Give peace a chance - Rizwan Asghar - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

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According to conventional wisdom, the warp and woof of human history is the succession of conflicts. Cleavages and consensus are simultaneously present in all societies at all times. Though civilised men have condemned conflict throughout the ages, we have not been able to avoid them.

The Pak-India bilateral dialogue with the purpose of resolving contentious issues and paving the way for enduring peace has largely been undermined by a lack of sincerity on the part of both parties. Of late, the leaders of both countries have agreed to ‘resume dialogue on all issues’ following the foreign secretaries’ meeting in Thimphu on February 6. The leadership on either side has reiterated its commitment to remain engaged in a sustained dialogue process to bring lasting peace between the two countries.

The announcement of the resumption of dialogue, stalled since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, has provided a rare opportunity to both countries to approach the parleys with a new spirit and constructive mind. The meeting in Thimphu has come six months after talks between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi ended in acrimony in Islamabad.

The dialogue would address all issues that were part of the earlier composite dialogue process including humanitarian matters, security concerns, the Kashmir issue and all other associated matters. To seek a more broad-ranging engagement and boost the peace process, India and Pakistan will have to resolve all bilateral issues which have harmed relations for decades. The political leadership should also play its role in bringing to an end covert violence sponsored by intelligence agencies within each other’s countries.

Some analysts say that talks will be fruitless because the Indian leadership has always used dialogue to show the world that it is sincere in resolving all outstanding disputes with Pakistan. They think that like previous rounds of talks, the present endeavour will be futile because the Indian government would just use ‘peace dialogue’ to gather moral support in its bid to seek a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.

But there is no other option. Negotiations are the only way to resolve disputes between the two countries that have long remained embroiled in a confrontational engagement.

Talks should be sustained by making them ‘uninterrupted and uninterruptible’, in the words of Mani Shankar Iyer, which necessitates denying terrorists the satisfaction of disrupting the peace process. In addition, the dialing-down of tensions with India will help Pakistan to concentrate on combating Taliban extremists within its borders. Any improvement of relations between the two countries must begin and end with eliminating all intervening factors that make these two nations inimical. We have to move on and look to the future.

India and Pakistan were born out of the bloody partition of the subcontinent at the time of independence from Britain in 1947. Since then, both countries have tried everything including three wars and mobilisation of troops to resolve problems but have failed. So it is time to give peace a chance.

The two countries share language, culture, food, geography, and history with each other. But bickering over Kashmir has poisoned their ties. The people of both countries don’t want to live as adversaries forever. They want to have friendly and good relations with each other. A nuclear war between Pakistan and India would kill over a billion people and no one will emerge a winner. It is the job of our leaders to take their people out of darkness and find political solutions to all knotty political problems.

It is hoped that a rekindled peace process, that is set to resume after a gap of over two years, could fix relations between India and Pakistan, enabling both countries to turn from the path of conflagration to the path of cooperation.


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