Snatching peace from the jaws of war
By M.V. Kamath
India-Pakistan Relations: Courting Peace from the Corridors of War edited by P.M. Kamath, Promilla & Co. Publishers, 333 pp, price not given
We have reached a stage in India'spolitical life that any mention of India-Pakistan relations draws a big yawn as if to say: ?Isn'tthere anything else to talk about?? For years any discussion on Pakistan was a ?no, no?. Nobody seemed interested. Hardly any newspaper maintained?or was allowed to maintain?a correspondent in Pakistan and for all one knew, Pakistan had become a forgotten territory. Now, thanks largely, one suspects, because of President Musharraf'spersistence, Pakistan keeps flashing on the Indian screen.
Musharraf started by declaring Jammu & Kashmir as ?the core issue? but has since then been retreating from his earlier stand. The Indo-Pak border has opened up and people from India and Pakistan have been visiting each other'scountry in increasing numbers. Overnight as it were, India and Pakistan are rediscovering each other. It is against this background that a Centre for International Studies based in Mumbai held a seminar on ?India-Pakistan Relations in Pursuit of Peace? attended by 14 scholars, including Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, Director, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Delhi, Dr Bharat Karnad, Professor of National Security Studies, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Shri V. Balachandran, former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, New Delhi and several educationists including Dr P.M. Kamath, former Professor of Politics, University of Mumbai.
The seminar discussed the many papers submitted not only analysing the history, nature and content of the long-standing hostility between the two countries, but suggesting measures to transform the state of conflict presently prevailing to a more enduring state of cooperation.
How can one possibly relate to a people who changed the song Jamuna ke par mere Krishna Muraari to Raavi ke par Miyan Mohammad ki baari, just because they could not bear to think of Jamuna, which flows through India and Krishna as a Hindu god?
Scepticism was understandably expressed during the process of discussion. The background to Indo-Pakistan conflict was analysed in the context of the Cold War. Questions were raised: Was it in India'sinterests to reduce Pakistan into a weak and internationally unstable nation? How can one possibly trust a nation that has thrice in half a century deliberately waged a war against India? How trustworthy is an army officer who organised Pak forces in Kargil without the knowledge, let alone the approval, of his country'sPrime Minister (Nawaz Sharief)? Was it a response to the efforts of Nawaz Sharief to reduce the role of the army in national decision-making? How can one possibly relate to a people who changed the song Jamuna ke par mere Krishna Muraari to Raavi ke par Miyan Mohammad ki baari, just because they could not bear to think of Jamuna, which flows through India and Krishna as a Hindu god?
During an arangetram, said one of the speakers at the seminar, which she attended in Islamabad, she was amused to notice that Krishna was never referred to as maakhan-chor! Nor was Nataraj mentioned by name but was called ?god of dance?. And yet, noted Maneesha Tikekar, who spent some six months in Pakistan, how she was fascinated to notice that Urdu newspapers regularly referred to calendar months in Sanskritic Chait, Baisakh, Jaisth, etc. names.
Participants at the seminar had their doubts about prospects of future Indo-Pak cooperation. Some were frankly pessimistic. One participant even pointed out what Musharraf once said, namely, that he would like to see India break up so that he can negotiate with many countries and not just one unified country, India. Indeed there was sufficient proof: it was said, the ISI?the Pakistani spy outfit?had but just one aim: to see the vivisection of India! Not that any participant thought that it would succeed in its mad venture. Jasjit Singh, for example, noted that presently it is ?a make-or-break period for Pakistan?. Making itself could take 15 years, but Pakistan could just as surely break up in six months.
The role of the United States in Pakistani affairs was a subject of intense discussion at the seminar though there was very little mention of what went on between Britain and the United States during the crucial years, 1946 to 1949. Given the circumstances attendant on the Cold War and Pakistan'sown irrational compulsions, an alliance between the United States and Pakistan was all that could have been expected. The US was firm in its belief?as was stated by President Eisenhower?that the security of his country could not be guaranteed without bases in South Asia. It was Eisenhower'sthesis that since India was unwilling to cooperate, it was the bounden duty of the US to acquire bases in Pakistan with the acquiescence of India if possible, with the hostility of India if necessary. And we know what transpired since then.
America'smilitarist approach towards South Asia and its diabolical alliance with Pakistan forced India much against its will to move closer to the Soviet Union, despite its strong commitment to the policy of non-alignment. And we know the consequences.
The seminar, even while going a little into the past has wisely spent time in outlining future prospects. V.M. Patil'svaledictory address has some sound advice to give, which is worth listening to. He starts with the presumption that the two-nation theory of the theocratic Islamic State of Pakistan vis-?-vis pluralistic democratic India has not only failed, but has also shattered Pakistan'sdream of leading the Islamic community of nations. So where does one go from there? Patil is clear about the ?harsh ground realities? in the post-Kargil South Asian context and the minor hurdles faced by Pakistan on the road-map for India-Pakistan peaceful co-existence. Is there any hope for reconciliation in the future? According to Patil (who incidentally, is an ex-Lt. General) the first step is to bury the bitter past, which would necessarily be a slow and painful process. The second step would be to accept the truth that future confrontation will only harm both countries and benefit only their adversaries. The third step would be to identify all areas of cooperation and work doggedly towards their fulfillment.
It is a remarkably objective presentation. What this book has done is to examine Indo-Pak relations in all their phases and to suggest ways and means to move forward to a period of co-prosperity. As the seminar rightly noted, a fresh approach is both possible and necessary. And it is precisely because the seminar dared to look at the subject from all possible angles that one can heed its conclusion that one should not be ?unduly pessimistic?, even when ?quick-fix solutions? are handled with care and discretion. As a study of Indo-Pak relations in all its grubby facets, this book has much to commend itself, considering that the seminar has dared to see things as they are with eyes wide open.