Devising a new framework for Indo-Pak peace

Another op-ed for Express-Tribune today

Today the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India will meet. This major development should be welcomed. Sceptical noises of distrust in both countries have been heard and the Kashmiri leaders have issued rejectionist statements.

Subcontinental leaderships have time and again floundered peace. Sometimes it is the recklessness on the Pakistani side and at other times the Indian officialdom chants the trust-deficit mantra. But this must end. Media wisdom about the BJP and the Pakistan military making a durable peace deal has not withstood the test of history. Democracy and peace are interlinked despite the compulsions of playing to the jingoists for electoral gains. In Pakistan, martial rule is over and a BJP government is unlikely in the medium term.

It is time for the two governments to take stock of their fast changing societies and economies. Unlike the mediatised versions, Pakistan is a transformational society. The old governance structures are decaying and power is now distributed among multiple centres, not unlike India. This is why the foreign ministers should negotiate the lifting of media restrictions and let the two countries and their people understand each other.

The next 12 months are critical: an Afghanistan settlement has to take place, the water issue needs to be explored and Kashmir back channel negotiations have to be fast tracked. In spite of the hostilities, Pakistan-India trade exceeded $2 billion recently and the unofficial figure is even greater. There is a clear path ahead: keep talking and doing business for mutual gains.

The Pakistani state is battling against militancy on many fronts. The Indian state is dealing with the nightmare of Maoists and Naxalite insurgencies in addition to what it calls ‘cross-border terrorism’. Concurrently, the two democracies have to deliver public goods and fight poverty. They need to be resolute and develop a new framework for peace. Such a framework should involve the Pakistan Army. Our eastern borders are always a priority in our military mindset. India’s troop reduction will give confidence to the national security apparatus. The second plank of this new framework should build on the Kashmir CBMs increasing the flow of people and goods backed by [in]formal diplomatic engagement. The babus in New Delhi and Islamabad will continue to twist the files and shuffle the papers.

The third component should be exclusive focus on trade and economic cooperation. This would require exempting visas for bona fide business concerns. Across the borders, we have ready-made markets. This cannot happen in isolation unless the visa policy is creatively revised. Finally, more journalists from both sides should be allowed to break the hold of jihadis, Bollywood stereotypes and Wagah-ites from popular imagination. The information deficit is even stronger than the trust deficit. The overarching agreement should be to continue talking. This is not the time for point-scoring but redeeming our bitter histories.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2010.

  • Dastagir

    read a post written by Shashikala Bhide : I paste the same here.

    Quote :

    Ultimately it would be Babu Bajrangi v/s. Some Mullah.

    Submitted by Shashikala Bhide, 18 July 2010 – 3:28pm.

    I read the column by Amulya Ganguly 4 times., and it took me 5 hours to arrange my thoughts and write ! (Today is a Sunday, hence the luxury of time).

    LeT and some other mullahs are Indeed Strategic Assets to be used against India., as and when needed. Very true.

    But one must not forget that during the war of 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri had enlisted the Support of the R.S.S. to maintain the Law and Order INSIDE India. Infact RSS volunteers were policing India., and assisting Police and Military INSIDE India.

    So in the event of a final showdown or war., it is natural that Pakistan would use every single weapon in its disposal. The Army in uniform., and the Afghan battle-hardened Taliban against the enemy. And why not ?

    The Pakistanis perceive a threat of war from India 24×7. They are rightly justified. Gen. Sundarji (during Rajiv Gandhi’s time); disobeyed political leadership and almost took India to the brink of war. Again during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s time., the Parliament Attack (was it the work of RAW/IB, ISI/Mullah., or a combination of the 2 ?)., because it benefited both parties ! BJP became a hero., Musharraf got promoted from CEO to President ! A few hundred soldiers died on both sides, after a 11 month eye-ball to eye-ball context on the borders ! The adhesive stickers on the cars used for the attack on Indian Parliament were taken out from the MP quota stationery of Mr. L.K. Advani ! Everyone knows it ! So did Advani stage that attack on Parliament ?

    BJP is very good in staging attacks., be it Parliament or Godhra and again Post-Godhra. Even in the case of 26/11 Mumbai, it is possible, that Indian Intelligence Agencies had a hand in it. Or was it Shivsena / Narendra Modi / Togadia along with some Mullah / terrorist outfit / unemployed Pakis (Outsourcing of riots)., who did the dirty job ! The mastermind of Mumbai 26/11 could well be an Indian. COuld well be Narendra Modi or Togadia ! Why not…. this incident took place before the Assembly Elections in Maharashtra !

    If the new terrorist module is : BJP/RSS (Financier/Mastermind) + Mullah (supplying terrorists/ who are ready to die); then how can this be stopped ? Another Mumbai 26/11 can happen anytime ! Few Pakistanis will come., and kill and die (The current rate is Rs. 20 lakhs). Then there will be Paki-bashing on TV., and what is the max India can do ? Go for war !

    So in case of war., we in India will entrust our Local Law and Order to RSS (Read Bajrangi, Aseemanand, Kalasangra; and other free DOVES); while Pakistan will do the same to its Mullahs., and utilise LeT and other Jihadi elements on the front along with its army ! This is the mindset., and this issue has to be addressed at the core.

    There is no guarantee that another Mumbai 26/11 will not happen. It might happen today, tomorrow. If Narendra Modi / Togadia finance a blast(s), and there are enough men / bombers ready to die @ Rs. 20 lakh each., then in a 2-3 crore operation., there can be a blast anytime RSS feels it is POLITICALLY right timing ! This is the real danger., and the Govt. of the day cannot do a thing about it. IB/RAW Officers owe their allegiance more to RSS than the GOI, Prime Minister and the Constitution of India.

    Pakistan will act against its Mullahs and LeT, when THAT fear of a war by India is removed. And India cannot remove that fear, because we have no leadership of the level of Nehru to take the public by its side. To explain to the public the advantages of peace.

    As of now., 99% of Indians (if you interview them on the street) are full of hatred for every Pakistani man woman and child. When your nation has this much of hate., then options are extremely limited. India will have to reduce hatred for Pakistan first engaging with its own public. No Indian Govt. can check RSS. No Pakistan Govt. can check Mullahs/LeT. This is the reality.

    Only a leader of very high stature can rise above the normal., and take the average public into confidence. Travel thru-out India and speak in a 100 public meetings., and prepare the GROUND. Without public support, which Govt. can take a firm step.

    And lets suppose such a leader comes on stage (thru a divine act., though i dont see a leader of that stature); RSS can put him in his place and subvert the entire exercise by spending Rs. 2-3 crores., and having another 26/11 Mumbai., somewhere in India.

    So the ball is not in the hands of the Govts of India and Pakistan. The real movers and shakers of the game are RSS and LeT. This is the reality.

  • Pingback: Pakistan’s Heartland Under Threat « Lahore Nama()