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March 9, 2019

Looking beyond: Fears grow of all-out conflict

Relations between India and Pakistan have always been minefield of mutual recriminations, communal antagonisms and military confrontations. Despite this grim record, the two South Asian nuclear powers have made sporadic progress at the negotiating table whenever both sides demonstrated statesmanship, restraint and perseverance. During bilateral talks, India with a sense of belligerency stresses interdependence and a preponderance of Indian military power in the region. Pakistan is characteristically more interested in emphasizing distinctions, forging external security ties and maintaining countervailing forces against Indian bullying tactics.

Despite the dueling accounts of whose air force did what, one thing was certain: For the first time in almost half a century, Indian aircraft ventured beyond the Line of Control but unable to achieve anything other than relieving their payload while fleeing. While Pakistani air force was able to down an Indian MIG and captured its pilot as a prized trophy. The act marked a potentially grave escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Why peace is so elusive for these two neighbours? The problem rests with breaking with the past and opening up new avenues and encouraging people to rise above and think beyond themselves assume leadership with new imagination and vision for a sustainable future.

What needs to be done to break the historical impasse from hostility to understanding? Pakistan and India both appear to be victims of their own weaknesses and strengths and continue to operate from a position of domestic policy agenda, not necessarily impacting the future-making in any rational sense of political manifestation. While both possess nuclear arsenals and gained nuclear power status to ensure mutual destruction, the need is to rethink and redraw the strategic priorities to envisage preference for peacemaking and conflict resolution, and not a confrontational strategy in dealing with the future.

For more than seven decades political tensions, communal violence and unwanted upheaval of wars have drained out positive thinking, proactive energies and commitment to change good neighborly relationships. The primitive disposition of mistrust and disdained outlook impedes in the normalization of friendly relations between the two countries except for a brief spell when they are playing cricket matches, but that too have been forbidden by the present BJP government.

Kashmir is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan for the last seven decades and the raison d’être for the current war like situation. Whether the people of Jammu and Kashmir join India or Pakistan or come up with their own solution, it should be their choice, not the continued occupation of this valley. Washington Post notes: the structural violence that is embedded in the day-to-day lives of Kashmiris living under a military occupation should be addressed first.  If India allows the persecuted people of Kashmir to utilize their right of self-determination and to decide their own future as per the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949, it will be a huge step not only in the normalizations of their relations but their rapport and collaboration will strengthen the regional peace and prosperity.

This is the age of regional thinking. The many trade pacts are a sign of our times that nations are not thinking as individuals but on a collective and on a regional premise ─ Make America Great Again ripped from a horror movie, is a slogan of an imbecile. India is a big country with a rich history and should think in regional terms and not as India alone to sustain its growth and overcome its equally burgeoning internal problems.

Pakistani PM Imran Khan has twice extended dialogue offer to India; wars are easy to start but the end is always unknown. With battle cries mounting, India has rebuffed his offers.

Peace denied to 1.56 billion people of the sub-continent can return only when the disputes are resolved. Peace so necessary to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease cannot come by the surrender of legitimate rights, but through their attainment. In international affairs, there is no such thing as eternal animosity. The existing conflict between India and Pakistan must one day give way to sanity. Sooner the better.

Javed Akbar is a free-lance writer, his opinion columns have appeared in the Toronto Star.


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On July 7, 2024 in Toronto, Canada, Dimitri Lascaris delivered a speech on the right to resist oppression.

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