Risks for peace are better than the risks and fury of war!
Some reflections on the current crisis between Pakistan and India
The media are the new mischief mongers backed, as they are, by their corporate guarantors. From corruption to rape, they have arrogated on themselves the right to speak for the nation. With effortless ease the media tells us where the pulse of the nation is at simply because they have women and men located in different parts of the country to interview selected voices who supposedly speak for the people!
Right now the media’s spotlight is focussed is on the killing of the two Indians on the LOC. The reporting on the incident lacks depth and substance and is geared to sensationalism and capturing viewership with little regard for the long term of relations between Pakistan and India.
It is perhaps useful to reconstruct events in the LoC. Reports suggest that on 7th January theIndian Army Crossed the LOC and attacked a Pakistani Check post killing one soldier. In retaliation, a day after came news that the Pakistan Army crossed the LOC and attacked an Indian patrolling party killing two soldiers
Foreign Minister Salman Kurshid has responded to the killings with firmness and with maturity. He has advocated measures that draw the ‘red lines’ but do not provoke redundant tensions. He has cautioned against escalation of events so that a larger crisis is averted. The prompt dialogue between Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries is an added and useful pre-emptive step that must be commended.
The BJP in its political desperation is seeking to capitalize on the incident – jumping up and down to beat the drums of war with an eye on the elections. Their hypocrisy is there for all to see. They have forgotten that they sold the country not too long ago when the Indian Airlines aircraft was hijacked in Kandahar some years ago and when they held power. It is implicitly fanning the flames of communalism. For, by raising the bogey of Pakistan and border tensions, you also raise the question of Muslims and their loyalty to India.
No one can diminish the scale of the tragedy for the family’s who lost their loved ones. It would, however, serve as a sobering reminder that the 1965 war which brought untold misery and suffering for thousands of people on both sides was born out of a few skirmishes. That, in turn, underscores the responsible government moderate response namely that escalation will only be counterproductive. And this is even more marked when one mulls over the fact that India and Pakistan are now nuclear powers unlike in 1965. A moment of military madness in the current state of nuclear capacity can easily cause incomparable suffering for millions.
The media is thankfully free and permitted to post news and let the citizen know facts. But facts must be responsible and accompanied by sober analysis of the conflict and underlining the urgency of peace – not war. This is not the opportune time to whip up frenzy and create rage and hatred. The media’s reaction to these horrific incidents is fraught with risks. Consequently, the social media is now the locale where this rage is being vented.
As usual, both governments will also eye public perception as something to beware of. Governments will talk tough, act tough, and the blame game can swiftly dribble out of control. The military-industrial complex has a vested interest in sustaining the political tensions between Pakistan and India. Arms trade involving arms sellers in the west and Pakistan and India run into billions- no mean amount. They must keep the apprehensions and hostilities alive. India and Pakistan have raised two very big armies, and their must remain a rational to maintain them. The armament industry which reaps the harvest of the unending conflict has literally fuelled the conflict regardless of the hard truth that both countries are inhabited by some of the poorest people in the world. India’s military spending amounts to US$ 44,282,000,000 or 2.7 % of the GDP while Pakistan spends US$ 5,160,000,000 or 2.8% of GDP. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures). The teeming hungry millions are not impressed. They cannot eat bombs for breakfast. 63 years since Independence, what can India and Pakistan claim as development achievements aside from destructive wars within and against each other and a standard of living that is by any measure about the worst in the world?
What is worrying is that what seems like promising progress on the peace process including visa liberalization, trade ties etc confront derailment unless appropriate and urgent steps are taken to prevent incidents that could jeopardise the peace. The only way to defeat those who would rather have war than peace would be to sustain the current level of dialogue and even to upgrade and hasten the incorporation of new elements into the dialogue.
There is a very common sense truth that Jimmy Carter once proffered. He said: “Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.” Long term peace can only come from a process that builds confidence, understanding and the willingness to think outside the box for solutions. India and Pakistan cannot afford to remain adversaries forever. The only winner would be the armament traders- the merchants of death. War will not bring peace. The peace of the graveyard, perhaps, but, by and large, it will only bring forth more death and destruction.
The loss of three lives on the LoC may seem like a small statistic. Yet, each death in war-like conditions only serves to diminish human dignity. A sign of good sense has come from a group of informed and peace-loving Indians and Pakistanis who have condemned the exchange of fire and killings on LoC. They have deplored the incidents and categorized them as insane, unwarranted and gruesome.
An instructive public discourse should emerge as the force behind policy making on the search for peace on our borders. Mistrust and suspicion must be abandoned and, in their place, a climate of confidence and trust must emerge. The media cannot be trusted to facilitate this. Nor can the political class who would rather play to the gallery.The people of India led by academics, thinkers, peace activists, justice and human rights workers must pave the way.
India and Pakistan share a common heritage and must chose a common destiny. Brutality in war is unrestricted. A beheading is no worse than a plain shooting. We cannot afford to be carried away by an irrelevant debate on whether this or that attack was more or less barbaric in intent or the way it was carried out. Soldiers are seen as heroes by their nations and as murderers, plunderers, rapists, and worse by the people of the country that is called the foe. No wonder then that people in the peace camps argue thus: “Let us take the risks for peace than face the risks of war”.