Since the partition of subcontinent in 1947, Pakistan and India has had three wars alongside with three major peaceful exercises at Tashkent, Simla and Lahore and many other peace initiatives including the Agra summit between General Pervez Musharraf and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Even though the accords were signed between Lal Bahadur Shahstri and General Ayub Khan at Tashkent; between Indra Ghandi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at Simla and between Vajapyee and Nawaz Sharif at Lahore but progress could never prevail as both the sides failed to overcome animosity due to the determination on their standpoints. Agra summit which was initiated with big hopes and considered as great courage of Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf ended as failed campaign for peace and stability between the two countries. It has also been observed that whenever any talk initiative from any side is taken place the common people of both sides show great optimism for friendly relation between Pakistan and India. The feelings of jubilation among the people of India and Pakistan upon Vajpayee’s recent willingness for talks and an invitation from Zafar ullah Khan Jamali to Atal Bihari Vajpayee reflect that the majority of people from both countries want peace and good relations rather than conflicts. Unfortunately, every peace initiative between Pakistan and India, in the past, has been crumpled and failed due to their stand-off on issues which still remain to date. Can the causes behind the historical rooted enmity be addressed and core issue of Kashmir undertaken this time?
Fear is a basic element which creates distances between the two foes. Suspicion and mistrust create fear. Lack of communication and masking facts create suspicion and mistrust. Therefore, the main reasons of constant enmity between these two big countries of South Asia are the lack of communication, lack of understanding on the issues and lack of realization on the facts. The proposals and plans can only be transformed into actions when parties involved put themselves into each others’ position and are ready to understand each others’ standpoint. Now the question is how far military in Pakistan which makes country’s decision, ready to go to reach an agreement and how far the present ruling Hindu fundamentalism-based Bharatia Janta Party (BIP) can go to provide freedom to Vajpayee to make any agreement with Pakistani counter part.
In fact, the ruling powers of both India and Pakistan do claim their intention to establish friendly relations with the other but with “ifs and buts”. The interest of the ruling parties or powers is put-up on top of the agenda rather than the interest of the people and stability of the region. Kashmir is the core dispute between Pakistan and India. The leadership of both India and Pakistan has been either unable to take stand against their own hardliners or unable to show courage to put forward the plan which would be close to reality and more practical to implement in today’s world. India is a big country in the region; she has to behave like a big brother and should come out with the proposal that would, firstly, offer the guarantee of the basic rights of the people of Kashmir, secondly, provide the security, safety and stability of Pakistan being a party in the dispute. Similarly, Pakistan should also acknowledge the status of India in the region and come out with the proposal that would obviously talk about the interest of the people of Kashmir at the same time also provide India guarantee from fear of infiltration of extremists into the Indian Territory.
Fanatics on both sides and those agencies & might whom vested interest directly collide with the wishful healthy relation between India and Pakistan have been proved to be the result of sabotaging the process, in the past. The leadership of both Pakistan and India has to condemn them these elements first and come out with fresh, bold and realistic proposals realizing the needs of the time rather than demand of the history. The proposal should objectively focus on the interest of the people of Pakistan and India and for the better and peaceful future of the region. Half a century old history shows that wars in the past never benefited any country and future use of the dangerous weapons and nuclear arsenals which both the countries have piled-up spending billions of dollars, will never resolve the issues or award win over another except killing of millions of people and dragging the entire region into mass cataclysm.
One can understand that since the Kashmir issue became so much crucial for both India and Pakistan and so much politicized, internationally, by the rulers of both the countries in their vested interest rather in the interest of actual victims of the disputes é Kashmiris – neither the leadership of India nor Pakistan want to take risk of their political career or occupying position to come out with daring and audacious suggestions. Otherwise, there could be various options, for example; (1) Declare both Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir as an independent state with no control of Pakistani and Indian administration but international monitoring forces until Kashmiri themselves able to establish their own security forces (2) Declare the Line of control as an official border of Pakistan and Kashmir with ban on all the freedom activities in Kashmir (3) Both Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of Kashmir should be provided real liberty to have their own governments with no interference of India and Pakistan. Both the parts of Kashmir would have soft border allowing people of Kashmir for easy transit and trade between two parts. The details on the settlement must be worked out by all three parties; Kashmiris, Pakistanis, and Indians. (4) Leave the Kashmir issue as it is; try to resolve other issues; open the border for establishing relationship in different areas like trade, technology, media & art etc and wait until the time normalizes the conditions naturally to discuss the Kashmir issue with better understanding and faithful environment.
Now, the question is; in the ruling structure of India and Pakistan where the government head’s action is controlled by bureaucrats, party hardliners, secret agencies and arms forces and where the issues are valued in the interest of ruling powers, will it ever be possible for any leader to by pass these pillars and listen to the voice of the people in their interest.
The writer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and a political analyst. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Australia.