The “peace process” was the first casualty. The call for dialogues by the Pakistan Foreign Minister after her ‘rants’ against India made things more difficult. Dialogues seem to have been pushed indefinitely into the future as far as India is concerned. The liberalised visa regime, including visa on arrival for senior citizens, agreed to by the Home Minister with his Pakistani counterpart during the latter’s highly controversial visit to Delhi, was stalled. The cross-border buses stopped plying and trade between two parts of Kashmir got suspended. Cultural and sporting ties took a hit. Plays to be staged by Pakistani theatre group have been cancelled by the host – the National School of Drama. Pakistani hockey players hired by various franchisees for matches in the Hockey India League have been dispatched home.
Reports said that even iconic Pakistani cricketers Wasim Akram and Rameez Raja, currently commentating in the India-England cricket series, had been asked to leave. Although they are still around, former India hockey players have demanded their ouster. Clearly, “Aman ki Asha” (hope for peace), a campaign for peace between the two countries initiated by the Jung Group of Pakistan and The Times of India, essentially a Track III sort of connect between common people of the two countries, is under threat.
It was, however, amazing to see on the TV the number of Pakistani guests staying in India on the invitations of organisations – government and/or private. From singers to artists and actors, to hockey and cricket players and even doctors in large numbers are apparently camping in the country on invitation of some organisation or the other.
The “people-to-people” contact apparently has been only a one-way street with hordes of Pakistanis coming to India for programmes of various kinds. Wasim Akrams, Abida Parveens, Ghulam Alis and so on are, more or less, regular fixtures in our sports and cultural spheres. Sur Kshetra, a musical reality show mounted to unearth singing talents in India and Pakistan, was hosted by the Indian Colours channel in which large numbers of Pakistanis participated and an established Pak singer acted as a judge. Indian TV channels routinely get Pakistani commentators on TV shows. No such reciprocity, however, has ever been shown by Pakistan. Even a Pak cricket team was allowed to tour India late last year for the first time after the 26/11 carnage. And, what does the country get in return? A few panches and sarpanches killed in Kashmir and a mutilated dead soldier – followed only by denials despite stark incriminatory evidences?
This is not to suggest that there should be no interaction between the civil societies of the two countries. Unfortunately, however, efforts to bring about vibrancy between them to promote peace and harmony have yielded precious little. The civil society of Pakistan is powerless; it has hardly any influence over the powers-that-be. A democracy it might be but the Pak army has been calling the shots for a long, long time. Now that it and its Inter Services Intelligence have teamed up with anti-India jihadist and terrorist groups that have congenital hatred for India, hoping for peace between the two countries is futile. Regardless of how much India bends backwards to accommodate Pakistan and regardless of the intensity of the “people-to-people” contacts, it would always remain hostile to India, given the power equations within the country. Besides, there are vested interests in nursing the hostility. The Army-jihadist combine is deadly; even Americans have come to realise its lethality.
And, yet there is what is known as a thriving “peace industry” in this country run by peaceniks comprising politicians, former diplomats, journalists, et al, who insist on continuing talks at any cost. Citing Prime Minister Vajpayee’s dictum that Pakistan was our neighbour and we could not wish it away, they say talk we must and in whatever “track” that yields results. None, however, predicts what good will come out of it. Haven’t we seen that after every confrontation – from Kashmir in late 1940s to the sixties and then in the seventies, efforts were made to normalise relations but hardly to any avail.
Every time the mischievous elements in the Army, with active collaboration of terrorist and jihadist outfits, disrupted the process. Whether it was Kargil or the hijack of the Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu or the attack on Parliament or 26/11 attack on Mumbai, Pakistanis always revelled in harming and destabilising our country. And yet, when confronted with facts Pakistan defends itself with blatant lies, digressions, obfuscations, and indulges in suppressio veri suggestio falsi. Can any civilised country keep talking to such an unscrupulous establishment?
As for talks, in Pakistan whom do we talk to? The civilian government? India could go on talking to it until the cows came home but it would yield no results. At the back of it are the Army and the jihadist-terrorist combine who, together, will never allow any negotiation to fructify and let peace emerge. They can and do scupper everything positive between the two countries.
Having no role in influencing the course of relations between the two countries the civil society is powerless. Hence, where is the point in carrying along with tracks III, IV, and so on and at the same time suffer the beastly acts at the hands of the Pakistani soldiers or jihadists? We have tolerated it earlier – but not anymore. If the government wishes to continue talks let it go ahead with its tortuous diplomatic rigmarole but keep the Pakistanis out of our hair; they are not our well-wishers. It’s now time to treat a spade as a spade and nothing else.