Limit-Less: India And Pakistan Look For Peace In Bullets
The vexed India Pakistan border
LONDON: Sitting in a different time zone from India and Pakistan, perceptions are cleared to a point where the juvenile jibes and the deadly bullets appear ludicrous, silly and dangerous. An Indian newspaper headline thus, gave one pause for thought: ‘India says committed to peace but will respond to firing by Pakistan’ an indication of the oxymoronic responses that determine relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.
How can a commitment to peace and a threat go together in one sentence? And how is it that the media, on both sides of the border, does not hesitate to adopt the jingoistic rhetoric at the drop of a hat instead of exposing the lie in what is pedalled as the truth. And the peace constituency is targeted and attacked by governments on both sides, over and over again, with hardliners even attaching libellous descriptions of ‘anti-national’, ‘traitors’ to those in the forefront of what has become indeed a struggle for peace in South Asia.
Macho-ism that now passes for policy is seen as patriotism, while the demand for peace is attributed to those who do not have the respective country’s interest at heart. War is a manifestation of ‘nationalism’, peace of the opposite. Primitive thought processes justifying huge defence budgets, and the destruction and trauma of war are thus encouraged by states---mostly ruling politicians and their ‘intellectual’ supporters sitting in their air conditioned rooms---that are still grappling with dire and acute poverty.
Peace is an ideology. More difficult than war. As peace requires commitment, consistency, and needs to be crafted in a fashion where both nations involved feel their interests are protected, and yet they can tango without allowing the occasional break in rhythm to dent their resolve. Peace needs to be nurtured on a daily basis, and to be guarded against attempts by vested interests---internal and external--- to demolish it. More so as war is an industry, relentless and vicious that reinforces its agenda to kill with the support of government, corporations, media, across the world.
The reason for the falling out of India and Pakistan within days of the so called ‘peace’ meeting between their Prime Ministers at Ufa lies essentially in the above. Both countries, find it easier to sabre rattle than talk peace, and even when the last is achieved under international supervision (we can deny it as much as we like but that does not change the fact) it barely lasts.
The intense shelling, this time, by Pakistan after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook hands at Ufa, on the sidelines of the SCO summit, has gone through the same follow up action, of high level meetings in both capitals, of envoys being summoned, of veiled and unveiled threats. Journalists covering the bilateral trajectory of these two nations have covered it all so many times, that while the formalities are being completed the comments remain desultory and lacklustre at both ends. Except for the hawks in the media, who somehow manage to rattle the sabres with continuing passion.
It can be said with some level of certainty, that despite all this, the two countries will move towards a semblance of dialogue. PM Modi might even visit Islamabad as promised, another grand stage to address the world from. And who knows, if it lasts a little longer than anticipated,there might even be a return visit by PM Sharif to India.
But it can also be said with certainty that it will not last. And the reason is not too far to seek. In Pakistan, PM Sharif has conceded all space to the military that remains in charge of relations with India. And the Pakistan military does not believe in peace, and has shown no sign of a doctrine change, even of a minimalist nature. The absence of the world Kashmir in the joint statement issued by the two foreign secretaries at Ufa has led to the current muscle flexing by the Pakistan Army at the borders.
In India PM Modi himself does not even pretend to be a man of peace. He caters to a constituency that is infinitely more comfortable with the militaristic approach, and even looks on talks as the approach of the coward. He can thus walk a few steps at best, and will be compelled to give it up sooner than perhaps even he anticipates.Even now his government is finding it difficult to ignore the shelling at the borders, the natural reaction being on the lines of a ‘we will teach you a lesson’ response.
For the moment both are acting true to form. Threatening, abusing, and looking for peace amidst bullets.
Six days after an apparent thaw in ties brought about by talks between prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, India warned Pakistan of a “forceful and effective response” as it protested ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and international border — but kept the door open for talks.
Islamabad, in turn, summoned Indian high commissioner TCA Raghavan on Thursday to protest what it termed “airspace violations and unabated ceasefire provocations”, a day after it claimed to have shot down an ‘Indian’ drone. New Delhi denied the charge.
“We remain committed to steps that ensure peace and tranquility along our border. However, there should be no doubt that any unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side would meet with an effective and forceful response from our forces,” foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.
Pakistan’s foreign office too clarified that it remained committed to the joint statement issued by India and Pakistan in the Russian city of Ufa under which the NSAs of the two sides will meet soon.
The media briefing by Jaishankar came after a high-level meeting between foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, home minister Rajnath Singh, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and national security adviser Ajit Doval, and intense parleys between the two neighbours.
Days after the meeting between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Sharif in Russia's Ufa, tension between the countries has escalated with both sides blaming each other for repeated ceasefire violations and heavy firing along the border. There have been at least six violations of the 2003 ceasefire by Pakistan in the past four days.
The recent escalation in border violence over the last two days has claimed a life in Jammu while Pakistan has said five of its civilians have also been killed.
The latest finger-pointing has led to the view within official circles that the Pakistani army may be upping the ante because the crucial ‘K’ word was not mentioned in the Ufa joint statement.
Responding to photographs released by Pakistan of the ‘Indian’ drone it claimed to have shot down, the foreign secretary said, “The picture of the drone shows it’s not of Indian design or available in the Indian armed forces’ inventory. It appears to be of Chinese design.”
"At the moment, the issue for us is stabilising the border," Jaishankar said, even as Pakistan insisted the "spy drone" belonged to India and it entered that country’s airspace violating international law and its territorial integrity.
Observing that nature of unprovoked firing by Pakistan was "serious", Jaishankar said there were series of consultations between officials of the two sides.
Asked if India will go ahead with its engagement as was decided in Ufa, Jaishankar said, "I think my statement made it very clear. If the intention or the inclination is to strengthen peace and tranquillity on the border and do the meetings that we have agreed to do, we remain committed to that."
"If on the other hand there is unprovoked firing and there is infiltration and cross-border terrorism then, obviously the situation is different. So that choice is not ours."
Jaishankar evaded questions on whether the cross-border firing will affect talks between the two countries and PM Modi's proposed visit to Islamabad in 2016.
Before Jaishankar’s tough talk, India had chosen to exercise restraint when three days after the Ufa meeting, Sharif aide Sartaj Aziz said there could be no talks unless Kashmir was on the agenda. India had then ascribed his comments to “domestic compulsions”.