Sunday, February 20, 2005

Compulsions of Peace

Edited & Brought to You by ilaxi

Byline by M.J.Akbar:Compulsions of Peace

India and Pakistan, having fought over Kashmir for so long, have at long last found time for the Kashmiri.

War breeds vested interests that will not easily surrender their lucrative space. Peace must build its own vested interests. Natwar Singh has placed us on a bus that could create such interests: some at the emotional level, others at the economic level, for he has also opened up tourism in the valley to Pakistan.

Here is a thought for the war lobby that must have surely begun planning how to sabotage the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus link scheduled to start from 7 April. In the third week of October 1947 war began between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The conflict has lasted 58 years. In the first week of January 2004 Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf signed the Islamabad declaration that has served as the basis of the current rapprochement. Peace will have lasted 58 weeks by the time the first bus leaves Srinagar for Muzaffarabad.

In 58 years of conflict uncounted thousands of young lives have been lost and not a single square inch of land has changed hands. In 58 weeks of peace, yesterday’s heresies have become today’s facts, and what was unthinkable five years ago will become a reality six weeks later. Fireworks in Srinagar welcomed the promise that Natwar Singh and Khurshid Kasuri offered in Islamabad.

India-Pakistan relations are an exercise in the art of the possible. Occasionally, as happened this week during external affairs minister Natwar Singh’s visit to Islamabad and Lahore, this is elevated to a fine art. While credit must always be evenly shared, a particular word of appreciation is necessary for the statesmanship of Natwar Singh. He did not let politics interfere with national interest. The Islamabad declaration was made by a bitter political foe, but instead of being petty and finding fault he built on that understanding and delivered far beyond conventional expectations. The declaration was a foundation, a statement of intent: nothing more, and indeed nothing less. The hard work still had to be done.

It says something about the state of the BJP that it has responded to the Kashmir bus like a crab with ulcers. If the BJP is searching for much-needed comfort in traditional anti-Pakistan postures, then I have some news for the party. Atal Behari Vajpayee made all that irrelevant.

The war lobby, which of course is a coalition of varied interests, must have an objective, for war cannot be an end in itself. Let us try and examine what it is as coolly and unsentimentally as possible. Militants, the self-proclaimed "jihadis" who have picked up the gun, believe that the status of Jammu and Kashmir can be changed by continuous, low-intensity, high-casualty warfare as long as they have the protection of a base outside the reach of the Indian Army. They underestimate the will of a state to preserve its geographical integrity. It is easy to be gulled by the rhetoric of a television debate, particularly when someone else’s child is being sent into the killing fields.

Situations do not remain static. India and Pakistan have taken significant steps in the last seven years to preserve their national integrity, the most critical element being that they are now mature nuclear powers with efficient delivery systems. This has created a sense of psychological parity, particularly in Pakistan, which laboured, with reason, under the weight of being the smaller and therefore more vulnerable nation. The new zero-sum game has a happy calculus: neither side can win, and both might lose all they have if they are not careful.

You could extend the syndrome. All the three principal military powers of Asia, China, India and Pakistan, are now mature nuclear states (North Korea would fall into the category of an immature nuclear state). China, India and Pakistan therefore lend the region from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans an unusual degree of geopolitical stability, for the era of defeat is over. So if a 1971 is now impossible, so is a 1962. A mixture of fear and opportunism was once the basis of uncertainty, and uncertainty promoted tension and adventurism. The beneficial paradox is that peace opens up opportunities that war once closed. China would never have recognised Sikkim as part of India under the threat of war. It has done so through the compulsions of peace.

Peace has its compulsions as well, but since no sabre rattles we rarely hear about them. The compulsion of war is sacrifice: eat grass if you must, but find the money for arms. The compulsion of peace is economic growth and a better life. People put pressure on their leaderships to deliver more consumer goods, better basic infrastructure, health care, safety and a whole clutch of freedoms: to talk on phones without being tapped, to get access to entertainment, to travel with ease across frozen borders. Rasheed Masoodi lives in Srinagar, is 65 years old and has not seen his father, who lives in Muzaffarbad, for 56 years. A son who is a grandfather will now meet his father. Raja Mohammad Hussain is 96 and cannot restrain his joy that he will be able to see his birthplace, Muzaffarabad, before he dies. Peace has relit hope that conflict had extinguished. Those in power sneer at sentiment. They deliver sermons on what they will do for Kashmir, and have no time for the Kashmiri.

India and Pakistan, having fought over Kashmir for so long, have at long last found time for the Kashmiri.

It would be a disservice to underestimate what has been achieved. The last time a vehicle plied between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar was in October 1947, and it carried men intent on war. That is not a facetious truth. It is a harsh memory that has led to more bitterness on our subcontinent than any other fact of our history barring partition. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, father of Farooq, never forgot the human price that Kashmiris had to pay as a problem became a tragedy and the tragedy spiralled out of control. The dream of an open road that could reunite families was always a part of the National Conference manifesto.

It requires will to change a won’t. Natwar Singh and Khurshid Kasuri showed precisely how diplomacy can be used creatively when the will to do something positive exists. You can either find a solution for every problem, or a problem for every solution. And the bus was as tricky as it gets, for it involved issues as basic as identity and sovereignty. The two foreign ministers chose to look for solutions. They operated on the strength of a basic agreement, that no decision would be tantamount to any dilution of the known positions taken by the two countries on Kashmir. Pakistan could not accept a Kashmiri crossing a disputed border with an Indian passport for it would have been tantamount to recognition of Kashmir as a part of India. So a document was created that would contain all the details that a passport has, would be issued by the Regional Passport Officer (who is a servant of the federal government) and handed over to the other country for permission to enter, just as a passport is handed over for a visa.

Now, it was Pakistan’s turn to accommodate. Under UN resolutions, any travel across the Line of Control should have been regulated by UN personnel (who actually do exist, however nominally). Instead the travel will be handled bilaterally. Further, the Northern Areas of the original Kashmir state have been separated from "Azad Riasat-e-Jammu-o-Kashmir" by Islamabad. But under this agreement, residents of that region will also be permitted a Kashmiri status if they want to take the bus.

India dropped one of its demands to accommodate another agreement with extraordinary potential, the gas pipeline that will, if all goes well, run through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to Turkmenistan. At one level, it is a project that suits India’s needs much more than Pakistan’s, for Pakistan would have got the gas in any case. But that is not the main point of the concept. This is a daring example of what should be called eco-politics: the triumph of mutual economic benefit through the application of positive political skill. The crossroads of so many neighbours are policed by the devil. If India and Pakistan can cooperate and define common strategic goals for this energy-rich region, they can together challenge the domination of any power that seeks unilateral primacy in the Middle East and Central Asia. This is not a claim made without consideration, or a day dream.

Is there any significance in the fact that the bus was first mooted by India? Yes. It is evidence that Delhi is ready for flexibility. Not so long ago, rigidity was synonymous with patriotism. That cul de sac has been breached, and suddenly possibilities are opening up. India could become the meeting point of pipelines between Burma and Central Asia.

War breeds vested interests that will not easily surrender their lucrative space. Peace must build its own vested interests. Natwar Singh has placed us on a bus that could create such interests: some at the emotional level, others at the economic level, for he has also opened up tourism in the valley to Pakistan.

It is a significant achievement. But every achievement is only the starting point for the next one.


Alto said...

A. Yale University Study circle group, who organised your lecture in Sept 2002, about Kashmir, are very in-sensitive and impolite. They do not even know water should be kept on table for speakers. Very bad. Globalisation and Kashmir means, grabbing the chunk of Kashmir economy and making profits, something akin to what they are doing with Nepal right now. Such a beautiful mountain Himalayan state of Nepal which could be as beautiful as any Alpian State of Europe is poor and torn, Why? Because all vultures want the state to be poor and desperate which indirectly means cheaper goods and cheaper services which automatically means greater profits and greater services to Europe, America or UK. Arms are supplied to Maoists, Arms are supplied to Raja, and Democracy is sabotaged. because Democracy means dealing with multiple authorities, which automatically means abiding by rules and agreements which rich countires donot want to do. India, ironically maintained their tradtional Brahmin priestly connections and social connections with Raja,but failed to come out with any significant Economic and Foreign policy which is mutually beneficial to India and Nepal. BJP government at centre was not different in its attitude towards Nepal to explore the possiblites of mutually benefical economic policy. Why Raja is not favourable to India? Raja is not favourable because, Raja is easily manipulable by bigger vultures to exploit Nepali economy. If India allows Raja to continue at the behest of Democracy, India's economic and security concerns are deeply affected, even though such subtelities are not obvious to those drunken with obedience to Americans. Pakistan military rule served exactly this purpose for military ambitions of US and Europe. In this context, Kashmir issue was forcibly made central issue even though Pervez Musharaff signed January 2004 statement and stated to abide by it. The aim to push Kashmir as separate nation state by luring Paksitanis and betrayed group of Muslims in Kashmir is mainly to find a weak head to a rich region of Kashmir. Any foreign emissary, of EU, America, UK issues a statement about Kashmir, more or less around this concept. Pretext used could be anythign, freedom, humanrights, resolution of dispute. Why it is important for India to act on its own? It is important because, it will stand to lose a chunk of its territory if it continues to behave in similar way as in Pakistan or Nepal issue.

B. People who try to find solutions to Peace, peacefully are NOT FOOLS.
Peaceful people, who want to resolve Peace, pluG their ears when they are accused of what they are not.
It is very amusing to see the flutter of reports emerging from American agencies, against Indo-Pak unity to resolve issue, since past two days. One of the them claims Pak is unreliable. Other one claims that Pakistan has over whelming amount of nuclear power. Such a small nation which could have been another state of India, Can it afford to overtake nuclear power of India with same number of years of history of orgin behind it? Think about it. Food for thought. Even if these agencies claim that if Pak is untrust worthy, why is their own American government trusting it. Is the message only to use and provoke hindu rightist groups in India to work against Indo-Pak Peace process, so that disruption appears authentically Indian. If Pak can be trust worthy to aliens like Americans, Why cannot Pak be trust worthy to its neighbour which shares its thoughts, culture, history and pain. Paksitani government should completely ignore this as a ploy of enemies of Indo-Pak friendship and try to re-choose the date of SAFTA meeting,which it cancelled which supposedly would have been held today in Maldives.

Enemies of Peace are:
NRI s in America, CIA agencies which release mis-guiding reports, Jack Straw's hope Peace, even if initiated shall derails as in Srilanka or Ireland ( Indian Express interview)and many short sighted Indians who do not understand implications.

It is indeed a shame that Atal Behari Vachpayee who initiated Peace in 2003-2004, along with his friend and leader of opposition has gone to express concerns about security to start a bus service when he himself was initiator of the Peace process. Does this mean Jack Straw was efficient enough in his meeting, to convince LK Advani to disprupt the Peace process and both the friends are following diktats of Straw studiously. What more can be more hurtful than this behaviour of Ex-Prime Minsiter?

PEACE is a commitment to God. Where Individual will fails God's Plan and Will prevails. Peace is bound t o happen with or without representative charachters of Indian government.

M.J. Akbar's Blog: Presented by ilaxi said...

Thanks for your Comments and noted by m.j.akbar.
NRIs of America? yeah, May be!

- ilaxi

Alto said...

Well! Not just NRIs of America, but overseas residents of Pakistan too, who are deeply entrenched in "Kashmir is Ours" philosphy. Egoistic and Moral Fight of overseas Indians and Paksitanis is reflecting on Sub-continent. I am not saying this with out any basis. Just yesterday, there was news on Guardian/BBC, about how number of immigration applications in UK have gone down from last year to this year by several thousands. If one dig's deeper in the article, two countries which have highest rate of applications are mentioned. It is startling co-ordination as to how first, country is thrown into savagery and economy disrupted by supplying arms thereby resulting in increase in asylum seekers to rich countries. There is a pattern Sir! about how all the warring factions are ripped with passions and supplied with arms and few desperate run away from nation, be it Srilanka, Nepal, Iraq, Iran Palestine or Yugoslavia. These desperate asylum seekers are recorded in all Govt National Immigration Service data. IOM-International Organisation for Migration, with out UN status, yet which works like UN, to which India is not yet signatory, does this job. It has all records of all those immigrants who cross borders to seek asylum. It supplies population data of those who are with asylum status, or resident status or dual passport status. Recent iraq elections were more of an external phenomenon than internal democratic phenomenon. Iraq elections happened in all the countries where asylum seekers are living in the World. Polling booths in Iraq were media show. Guardian has clear numbers of how many Iraqis outside Iraq have voted. In brief, the asylum seekers who lost touch with nation and yet retain cultural roots are used to take predominace of rule over those who are living in Iraq. Same applies to India. We have been partitioned. Kashmir has tendency to become another Nepal. India shouldnot let this happen. Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Intelligence agencies are deeply engrossed in their own battles. Those who have studied history of pattern of Wars and its aftermath, shouldnot let Peace be sabotaged. My view is that the biggest role played in conflict internally in any nation, be it Nepal, India or Srilanka or Bangladesh or Yugoslavia is the role of overseas residents fighting between themselves in respective nations they reside in. Same was the problem with Jews in Israel. Problem today in Middle East is not of locals but of overseas residents who over ride the decisions of locals and want to convert every nation into Pan-nation where they were inhabiting. There is no one speaking on behalf of locals. Local intellectuals are not taken seriously enough. Polticians have been so much corrupted with power and bribe that they implement only when it is from outside. They do not care if it is harmful for nation. Hence outsiders should start telling these politicans about these international political dynamics, though there is no dearth of intellectual comunity in India and no dearth of good people working for many peaceful causes. But what can one do, if the only medicine for disease Politicians have chosen to take is immunisation from outside but not internally nurtured. Anti-dotes have to be supplied to Politicans drunken with corruption, selfishness and power.Ofcourse with out Fear or Favour! But how to do that has become a puzzle in itself. Thanks.

J N Iyer said...

The problem of Kashmir can ONLY be solved by agreement between the parties concerned.
A war will not solve the problem, but create more.
The sooner this is realized the better.
Any attempt by the Sangh Parivar and others to interefere with Art 370 will permanently antagonise the people

J N Iyer said...

Let me add to my previous comments.
The people of J & K became anti-Indian because selfish politicians siphoned off the huge amounts spent on the State, instead of spending on development projects.
The key to solving the Kashmir problem is employment generation.
This was realized and has been advocated by leading thinkers like the late C Subramoniam