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Peace the only option

Anyone that thinks that war is an option has got to be a nut. Anyone that thinks that war between nuclear- armed countries is an option should be committed. Nuclear weapons are there to stop wars from happening, not to start them. By that measure Israel’s Netanyahu should be in the nut house.

Peace is the only option, peace that is acceptable to all sides. That is honourable. Else it is not peace at all, only an illusion of it. India and Pakistan are champion illusionists, but illusionists would know better anyone that illusions evaporate very fast.

Pakistanis are a very optimistic people, a most endearing, quality and a very big strength. Any India-Pakistan summit and we feel that peace is at hand. Most laudable, for it underlines not only that we are an optimistic but also fundamentally a peace loving people who want to get on with their lives. Which makes our lack of peace at home ironic, but that is another subject. When our Zardari recently broke bread with their Manmohan Singh in Delhi, we went through naive excitement for the umpteenth time. If you really want peace certain realities have to be borne in mind.  

India’s state terrorism particularly in Kashmir begets and reinforces freedom struggles what it calls non-state terrorism. Blaming Pakistan deflects attention from its state terrorism. Sure Pakistan gives it succor as any adversary would, like India did the ‘Mukti Baheni’. But it was our own state terrorism and iniquity against the Bengalis that caused it. India took advantage, as any adversary would.

If Pakistan were to ignore Kashmir the struggle might lose some of its teeth, but only for a while, for soon it will grow new ones. The Kashmir revolt is a creation of Indian intransigence that Pakistan takes advantage of. I have always said: state terrorism begets non-state terrorism. Non-state terrorism will remain no matter how many treaties you sign while brushing cores issues under a carpet dyed in human blood and woven with the weak threads of bilateral trade, film productions and cricket matches. As long as state terrorism persists non-state terrorism will continue. Period. I cannot understand why the world cannot comprehend such a self-evident truth.

India is a large country with a small country mentality whereas Pakistan is a relatively small country with a big country mentality. Ours comes from the millennium-long Muslim rule over India. Conversely, India’s comes from being ruled by Muslims for over a millennium. I don’t know how much currency this theory has, but both countries should have disabused themselves of such complexes by now. India, I feel, is beginning to get out of this mindset with its economic upswing, but it will not be totally eradicated until the next generations in both countries take the helm for they are less burdened by stories of slavery and Partition. Land and population sizes don’t matter, the human condition does. That the majority of our peoples live in abject poverty makes us puny. By that measure – and it is the only relevant measure – Singapore is a much bigger country than either India or Pakistan. Its real resource is the high quality of its leadership and its greater human capital development. By these measures, India and Pakistan are pathetic.

Strong and wise rulers on both sides can bring detente. Neither Zardari nor Manmohan can be accused of either strength or wisdom. Cleverness: yes. Strength: hardly. Wisdom: a big fat no. Only strong and wise leaders can ‘sell’ an inevitably compromise-laden agreement to their peoples without their patriotism being questioned, their opponents making capital out of it and a ratings-hungry media taking jibes at them.

The great anomaly is where real power lies in both countries. It should with the chief executive who is the head of state and prime minister. But both countries are dynasty ridden. So in Pakistan it lies with the constitutionally ceremonial president because he is also co-chairman of the ruling party by virtue of being Benazir Bhutto’s widower. That is where his power comes from. In India, an Italian catholic lady is leader of the ruling party only because she is Rajiv Gandhi’s widow. That is where her power comes from.

Manmohan Singh is a weak, proxy prime minister as is Pakistan’s Yusuf Reza Gillani. Singh belongs to the small Sikh minority and is keenly aware that he has to go the extra mile to ‘prove’ his patriotism in the backdrop of the Sikh rebellion for an independent state during the eighties, the storming of the Golden Temple and the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards. Gillani is in office at Zardari’s pleasure while he and his son are running from the courts.

Both countries face difficult elections soon, as does their great ‘ally’ America. America will have a determining say in any India-Pakistan deal. All decisions by these three countries now will be heavily informed by the need to get re-elected.

Without the military leaderships of both countries on board any expectation of a meaningful deal is a pipedream. While our army’s role in policy-making is well known, the Indian military’s role is camouflaged. Nothing new: the US military often plays a decisive role in foreign and defence policy. If it did not Iran would have been attacked by the Bush the Brat.

Should we forget the ‘core issue’, Kashmir and the UN resolutions asking for a plebiscite there? Or should we sort it out first. Or, should we put it on the backburner and normalize relations in other areas – which India calls ‘Confidence Building Measures’? Kashmir will not let us forget it as long as a freedom struggles rages there. And it will continue raging with or without our support. In fact, the Kashmiri freedom fighters could even turn on us for abandoning them. As long as the Kashmiri freedom struggles continues unresolved the sword of Damocles will keep hanging over our heads for it takes only one madman on either side to vapourize all of South Asia. Best to do all simultaneously – core issue, other delimitation issues and CBMs – what Musharraf and Vajpayee agreed to, a ‘Composite Dialogue’ and hope for the best. What is needed is simultaneous statesmanship and raw guts on both sides. Leave it to the functionaries and we will continue nitpicking for another six decades.

India and Pakistan should stop tussling over an America-free Afghanistan and arrive at a mutually acceptable understanding. Afghanistan may not want either of us anyway. As if killing ourselves over Kashmir isn’t enough, we cannot go killing ourselves over Afghanistan too.

Illogical demands should stop. Asking for Hafiz Saeed without furnishing adequate proof is illogical. America has to ship up or shape out of the India-Pakistan equation instead of being a fly in the ointment by placing a bounty on Saeed’s head one day and then changing it to a bounty for evidence two days later. If you don’t even have evidence what the hell are you doing placing a bounty on someone head? The only sense it makes is that you are trying to derail the normalization process.

America wants peace for its own reasons.

It realises that war between India and Pakistan is no longer an option. Another war between them could well mean another World War. The US and its traditional allies will suffer unacceptable multi-sectoral damage, regardless of what happens to India and Pakistan.

It wants to an India free from ‘Pakistani sniping’ to focus on creating an economic and military bulwark against fast-growing Chinese economic and military might.

The conundrum is that while America says it wants India-Pakistan normalization, it doesn’t want them ganging up to form a South Asian Economic Association or some such, which has the seeds of becoming another giant. Worse, Pakistan’s presence could be instrumental in bringing China into the fold as India could Russia. Can you then imagine what a ‘monster’ the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with the South Asian Economic Association could become? Soon energy-rich Iran and the Central Asian states would want to be part of the action.

They needn’t worry, though. America is so far ahead in the sciences – medicine, genetics, space, computer sciences and so much more – that it cannot lose its position of preeminence though it will certainly lose some of its monopoly. No bad thing for America either, for sharing over-lordship might bring it’s foreign and defence policies into the realm of civilization and rationality.

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