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India - Pakistan: Hawks in high places

29 November 2013

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Kashmir Times, November 29, 2013


Hawks in high places

Trapped in their traditional and outmoded mindset they are out to subvert the peace process

Intriguibgly, within days of chief minister Omar Abdullah making a strong case for resuming the dialogue process with Pakistan, while asserting that dialogue is the only option both for a peaceful solution of the Kashmir problem as also for ending the prolonged conflict between the two neighbors, his police chief has come out with a blistering attack on the process of India-Pakistan composite dialogue, undermining the gains achieved so far and obliquely opposing any resumption of the process. In his valedictory address at a seminar organized by the department of National Security Studies in the Central University of Jammu, Ashok Prasad, Director General of State Police, while pooh-poohing the dialogue process stressed the need for a relook at, what he described as, country’s “strategy of being defencive and friendly”. Contrary to the overwhelming view, to which even the chief minister subscribed, that the peace process, despite its shortfall and repeated disruptions has paid dividends, Prasad asserted that “our strategy of responding more in terms of dialogue has not given the degree of success we expected from Pakistan and its aggression in the Valley where it was promoting terrorism, armed infiltration and pumping fake currency for disturbances here”, while suggesting the reversal of the peace process. Tragically, those in high places both in the security establishment and the foreign affairs in both the neighbouring countries are trapped in their traditional and outmoded mindset, motivated by nationalistic chauvinism and macho jingoistic feelings. Being a part of the problem they cannot obviously be a part of the solution. Unfortunately, while the political leadership in the two countries betrayed lack of will and capacity to pursue the peace agenda to its logical end it is the hawks in politics, security set up and foreign affairs who have proved to be the spoilsports, succeeding on various occasions to disrupt and even reverse the dialogue process and thus perpetuate conflict which has brought nothing but miseries to the people in the sub-continent.

Conflict and wars never solve any problem. India and Pakistan have fought three wars which have played havoc with the lives of the people in both the countries. After a long bout of cold war bitterness during which both sides became declared nuclear powers, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a symbolic bus journey to Lahore in February 1999 where he and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharief, signed a Lahore Declaration, aiming at stable peace. The two also signed an MOU with the intention of instituting the kind of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Since then the dialogue process has moved, though at snail’s pace and frequently disrupted by estraneous factors, with some positive gains. It were the hawkish elements in the two countries, particularly those placed in high positions, who influenced the weak political executive in their respective country to suspend the dialogue process. Nonetheless despite repeated disruption the process has paid rich dividends. Those sitting in ivory towers enjoying maximum security may talk of war and hostilities but the people at large in the two countries, particularly those living in the border areas and who have been facing the major brunt of armed hostilities and acts of terrorism, desire peace. They want the dialogue process to succeed for bringing cheers to their lives and a new era of peace, progress, prosperity and mutual cooperation in the region. They also want the dialogue process to be made irreversible as well uninteruptible.

The political leadership in the two countries need to isolate the hawks and resume the dialogue process, by taking steps to overcome the trust-deficit, without any further delay., Those who think that the dialogue process has not paid any dividends and has gone against the interests of the people and the country have jaundiced view of the situation and are simply the prisoners of past prejudices and need to be weeded out. The CBMs are no doubt very important, and the ceasefire along the Line of Control in J&K has been the most significant and fruitful CBM, having brought much relief to the people living along the borders. The sanctity of the ceasefire agreement needs to be preserved and strengthened by taking necessary steps. However, these CBMs cannot be considered as an end in themselves, or a solution of the problem.. These should be conceived as initial steps for creating a conducive climate for pursuing the dialogue process. Instead of reversing the process or keeping it in backburner the political leadership at the helm in the two countries must muster enough courage and demonstrate their political wisdom and well to not only resume the dialogue process and make it uninterrupted and uninterruptible but also push it forward to its logical end.