- Ups and downs all the way
A lot of effort has gone into laying the ground work for peace in South Asia. Those who initiated the moves in the direction comprised politicians, civil society activists, leaders of business community, media persons and even retired military personnel from both sides. There were times when the goal seemed to be within reach. Then suddenly something happened that washed away the hard work that had been undertaken by peaceniks from both sides in terms of hundreds of man hours spent in discussions and thousands of kilometers traversed.
The failure comes as there is another force simultaneously at work with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. This comprises elements from within the establishment and the extremists on both sides ofthe Pak-Idnia border who believe that mutual hostility provides them a guarantee to prosper. Kargil misadventure thus synchronised with the Lahore Resolution signed by Nawaz Sharif and Vajpayee; the composite dialogue ended with Mumbai terrorist attacks and another attempt made next year by prime ministers Yusuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh at Sharm-al Sheikh was foiled by the BJP leadership and a chauvinistic section of the Indian media. The attempts during the last decade by the PPP and PML-N governments met the same fate on account of border incidents or attacks by non state actors.
Gen Bajwa told the Senate in December last year that the military is willing to support the government’s peace talks with India. In March this year the Indian military attaché and his team were invited to the Pakistan Day military parade. This was followed by an agreement to restore ceasefire on the LoC and Working Boundary. Imran Khan called upon India to hold talks at the Foreign Minister’s level. New Delhi first agreed to talks only to take a U-turn a day after. Whether it was on account of Indian elections or the killings of Indian security personnel, it is the recurrence of a familiar pattern. With the political and military leadership apparently on the same page, they are in a position to rein in the forces opposed to peace on Pakistan’s side. This would be work half done.