement observes; “There are external elements at work in the region that thrive on the animosity between the two neighbors. They have a stake in keeping the region in turmoil. We need to combat them by making them irrelevant.”

Although the Statement has not clarified who these external elements are, it is not difficult to surmise that the reference is to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. To make foreign elements irrelevant, it is important that India renounces the policy of state-terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, and takes stern action against those who were responsible for anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and those who masterminded the Samjhota Express tragedy and addresses the deprivation, insecurities and want of its huge Muslim minority.

By suspending the composite dialogue after the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government practically played, rather walked into the decoy set up by those very elements, without and within India, who oppose peace moves between the two countries. Terror attacks in India upset the earlier Aman Ki Aasha.

Over the years, Indians and Pakistanis have developed a mindset based on the concept of “we” and “they”, both think that “we” are always right and “they” are always wrong. One reason for this mindset is the extremely biased version of history.

Every national history is prejudiced and often invented to promote national interests. However, it is one thing to glorify ones heroes and another to out rightly subvert the facts to indoctrinate and condition the innocent minds.

Unfortunately, in Indian textbooks demonize Jinnah and his Pakistan, whose aim was to promote communalism and destroy the unity of India. Similarly, in Pakistani textbooks Gandhi, Nehru and India are, presented as embodiment of evil from whom nothing good could be expected.

Generations fed on lies and hatred become incapable of promoting peace and understanding. Instead of casting aspersions on the sincerity of the leaders of the Muslim league or the Congress, the textbooks need to explain their viewpoints on various issues related to the freedom struggle.

The Aman Ki Asha would do a great job Indian and Pakistani historians were to rewrite history narrowing down differences over historical events, to change the mutual perception positively.

In the end, the two countries would have to revive the now forgotten Panchsheela (Five Principles) of inter-state relations:

1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
2. Mutual non-aggression
3. Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs
4. Equality and mutual benefits, and
5. Peaceful coexistence.

Resolution of disputes Based on these principles could ensure peace, progress and prosperity in South and Central Asia.

If political and security related issues are not settled, Aman Ki Aasha will remain a pipe dream.


Anonymous said...

This is how it should be :

Anonymous said...

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