Obsessive-compulsive disorder? - Jawed Naqvi - Thursday 28th April 2011

OUR obsession with India and Pakistan peace can lead us to bizarre and potentially harmful choices. We hear from a British media account, for example, that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has deputed a secret envoy to talk directly to Pakistan`s army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Though the report has been denied it does follow a WikiLeaks disclosure that Britain as recently as 2009 saw Gen Kayani as an obstacle to the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Of course, the pathology of the dispute may have shifted to the jostling for influence in Afghanistan by the two South Asian rivals.
In more ways than one, as far as New Delhi`s pursuit of elusive peace with Pakistan goes, the civilian government in Islamabad is deemed to be powerless or made to feel redundant before the military. In a not so subtle way, this means that New Delhi is prepared, not for the first time, to undermine any democratic impulse or institutions of democracy that may be striking roots in Pakistan.
The boot could just as easily be on the other foot. It may be argued, for example, that India`s military is no less a holy cow. After all, it was the Indian army that scuttled a plan, which was all but ready for signing a far-reaching troop withdrawal pact for the Siachen glacier. Should President Zardari send a secret emissary to talk to India`s military bosses? Or will that be too insulting a proposal for Indian democracy?
While everyone`s perception of the army`s primacy in Pakistan is rooted in history and in the country`s political experience for decades, the equation would not endure as easily without overt and covert support from western democracies. India`s position here looks more hypocritical because it did shed crocodile tears for democracy when Gen Pervez Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharif`s government in 1999. sherwani
After persisting with his farcical posturing for months, Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee became the first leader to greet Musharraf. The general was getting a stitched to celebrate his transition from chief executive to president. Mr Vajpayee`s phone call is believed to have surprised him.
If peace is predicated on genuflecting before self-proclaimed messiahs in uniform in the two countries then we may as well learn to live with undulating patterns of hot-cold ties.
It is clear as daylight that governments on both sides of the border are beholden to militarist hawks for their survival. That is a bad enough situation to be in. But that is the nature of the beast. What about the numerous NGOs and perennial peaceniks who have been visiting each other to hammer out a resolution. They too have failed, haven`t they?
Seeking peace, like war-mongering, has become a cottage industry. We had hitherto heard of journalists being carried in the pockets of politicians. Now, in the interests of peace between two nuclear-powered states, we watch with amusement the spectacle of this or that journalists` organisation carrying parliamentarians of both countries for a treat to colonial hill stations for a powwow. Other than the NGOs or political parties and hawkish establishments in the two countries, the people have not shown any great enterprise either for fighting a real fight for India-Pakistan amity.
You can`t expect a people who refuse to bleat out a mild protest when a nuclear missile is tested by their country to be championing the lofty cause of peace. If a nuclear experiment is seen by ordinary people as a national achievement of sorts, then I am afraid we are wasting our time on an untenable situation.
So where do we go from here? Let`s begin by defining our goals. Let`s suppose an India-Pakistan peace as we vaguely or perhaps naively know it to be breaks out. What would that do for the people of the countries involved?
Suppose Manmohan Singh visits Pakistan this year or next to sign a much-reheated deal on Kashmir or some such thing (anything at all to make him eligible for a Nobel Prize, which Mr Vajpayee had coveted in vain). Would that neutralise Gen Kayani`s self-admitted India-centric military priorities? Even if it does, would that help him pare down the military budget so as to put money in real national priorities such as health and education?
If the entire purpose of the exercise, however, is to turn the Pakistan army`s focus from the tense but dormant eastern border to the white heat in the west, would that bring peace to Karachi, Lahore, Quetta or Islamabad? Would India disband its forces or would it more likely deploy them with accelerated zeal to thwart popular rebellions at home, if also to direct its firepower at China?
I think the problem confronting Pakistan is far deeper than the quest for peace with India can resolve. And only when it has addressed those problems, which range from ethnic discord to rightwing-style nationalist pride in military hardware, when it has ensured that farmers do not commit suicide and there is an equitable land distribution and equal claim to scant water resources among the country`s diverse regions, can there be a fertile ground for peace with its big neighbour.
The interesting fact in this is that these are precisely the problems that India is confronted with — each one of them.
Look closely enough at their social profile and you will find a breathtaking similarity between the so-called superpower in the making and the so-called failing state. To each Mukhtar Mai there are dozens of Bhanwari Devis who are raped on the orders of powerful kangaroo courts or by bigoted mobs that mock the state`s promise to protect the weak. India`s Supreme Court was outraged by the widespread incidence of `honour killing`, a phenomenon not too different from the one dogging Pakistan. n
So, next time a peace activist crosses the border, with good intentions no doubt, they would do well to look over their shoulders to see if they have done the required homework to make their agenda remotely authentic.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/28/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-2.html

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