Little did we know that the imminence of war between India and Pakistan would once again become a possibility, howsoever faint or misguided? The ruling political junta in India is talking war following the media frenzy over Mumbai carnage. Once again it is time to be ‘tough’ with Pakistan. This is a surprise given that the interlude of peace under General Musharraf and all the offers of conflict resolution were either stalled by the red-tapism of Indian bureaucracy or a victim of political inaction. At home, we have the air-force planes hovering the wintry skies of Lahore causing consternation not only to the peaceniks, shrinking each day, but to the overwhelming majority of the common citizens. After all what have they got to do with the power game in Islamabad and Delhi, the media hysteria or even the terror cartels?
True that circumstantial evidence points to the fact that the metaphor of our times, Ajmal Kasai socially upgraded as the Urduised Kasab, is linked to the little Faridkot in the Pakistani Punjab. However, much of the international community has reminded India that there is little or no evidence of any direct involvement of the Pakistani state let alone its fragile civilian government. Yet, the rhetoric of unilateral strikes by the Indian foreign minister and now the venerable Sonia Gandhi is having the right effect here. Of war mongering, preparedness assessments and the much trumpeted security strategy through the nuclear option.
As citizens, we often wonder what is our fault to experience yet another phase of uncertainty and war-hysteria? Why is it that the peoples of the subcontinent are always a pawn in the hands of powerful establishments and imperial games? The plain truth is that war is devastating and will resolve none of the thorny issues faced by India and Pakistan. If anything, for Pakistan, the three wars with India over the past six decades bear testimony to this truth; while one of these wars only dismembered Pakistan. Jingoism must recognize its limits.
The most horrifying of prospects, a nuclear war, is currently being argued as if the weapons of mass destruction are a child’s play. TV anchors are screaming on top of their voices about Pakistan’s readiness for a nuclear war. The masculine, aggressive war machismo only conceal or underplay the ugly truths of a nuclear war. If there is, God forbid, such an eventuality, it will wipe out almost all of Pakistan and much of northern India. In numerical terms the hundreds of millions, fodder for egos and militaristic nationalisms in South Asia, cannot deserve such a treatment in the twenty-first century. This madness must stop; and the media, in Pakistan as well as India, has to give up the negative regressive leaps that it has become so fond of taking.
By fuelling the nuclear hysteria and displaying bravado, the Indo-Pak media industries are trivializing the lethal, long-term consequences for humanity that a nuclear confrontation will result in. When the supreme leader of RSS calls for a nuclear war against Pakistan, such idiocy is similar in its perversity to TV heroes in Pakistan who weave tales of national pride by bragging about the capacity and capability of nuclear weapons under Pakistan’s control. This is absolutely ridiculous. A real war will annihilate generations and those who had nothing to do with it in the first place. This sheer powerlessness of citizenry is shocking across the borders.
Security of India and Pakistan is not related to nuclear capability. The internal faultlines that have not been corrected over decades are more explosive. Lack of opportunity for the underclass, lower-caste Indians, including the Muslims, will continue to make India an insecure and violent society. In Pakistan, the endemic marginalization of the smaller provinces, the tribal belt and rural poor will continue to feed the suicide factories. There is little emphasis on such dilemma and instead the cosmetic, FOX News style skin-deep worldview has become a replacement for policy debate, engagement and public education.
The peoples of Pakistan and India do not war. But the ruling elites in both the countries are hell-bent on chanting war mantra to prove their machismo to their right-wing fringes. A population of one and a half billion cannot be hostage to such adventurers and chess-board players.
Arundhati Roy and others in India, quite bravely, have urged the Indian state and society to look at the monster in the mirror and many observers in Pakistan have also taken an unconventional line in this dangerous game of legitimizing aggression, violence, the deadly nuclear weapons and their usage. But these are views that are in a minority and the monsters of jingoism and nationalism have unleashed their ire against such voices of sanity. Not surprising for the nation-state business in the subcontinent where we have three constructed nations armed with weapons and managed by the leftovers of the colonial bureaucracy.
This is not occasion for war or mobilisation of troops and missile-pads. Deterrents are not meant to be launched. Why can’t the two governments sit down and tackle these issues. They are not kindergarten students that require the mediation of third parties and agenda-laden sections of international community. If the Indians feel that they have been wronged, allegedly, by Pakistani non-state actors, they should hand over well documented evidence and leads to their Pakistani counterparts. And, the Pakistani state should extend full cooperation and address the issues taking corrective actions, some of which have already been taken in compliance of the United Nations diktat.
There is no alternative to dialogue and engagement here. If India thinks that it can strike and Pakistan thinks that they can use their nuclear capability then both are wrong.
History will not be kind to such short- sightedness. More importantly, the future of generations is at stake. It is time to make it clear that war mantra has to be abandoned by the myopic, power-hungry elites of India and Pakistan.