Though its use in development of WMD is terrible, science has delivered uncountable comforts to mankind. No only that, it is a great social equalizer also. It has helped the humanity to break the millennia old chained social connections. No individual is superior now on the basis of race, religion and region. Whosoever excels in knowledge can enter into the world of his choice. It was not possible earlier because differentiation and its worst forms such as apartheid, caste system and slavery were being practiced puritanically. The science-induced civility has influenced the psyche of nations also. Hence, assimilation or annihilation of small nations is no more possible. Subjugation, however, still continues, and the poverty of knowledge is the only reason behind it. The victims instead of learning and improving their economies are engaged in confrontation from within and without. Who are to be blamed more, literate outsiders or indifferent insiders?
Chances to bring about change inside are always there, and chances to end external confrontation also appear quite often, but they are not availed due to the indecisiveness of leadership. Though the repeated indecisiveness of small nations usually makes them lose more, it does not spare the big nations either? After WW II, the Soviets should have gone for revision of their stagnant system; fifties was the proper time: they wanted to do it, but didn't, and when they did it, they were too late; and eventually the break-up of the Soviet Union was the only remedy left with them.
The situation in the Indian subcontinent is not so grim, so far. But, given the faulty perceptions and indecisiveness of its rulers, it is likely to become so. The concept that militancy in Kashmir is keeping the Kashmir issue alive, and it is bleeding the Indians, is simplistic, cruel, retaliatory, and self-destructive: In this age of enlightenment it is not possible to assimilate or annihilate small nations. So, until Kashmiris are satisfied, their peaceful struggle too will create an impact, which would not be negative as created by the militancy. It would be humane and reconciliatory, and hence positive. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it has become totally dependent economically, as its strategy of bleeding India has backfired. Accordingly India too has failed. Its militarism, even if in retaliation to militancy, has made it lose much; if not technically, on moral front certainly. What is needed is immediate end to confrontation and start of positive engagement. Both activities should start simultaneously. It is a difficult decision but it must be taken.
Leadership of Indian subcontinent took many bold and timely decisions in the past. It arrived at a consensus plan to divide India. Afterwards the Liaqat-Nehru Pact on the question of refugees saved Pakistan from unthinkable miseries. Similarly the most difficult of all the questions, the question of lifeline, the water dispute, was resolved through Indus Basin Treaty. But all the good that happened between India and Pakistan is neither discussed nor appreciated in both the countries. However not everything that happened between the two was good. There were grey areas as well, such as wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971, and warlike clashes in Khem Karn, Siachin and Kargil. Alongside these open examples of extreme confrontation, both countries subtly attempted to increase the intensity of each other's internal and external conflicts. Pakistan supported Sikh and Kashmiri struggles and India attempted to fuel the ethnic tension in Sindh. Why did the good and bad strategies run side by side in Indo-Pak relationship is a very complicated question. However, if answer is to be summarized in one sentence then it can be said with clarity that the fears created problems, and commonness and commonsense led to solution of some of them and those, which remained unresolved remained so mostly due to indecisiveness of the leadership who had faulty perceptions about the ground realities. Any way the prevailing situation demands complete halt to the confrontation, militancy and militarism, because it has already done a lot of damage, and its continuity would inflict more, and that may eventually lead to irreversibility.
It is widely believed that the source that created tension and ills in the subcontinent is issue of Kashmir. Though it is not even the half-truth, let us take it as such. Again the key to solution of Kashmir issue lies with the leadership of India and Pakistan, and not with the Kashmiris. If India could surrender twenty percent of Kashmir to China in Aksi Chin, if Pakistan could settle Kashmir border issue with China'on Chinese terms, and if India and Pakistan could decide the fate of three rivers of Kashmir, then what does stop them from solving the issue in totality?
However, to find an achievable and acceptable solution is not that easy. The process would first require that the parties involved must turn to acceptance of existing realties and try to know how they were shaped. Kashmir was a part of undivided India, though with a status of princely state. Couple this sub-continental status with enormous confronting diversities that are located and locked in a complex and economically unviable geography of Kashmir, no one can and will take the Kashmiris as a separate nation in totality, no matter what they do, and how they fight; and the earlier this is understood, by the Kashmiris of valley, the better. Allow me to elaborate the argument. Kashmir cannot become independent ' though in future it may get a special status under the joint Indo-Pak protection ' because of its geography and small resources, and also due to the fact that there is a terrible division among the Kashmiris themselves that has basis in religion, ethnicity, geography and desires. The Gilgatis and Baltis do not count themselves as Kashmiris, and they will prefer that their area should become a province of Pakistan at the earliest. The people of Jammu and Ladakh will be happier if their areas are given separate status of states within the Indian Union. The Azad Kashmiris have socially and economically merged themselves with the Pakistanis and it won't make any difference to them if the status of Azad Kashmir is changed to a province of Pakistan.
Accordingly, whether India is in Kashmir due to inhuman Instrument of Accession (designed jointly by the Muslim League and the Congress; on the insistence of the former) and muscle power, or Pakistan has annexed a part of Kashmir through war and support of Kashmiris, the fact remains that both have attained some kind of legitimacy and fifty-six years of occupation has further entrenched their claims. But Indians' legitimacy is, surely, under constant question in the valley of Kashmir. Though it has roots in the concept that divided India, the politico-economic mismanagement by the Indians played a bigger part. And the rest was done by the Pakistan backed resistance, though at a colossal cost that has brought destruction to everything ' to life, to soul, to spirit, to intellect and even to the environment. Probable reconciliation between India and Pakistan would save the Kashmiris of valley from further destruction and recover the paradise lost, we can only hope and pray for that. But what is almost certain is that both countries will again be on the right road that was jointly built by their leadership through Liaqat-Nehru Pact, Indus Basin Treaty, Tashkent Declaration, Shimla Accord and Lahore Declaration. Now, once they are on the road, they should remain on it.
Why is the right road left so often, it looks strange when seen through a broader angle of affinity? That no two nations have as much common between them as Pakistanis and Indians, and this relationship could have been used positively to resolve the remaining contradictions: Instead they are persistently on a warpath. If the reason for that lies within India and Pakistan, then its solution needs to be searched within India and Pakistan, and not in Kashmir. If conflict of Kashmir is the reason, then that certainly has a solution within the premises of Kashmir: Let me elaborate the point. Many analysts present an attractive parallel logic that Kashmir conflict would continue, because it is being used to cover or delay or solve the bigger and terrible conflicts of ethnicity and communalism that exist within Pakistani and Indian societies.
Whatever the reasons and their epicenter, the solution of Kashmir problem must be found. After all for how long innocent Kashmiris, Indian soldiers and Pakistani soldiers would bleed due to it. The solution, however, would not be searched unless we accept many more realities alongside the ones that were debated above. Kashmir of 1947 exists no more and neither Pakistan nor India would surrender a single inch of Kashmir under their control to each other or to create an independent area for Kashmiris. Pakistan cannot afford to do so due to strategic and life (water) related compulsions. India too has strategic compulsions vis-'-vis China: Not only that any unfavorable alteration in area under its control will either create or aggravate immensely societal imbalances between its various ethnic and religious diversities. That is one reality; the other is that neither Pakistan nor India nor the Kashmiri militants can alter the status of the universally recognized Line of Control through force.
These realities and their relationship with the volatile situation in valley, and also with the Indo-Pak societies form the fundamentals, to which leaders of the two countries would certainly pay attention, when they sit to discuss the Kashmir conflict. There are time-bound rational solutions, to be implemented in various phases, which India would like to propose. It could be conditional Independence or greater autonomy or self-rule for Indian Controlled Kashmir (ICK). But differences would surface on whether or not such solution should remain within the parameters of the Indian Constitution. India would insist on keeping its constitutional link and Pakistan would, likely, disagree.
So, if efforts to put the Kashmir issue on front-burner fail, they would fail only due to egoism. Does that mean to remain on the road and to move forward, the issue should be put on backburner? Not necessarily, the Kashmiris of valley can do what elders of India did: Those who are involved in militancy should turn to peaceful struggle. On their part, India and Pakistan should enter into an interdependent economic engagement as early as possible. It will not only help in finding an ultimate solution of Kashmir problem, but also help resolve the class, communal and ethnic contradictions of Indo-Pak societies. However, due to size and scope of its economy, the responsibility to evolve and nourish a mutually beneficial relationship mostly or perhaps totally lies with the Indians and the actual blueprint for that has to be prepared by them. How superbly it would work is not difficult to visualize. In this regard a simple example of gas pipelines from Iran and Central Asia to India, passing through Pakistan, would suffice. It would earn Pakistan 700 million dollars per annum and India would save billions of dollars through adoption of cheaper land route. Wouldn't it be an extraordinary achievement for both? Imagine how many doors Pakistan knocks at for assistance of a few hundred million dollars. Imagine also the after-affects of conditionalities attached to such assistance. Similarly look at the costly attempts and agreements that India is making or would make with various countries of the Gulf to secure its growing energy needs. Can't they adopt a wise route?
Besides gas pipelines, even oil lines are a possibility, and extending the interaction further would do magic for the economies of the two countries as the trade route, via land, from India to Europe would be opened. Here it must be understood that Pakistan would not act as an excise collecting state only. It would also gain in the fields where it is lagging far behind, and it is lagging in almost all the fields. Knowledge based manufacturing, which it couldn't attain through fifty years of its friendship with the others, China and America, would surely be achieved by acquiring this new relationship; and that is what the economic blueprint would also mean, and that would require India to invest a lot financially in gas lines and also in other areas.
The economic engagement would eventually lead to opening of Indo-Pak borders including that of Kashmir, and to defend them would also become a collective responsibility. Similarly with that magnitude of economic inter-activity the subjects of communication and the foreign policy would mostly become a mutual affair. Moreover the relationship in itself and social goodwill and the economic uplift connected to it would also help in solving the internal problems of ethnicity and communalism that have gripped the Indo-Pak societies. And a day would certainly come when Kashmir would be given a special status jointly by a prosperous Pakistan and a super power India, though that may happen after many decades.
The great nations have no ego problems. America withdrew from Vietnam and Russia from Afghanistan and it didn't reduce their honor and authority. West Germany recognized East Germany, and Egypt recognized Israel and that were the jobs no one would ever think of. And can there be a better example in entire history of mankind than the one that the Indian subcontinent provided. Division of a subcontinent was not a small thing. That it was attained peacefully through a consensus decision, taken by the Congress and the Muslim League, made the whole exercise unique and exemplary. If we were wiser fifty-five years ago, why cannot we act wisely now? And the time demands that the direction of wisdom should now be steered towards evolving a relationship on the pattern of European Union. Given the encouraging environment of today, and the political will of the present Indo-Pak leadership, it can be done. It must be done.
What if the newly appeared chance is not availed, which according to Prime Minister Vajpayee is the last attempt from his side? If cruelties continue, the Kashmiris would obviously continue to suffer. The Pakistanis would continue to live with the unaffordable conflicts, and that would certainly add to their poverty. The Indians may not suffer as much immediately, but ultimately they too would repent. If the westward land route remains closed on them, they would lose a lot. Contained as they are now, they would remain so, for a long time to come; and that would surely stop them from becoming a major player in the world, and internally too their economic and social development would be curtailed drastically. Would Pakistan or India go for a war to change the status quo? No, they will not; at least not during the current decade. Yet, the continuity of tension for a longer period would amount to the same, because the losses that a war brings in a short period would also be brought, though gradually, by the confrontation. But, whether it is slow or sudden, poisoning remains poisoning. The times ahead would see the developed world preparing itself for a journey to a planet outside our solar system. Meanwhile where would the nations carrying the unbearable load of conflicts go: may be back to the mud houses: may be into the black holes of history: Who knows?
The writer is a Civil Engineer and is a regular contributor to various newspapers in Pakistan
527-A, F-10/2, Islamabad PH: 2293115