Re-discovering each other
Hindustan Times, March 19, 2005
I am hearing stories from people returning from Indiawho went there to see the cricket game in Chandigarh of thetremendous response they got from Indians. They did not have to payfor their stay or food. Indian families were competing with eachother in inviting Pakistanis over to their place for dinner. ThePakistanis were having difficulty in deciding which invitation toaccept and which to leave. Indians were welcoming Pakistanis withwarmth as they probably do not welcome their own fellow citizensfrom other parts of India. Similarly when we're in Pakistan we get aresponse so overwhelming which probably the Pakistanis would notoffer to their own fellow citizens.
How strange this is? First wehated each other for over 50 years and then all floodgates ofemotions open. Which of the two feelings is real?At least we have advanced from putting our youth inbattle fields against each other to putting them in cricket fields.Cricket fields also used to be like battle fields once. Now we haveimproved. There is bonhomie which has replaced the feeling ofrevenge. Victory and loss are no longer a matter of prestige. Ourpoliticians are telling our cricketers to play for diplomacy.Cricket has moved from second last page of newspapers when we werechildren to the front pages now.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also highlighted the role of cricket and bollywood in improvingIndia-Pakistan relations. It is unfortunate that because of failureof resolution of issues politically we have to resort to a detourusing cricket. However, that we're moving towards the right goal isimportant.There are contentious issues between India and Pakistanwhich need resolution. Prime Minister Saukat Aziz rightly pointedout in a discussion, when I went to see him in Islamabad inconnection with our proposed Delhi to Multan Indian Pakistan PeaceMarch scheduled to begin on 23rd March, 2005 from the dargah ofNizamuddin Auliya, unless the issue of Kashmir is resolved we cannothope to have a durable peace between India and Pakistan.
He expressed his unhappiness over the way things have unfolded inBaglihar dam talks and admitted that Pakistan was `hurt'. These anda number of contentious issues will keep propping up whenever thingswould start to look bright. However, we have to decide whether we'llchoose to co-exist living with these issues or will perish togetherbombing each other with state of the art weaponry.After all, in India we have water disputes between thestates of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery river. The emotionsbetween the people of two states run as high as between Indian andPakistanis whenever a contentious issue is discussed. The problemhas existed since independence and will probably remain unresolvedfor a long time to come. But that doesn't take Karnataka and TamilNadu to the brink of bombing each other with nuclear weapons. So,why cannot India and Pakistan peacefully co-exist even if theproblems remain unresolved for some time to come?It is heartening to hear Shaukat Aziz that hisGovernment is interested in resolving the disputes rather than justcontaining them. His government's commitment to peace and harmonywas amply clear from his confident attitude when he was discussingvarious contentious issues in a forthright manner. He demonstratedan openness which has not been the hallmark of India Pakistanrelations over our independent history.
The decision by governments of India and Pakistan toallow a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar without therequirement of passports is a truly commendable one. Frankly, we hadnot expected that governments would take such a bold move so soon.If they continue on this path and free Kashmir from the grip oftension and violence by withdrawing their armed forces and helpinglife return to normalcy, they will do a great service to the peopleof Kashmir. India and Pakistan can jointly ensure the normalizationprocess in Kashmir. How does lack of resolution of the Kashmirdispute come in the way of ensuring peace in Kashmir? For the peopleof Kashmir restoration of peace is the most important priority.Infact, the arms race between India and Pakistan whichis often linked to the Kashmir dispute is an independent phenomenonwhich is based on threat perception of each other. If we can have arelationship based on trust there will be no need for keeping anyarms. And in due course of time the outstanding contentious issueswill be resolved through the process of dialogue.
If making ofnuclear weapons has done any good it is that it has made us realizethat there can be no military solution to the problem of Kashmir.The Kashmir issue will have to be resolved through a dialogue andthat too involving the people of Kashmir, according to theiraspirations. This may take some time. The common people of India andPakistan cannot wait until then. They want the normalization processto continue. When the people don't feel threatened by each other, asis amply clear by the warmth and bonhomie generated during allexchange visits between citizens of two countries without exception,why should the governments live in suspicion of each other? Is itnot the people that comprise any nation? Of course, there are thefundamentalists on both sides. But do they represent the feelings ofcommon people?
Let us not force our youth to put on uniforms and makethem face each other with guns in their hands at the border. Afterall, it is only a difference of few kilometers which determineswhich side they'll fight for. It is only a matter of few kilometerswhich determines whether they'll be indoctrinated in Indiannationalism or Pakistani nationalism. The outer coat of ideology inthe name of nation or religion is what we received only after wewere born. The nature did not ordain us to fight. We have more incommon than we have differences. The cultural and emotional and moreimportantly human bondings are much deeper. Let us respect them,rediscover ourselves as peace loving people and learn to livepeacefully with our differences.
(Author is a recepient of Ramon Magsaysay Award 2002 for emergent leadership, former Professor of IIT Kanpur, PhD from University of California, Berkeley and heads National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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