Peace, not war
India and Pakistan seemed to realise the necessity of peace than to indulge in political bickering
Deceptive and fragile state policies have achieved nothing and I am sure, the policy makers at the highest level in South Asia have now realised the futility of questing peace in pieces. Since September last year, peace messengers from across the country have been visiting Kashmir off and on for assessing the ground situation and for exploring people-to-people contacts to remove the distrust.
Conferences, seminars and conventions are being held to spread the message of peace. I as an ordinary Kashmiri having stakes in peace, appreciate the Indian civil society for taking initiative to reach out to their fellow Kashmiris. The members of Indian Civil Society, who claim to be the real face of Indian democracy, have of course, turned a new-leaf of peace building in Kashmir. However, to feel difference on ground certain things need to be taken care of for clarity in thoughts and approach and to get desired results out of this cumbersome exercise.
First, there are umpteen organisations claiming to be working for peace and reconciliation. All of these aim at the civil society in both the countries. The track-II, the back channel, and the overt and covert diplomacy. No matter how hard one tries the civil society fails to muster the strength to over ride the internal political compulsions on two sides. The vested interests on two sides are more powerful than the civil societies. However, having said this I must tell you that the way forward towards peace is not meeting of high flown civil society but the coming together of the common people. It would be more useful in the long run if the civil society keen on establishment of peace in South Asia wholeheartedly works for bringing together the common people in the region. We have to go beyond the symbolic confidence building measures presently being implemented for diplomatic and political consumption. The elite society on two sides has no mistrust. It is the common people who need their mistrust created by the propagandist media to be removed. Once in a blue moon lectures and seminars may highlight the problem but the real road to peace is the bringing together of the common people by forcing the governments to remove unreasonable restrictions on travel and trade. Umpteen high society delegations travelling between the two countries will not solve the problem. It is the everyday travel by thousands of common people which will ease the situation. Peace in South Asia is possible only if the civil society musters the power of the common people to break the barriers of mistrust.
The irony of our polity is that South Asian countries try to befriend people in distant lands and totally neglect the neighbours. It is a pity that due to mutual bickering among the South Asian neighbours, the outsiders from distant lands were getting a chance to come here as the global peace brokers. We fail to realise that the so called peace envoys are in fact the very people who are responsible for the discord in this part of the world. They know that we have failed to look within and are looking outside for establishing peace in this region. In fact, they create as well as manipulate the situations to suit their aim. My question to all the distinguished delegates who have assembled here to discuss peace in the South Asian context is how one can discuss peace in South Asia when the governments in the area are looking at war mongers who have unleashed a rein of terror on many civilizations in and outside this part of the world. Is this not a great dichotomy in our part of the world? Whatever we do has two facets. We talk of peace and at the same time look at the war mongers for peace.
Second, we have been repeatedly pronouncing that the idea of war is preposterous as it will destroy not only the sub-continent but the entire South Asian region. At the same time we keep all our options open by overtly and covertly promoting animosity between the neighbours in media. I am afraid that the foreign policies in at least our two countries of India and Pakistan are determined by corporate houses enjoying control on media.
Third, the events of past orchestrated by the vested interests rather the enemies of peace have derailed the once declared “irreversible peace process” between the two countries and the vested interests have still the potential to create a wedge between the peace loving people. We all know that the political leadership of the times lack courage to withstand the pulls and pressures. In such a situation the question: is peace possible in South Asia becomes very relevant. The peace process which had been meticulously built over the years by the efforts of the progressive people on two sides as well as by the active participation of the civil society received a tremendous setback by the events of past couple of years. My point is essentially that peace has to come from below and the people’s yearning for peace should be the bed-rock.
Now coming to the peace in the region in the context of Kashmir, there are the bitter past experiences that made the parties to Kashmir conflict realise that in peace, not war, lies the future of the Indian subcontinent. Needless to say, it is the people of Kashmir who have suffered most in this violent conflict. Though the people of Kashmir from both sides played the key role during the last peace process set in motion by the two countries in persuading both India and Pakistan to find ways for a win-win people centric resolution of the conflict, the truth is that people of this conflict ridden state could not and cannot help unless the two countries agree for a pact that can lead to an amicable solution.
Derailment of the pre 26/11 peace process which was declared irreversible stands witness to it that the process got disrupted despite the people in Kashmir yearning for peace. So we as Kashmiris can hope for peace but I am sorry to say cannot bring it without the support from the two countries. But at the same time, you cannot think of peace without a peaceful Kashmir and peace in Kashmir is illusive unless you address the issue. True that the peace process particularly on the Delhi-Islamabad track has helped in building up capacity and confidence of average Kashmiri to attribute on issues crucial to both development and peace.
In the above context one is prompted to draw certain insights from the post 2004 peace-process. First it was by any yardstick a composite dialogue process moving forward tangibly on all fronts. Second the benefits of this process were useful in further deepening the process as the Kashmir problem was somehow put in a rationale context by the then leadership of the two countries. The process had in a way straightened certain sharp curves in the Kashmir conundrum. In 2004, both the countries resumed talks that had been stalled after the attack on Indian Parliament in 2001; in April 2005 the first bus rolled out from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad, in October 2005 both the countries opened the LoC to facilitate relief operations and later for movement of the people. The earthquake in October 2005 in a way showed the necessity of joint cooperation to tackle many issues of common concern. It was a tragedy for both, but it was tragedy with lessons.
Both the countries seemed to realise the necessity of peace than to indulge in political bickering. Pakistan giving up its insistence on the UN resolutions and India’s softening stand towards making the LoC ‘irrelevant’ are among the remarkable developments that could have been hardly imagined possible a decade earlier. Both India and Pakistan came to realise the value of living in peace, because the peace-dividends are more valuable than the results of war and violence.
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