The India-Pakistan peace process, which went into a state of impasse after the 2008 Mumbai attack, has not been reinstated yet. And now it seems a formidable task to get the peace process, which got derailed after the terrible incident, on track and moving again. When asked about the issue, this is what an Indian journalist had to say: ‘‘155 people were killed in Mumbai. The Indian government had to take some retaliatory step, and so it sacrificed the peace talks.’’ India had accused Pakistan for the attack and gave a death sentence to Ajmal Kasab, who was indicted in the incident.
Prime Minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif has been indicating on several occasions before and after the recently concluded general elections in the country that he is in favour of establishing congenial relations with India and for sorting out issues through negotiations across the table. But since January this year, incidents of firing at the Line of Control (LOC) between the two countries and the killings of troops and civilians on both sides of the border have not allowed the peace talks to progress.
It should be noted that the recent LOC skirmishes and those in January this year did not trigger too much agitation in the Pakistani media and political environment. With the exception of some television anchors and leaders of some religious parties, for others the question of ‘’honour’’ did not douse their eagerness for peace. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif even repeated the invitation to his Indian counterpart for a dialogue, although it was not accepted. Though resolutions were passed in Pakistan’s National Assembly and the Provincial Assembly of Punjab regarding Pakistan’s security and against the ceasefire violations by India at the LOC, the moot point is that no serious enragement/retaliation was voiced. On the other hand, the Indian Lok Sabha also passed a resolution against Pakistan. It is also noteworthy that in his recent address, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani did not mention the LOC confrontation at all, and focused mostly on internal threats.
The state of affairs within Pakistan does not make it conducive for it to bring up new issues at this time. While in FATA, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Karachi, terrorism has to be countered and contained on an urgent basis, government and security forces have been unable to come up with a clear policy to fight and end terrorism. What is noteworthy is that in this entire scenario, India is not held with much suspicion, obviously due to lack of enough evidence.
The government and security forces are trying to fight terrorist groups in their own ways.
Recently, on the Indian Independence day, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as BJP leader Narendra Modi voiced anti-Pakistan sentiments. Elections are round the corner in India and political parties there resort to anti-Pakistan sloganeering to gather public support and also to fan nationalist sentiments. Whether it is the ruling Congress party, or the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party, both try to outdo each other in Pakistan bashing. However, it is not in the interest of either the two countries or of the entire South Asia region if the unfortunate incidents at the LOC lead to straining of bilateral relations between the two neighbors.
We can only hope that in the given circumstances, the leaders of both the countries display foresight instead of emotions. Both the countries should fight together to eradicate poverty and cooperate to improve conditions in the spheres of education and health.
Sixty six years have passed since Independence and Partition. If the two countries cannot sort out their differences through negotiations across the table even now after fighting three wars, even the next 100 years will be made hostage to “nationalist” frenzy.
Perhaps it is time to reiterate the lines of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpyaee regarding managing political relations between the two countries and contributing to establishing a peaceful global order:
“Ab ham jang na hone den gey, Hum ab manav ko aisey maut ki neend na sonay dein gey”
(Now we won’t let war happen, we won’t let human beings die like this...)