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Pakistan and India

  • Posted On: 11th June 2013
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In this present crisis between Pakistan and India, we are seeing either the death of a civilisation or the birth of one. Civilisation stands on the threshold of life and death. Anyone who believes that we may use our nuclear arsenals to wipe out our major cities is living in a world of unstable mirages.

In a game of chess when only the king and queen are left and an odd straggler, the finish is to final death. Between our two countries, we have a minimum of 160 nuclear devices more horrific than the ones that wreaked death and horror on innocent citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Is this what we would like to inflict on our two civilisations? Are we willing to stand by and see one-fourth of the world’s population killed and mutilated?
The consequence of such an unlimited war between our two countries on Asia and the Middle East will be fatal. Winds that shift as nimbly as the grains of sand in a dust storm will carry disease, contamination and death. Those who live in the far corners of our world will not be free from this atmospheric pollution. No country in the world will escape the consequence of this act of madness.
And what legacy will we leave for those of our children who may survive? A deep hatred in our future generation that will not be resolved for years to come, and scorn for the rest of the world that is fully aware of our situation and is doing all it can to see the folly of ego, pride, and may I say, greed for territory vanquishing the lessons of our religions which preach peace and tolerance.

The Mumbai tragedy was reprehensible that no sane person can pardon. We had our own Marriott tragedy. To avoid a war launched by fanatics on either side of our borders, we must let the Line of Control be controlled by independent UNMOGIP observers. We must have hot lines established at the highest level in our two countries so that anaccidental nuclear war is not launched by either a terrorist or a military officer at a lower rank who holds in his mind the concept of fanaticism. We should try to make our subcontinent free of all nuclear weapons. We must act instantly to defuse the present situation. We must ensure that no terrorist will be allowed to cross our borders. We have to be jointly engaged in the war against terrorists. We must defend ourselves against terrorism, if we are to avoid the madness that both countries can unleash on each other, and recognise the fact that a terrorist strike may tragically launch a war between us. To avert a holocaust that no survivor will forgive, let us sit down and talk and act. No one can clap with only one hand. We may not like each other’s viewpoints, but let us sit down and talk and resolve this highly unstable situation.

The gentlemen who lead the armed forces of our two countries have been trained to fight wars. But they have also been trained to maintain peace. They are very well read. They have studied again and again not only the strategy of war but also the strategy of peace. Their honour and their love for their country is unblemished, and their patriotism supreme. They more that any one else understand the futility of war between Pakistan and India, and what horror and death it will leave in its train. There is no question of survival for either Pakistan or India if war breaks out.

Some time ago before the Agra Summit, I had written an open letter to the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee that I believe is as pertinent today as it was in 2001:
“Your recent letter to Mehdi Hassan is a golden gesture to an ailing genius.
You wrote: “I join millions of your fans in India in praying for your speedy and complete recovery so that the world of music may continue to have one of its greatest living exponents around for a long time to come.” You went on to state, among other generous remarks: “Your music, like the music of all the great artists of India and Pakistan, reminds us of the many common bonds of culture and spirituality that unite our two countries.” The fact that the Indian Prime Minister wrote this letter at a time when he was about to undergo or had undergone a difficult knee operation tells us a lot about the innate goodness of his heart and mind.”

Knowing all this should we allow the beautiful valley of Kashmir or an act of vile terrorists in Mumbai or Islamabad to become the death knell of our great subcontinent? Shall every Pakistani and Indian suffer the flame of the nuclear fire and the agony of nuclear disease for our intransigence? Should we, who are poets, forget the soul of this sub-continent that has stirred with glorious music, great art, and profound literature? Should we forget the dancing feet that bring joy to our lives, and the voices of our children that herald spring; and give way to the sound of the missiles flying from their caves of death in a roar of madness that obliterates the innocent with the wicked, and leaves the alive wishing that they too were dead. Must we, who call ourselves men, close our eyes to the great disaster of nuclear fire that awaits this beautiful subcontinent of Pakistan and India if we don’t change our ways? Is our great civilisation doomed to self-destruction?

Our present government consists of people of my age. These are men and women passionately committed to Pakistan as the Indian government is passionately committed to India. There is no time better than now to settle the Kashmir dispute and the issue of terrorists that is now unfortunately linked. Pakistan and India are more important than Kashmir. We cannot allow for that single miscalculation that will erase all that we are from the map of this world. We are on the brink of that single miscalculation today. For the sake of our children, for the sake of this sub-continent, for the sake of generations to come that will judge our act, let us pull ourselves away from the terror of nuclear annihilation, and show the wisdom that others in the future history of our two great nations may write; that we were men of courage, intelligence, and character.

Let us not hold the world hostage to a passion and power play that spells disaster for all of us. Election, internal problems and a thousand other headaches are what all leaders face. But nothing should overshadow our quest for peace. The first step should be to withdraw our forces from our borders.

Terrorism of any kind is repugnant to all humanity. Let us together set up checks and balances that will defeat the evil of terrorism in our two countries and in this world. Peace should be our gift to the world and not war. The spirits of Jinnah and Gandhiji want us to live.

Cosmetic changes like allowing our airlines to fly over our two countries or withdrawing our warships to safer havens will not help either of us. Both of us have to withdraw our soldiers from our borders. Otherwise, we are playing a very dangerous game; the consequences of which will be the certain destruction of one fourth of humanity with terrible retribution for the rest of the world. Those who sit today and make half-hearted statements in support of peace from abroad will face the wrath of nature. The winds that travel our universe will ensure this retribution for those who did not do enough to prevent this holocaust.
It is time to focus on the passion of the hawks in our countries that leads us to place hundreds of thousands of men on our borders in all too dangerous a repeater fashion. This is a historical and strategic error and shows grave irresponsibility and a callous indifference to those who live in this sub-continent.
May Allah in His compassion, in His Mercy, and in His Bounty Guide all of us to safety and the shores of a beautiful world.

The author is a Rhodes Scholar and has served on the Dean’s Council of the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; and is Advisory Professor of Tongji University, Shanghai.

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