Sunday, 12 October 2014

India-Pakistan : Joining Hearts Vs Pointed Guns

JOINING HEARTS VS POINTED GUNS : THE DEBATE CONTINUES





An effort of peace, of bridging the gap, in the backdrop of blazing guns... and not the first, either. I was part of one such initiative : Jodey Dilon Ko, which was an interesting experience. In this post, I had observed : "Will this interaction {culture + trade} bridge the divide? All that lies in the future, and depends upon a peaceful coexistence between the two of us, devoid of terrorist attacks, and cross-border violence. That is the core, the non-negotiable reality. The ball is firmly in Pakistan's court; I just hope the moderates in Pakistan win the day..."

Today, as we stare at yet another violation in the backdrop of this peace process, it is time for us to try and analyse whether these efforts are worth it, or are they a complete waste of time and energy. This is especially so, since we now have a Government that is intent on a firm stance - no talks in the shadow of the gun. This is a shift, a significant shift, that cannot be ignored, as it has far-reaching implications


THE POLITICAL BACDROP

It has been a real pleasure, seeing the response from the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the Indian Government : No Talks, No Discussions in the shadow of the Gun. This, combined with an invite to the Pakistani PM for the swearing in ceremony, sends a clear signal - we are open to discussions, we are open to talks : but not until the Guns stop blazing. This has now been firmly established as a non-negotiable reality, a bottomline for normalcy. 

This seemingly over-the-top and ultra-hardline response is welcome, since we have soft pedaled the entire Pakistani intervention and violence for far too long; virtually everything has been tried. We have been talking to them for donkeys years with absolutely nothing to show for it. It seems to me, a lay citizen, that even those Pakistani commitments actually made in talks arent worth the paper they are written on. And, while we talk, blood has continued to flow, the flow stemmed only by the iron-will of our security forces, and their incessant sacrifices. The price we Indians have paid for Pakistani violence has been heavy indeed - a price the entire world ignores in totality. It is a story written in large amounts of blood, and the blood-soaked words on the parchment of history are still wet. 

This response is in reality, only mildly tougher, and eminently reasonable : it stands as one of the Narendra Modi-led governments successes, and acts of sheer brilliance. All The Government of India is saying is : Talk to us, and only to us; Dont create trouble while we are talking to each other; No Violence; And No intervention. This is, any which way you look at it, a completely reasonable stance, and sets a paradigm in which some progress can perhaps be genuinely attempted. 

Critically, it sets a bar for the Pakistanis - a bar that will have to be reached by them in order to demonstrate their genuine commitment to peace, and order. We are willing to talk - it isnt on our terms, as some in the Media have reported it. It is simply that we are willing to talk in conditions that can foster calm discussion, negotiation, genuine sharing of views in a conducive atmosphere. This is a basic minimum for talks, for discussions that can lead to a solution, and a win-win situation - howsoever remote that may seem under the current set of circumstances. 


THE WAY FORWARD

It is in the backdrop above that peace moves and cultural interchanges have to be seen; it is in the above backdrop that the way forward has to be analysed. A full analysis is of course beyond the scope of this blog, but we normal citizens can at least get a grip on the entirety of the situation across the border, and view it in its entirety, not through our own views, opinions and experiences

There are 2 views in primacy - a view of enmity and perhaps open dislike, even hatred; and another view of bridging the divide or the gap, and moving on, side-stepping the violence. It is my submission that both are way off the mark; one being dangerous, and the other ludicrous.  On both sides, emotions can get away with themselves; leading to hasty statements. Such hasty statements, if made by people like you and me, may or may not have a significant impact; but such hasty statements made by someone in authority - perhaps influenced by public opinion, can be extremely effective in swinging things, if you get my point. 

The NaMo handling of this entire affair has set off jingoistic chest-thumping and showers of praise on side of the spectrum, with its attendant social media chatter. These are emotion-charged, and are extremely effective in building public opinion, which is vital in the modern world. While there can be no question that the entire matter has been handled with elan and class by NaMo, let us not go overboard. Please remember that Indians have died on the border; Indian blood has been spilt. Spare a thought for them. Fine, we didnt start the shooting, but that doesnt mean we celebrate or go over-emotional; not in this powder keg. 

A calm and satisfied response is, in my opinion, what is most called for : Calm and Satisfied since the violence has been  met, defeated, a stern message sent by an excellent Government, a hard spine has been revealed, and a tungsten core shown to the world, a view of a nation not in a mood for nonsense of any kind. That would also be the best support to this Government, and in keeping with our PMs quiet, firm and clear stance and words.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have events like the 2 referred to above, efforts which bring the people of the 2 warring nations together in cultural exchanges of views, or in trade, or other such peaceful activities. While no doubt welcome, we cannot set much store by such activities, for they completely ignore the ground reality of Pakistan, and its internal conflicts, and makeup; as also the one fundamental fact that is unalterable - Pakistan is in every way a nation that defines itself as Not-India. 

History is proof of the above - for example, even as the conference in Lahore was underway, and platitudes of peace were being stated, The Kargil War was being planned. There have been regular episodes of  violence from the other side, even as talks continued; terror was and is constantly being exported from that nation. This is a fact that cannot change; and is not likely to in the foreseeable future. What use is cultural interchange as a method of pushing peace, when that same nation is exporting terror to us? 

Cultural interchange can only bring about appreciation for each others similarity, or culture, or some such aspect. These aspects are of no importance in the sphere of politics and defence - and the issues are defence related issues. Further, the people of that other nation are in no position to alter the fundamental positions taken by their Armed Forces and politicians. Not now, not in the foreseeable future. Seen in that light, all such measures frankly make for good Media coverage, but have no impact on the relations between the two sides, inasmuch as the participants are completely unable to make a dent on their nations' policies on one side of the border. Enough said. 

That is why it is far better to me middle of the road on this - not go in for too much jingoism, and not go in for too much hoopla over peace initiatives. There is precisely nothing to celebrate about - we, too have spilt blood. Fine, they started it first, and we have responded emphatically. We are not to blame, but try and tell that to the families of the dead or should I say, the martyrs. 

If anything, let us be thankful for our open society, democracy and tolerance that has ensured internal peace within a sea of violence all around us; for the presence of a strong-willed Central Government which knows how to handle this matter. Let us be thankful to the Armed Forces and the BSF for keeping us constantly safe, and pray for them, for their well-being. May God grant them continued courage and strength; May God Protect them from harm

Once again, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You, all the martyrs who have given their lives so that we may live in peace, and for the men who put their lives in danger for us. We live in  dangerous times; that we a are calm and peaceful nation in a sea of violence all around us, is also a tribute to the selfless sacrifices of these braves who have given their lives for us...

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