Oxford English dictionary defines confrontation as a hostile or argumentative situation between opposing parties while conciliation is to stop being angry and discontented and start gaining esteem or goodwill. Ethically, the trait of confrontation had always been at the receiving end of the accepted wisdom. People possessing the overt confrontational disposition however much qualified to the positions of influence were always dismissed as non deserving. Of rulers, to be called great they had to assuage the degree of confrontation and if possible make themselves a great combo of conciliation and confrontation. The sages and seers deemed confrontation as nothing short of a vice to be avoided as much as possible. The strictures allow confrontation only as an aberration in case the cause happens to be greater than means and when every effort at conciliation had failed.
The wholly outlook that any form of confrontation does manifest doesn't wear the immaculate white clothes radiating the tranquility and equanimity, two traits that form the bedrock for a formidable personality of a human being irrespective of the level of the society he happens to be working at. Confrontation comes with the price of being stained with the colors capable of absolving them of their effect on the eyes but absolutely effete in the face of its trunk spasmodically visiting remains of its lost limbs and heads. Such is the infamy of this trait that we often forget to separate the chaff of anguish, outrage and even as positive a trait as determination from the kneaded dough of confrontation. While puckering of brows is the superfluous expression of a frustration, provocation or hurt what goes on inside the head to deal with the adversity may have the chances of being plausible if core of thought is positive even if prima facie carapace appears to be ugly. This is not to discount the beauty of conciliation but to say that confrontation, no matter whether lurked behind the manly macho-ness of valor, remains a cadaverous trait if not looked at from the pious eyes of conciliation.
The arrays of conflicts either in the form of burning quandaries or coercion stemmed from the empiricism of the world that our mind has to confront has the potential to distort our compos mentis. In these situations it is not the plain degree of confrontation with which we face the circumstances but the satining conciliatory fabric in which the core of the spirit of confrontation has been placed. It is only when confrontation alone sashays about, naked, malodorous and looking ugly that ambiance runs the risk of not only loosing its salubriousness but also catching diseases. In a sense conciliation is all about solving the conflict in best possible way while confrontation seeks to remove the conflict itself. It may sound a little ambiguous but there lies a great difference between solution and removal. While solution tries to set things in an order on the soil of conflict to make it look beautiful and become fertile removal removes the entire land and leaves behind a void. Empirical senses state that not everything can be nipped from the bud and in these cases it is the spirit of conciliation that comes handy.
There have been innumerable instances when it was confrontation more than conciliation that presided over the zeitgeist and decided the next stopover for the wayfarer of the history. These were the times when conciliation was just not the option or was passed over owing either to the limited wisdom of those who helmed or ethical, moral, economical or military disparity amongst sundry kingdoms. This twine of confrontation and conciliation has since time immemorial always sided with strong and weak respectively rather than right and wrong with few exceptions. What does this allude to? The wind of confrontation and conciliation had always been acquiescent to the flow of the times of history. While at outside the nature of confrontation does appear to be truculent and challenge imposing it is the intoxication of power running through a weak mind that endows confrontation with the dreaded ways and regretful results. This aspect of the confrontation takes on a more dangerous meaning when confrontation becomes a battleground for displaying disgusting valor and even martyrdom or in other words when swank demeanor eclipses the swanny side. In Central Asia the four legendary figures of great conquerors Sikander (Alexander), Sultan Mehmud, Chengiz Khan and Timur were more driven by their desire to prove their mettle of being the greatest of all in their respective times more or less by exhibiting their military might than a rather weak willed wish just to be accepted amongst all. It was the confrontation that they first turned to and then a faint conciliation bathed in the color of confrontation.
About AC 1000 Mehmud Ghazni, a Turk and a Central Asian warrior, began his raids into India. Bloody and ruthless as they were, on every occasion he took back a vast quantity of treasure. Such was the blind dominance of the confrontation over conciliation that contemporary scholar Alberuni wrote, 'the Hindus became like the atoms of the dust scattered in all directions and like a tale of old in the mouths of people. Their scattered remains cherish of course the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims' and yet his confrontational disposition did not win him a large swathe of India. Punjab and Sindh were the only provinces he could annex. He could achieve only that much what confrontation could have helped him achieve. His raids couldn't perturb the essence of India. Though in his last years he did try conciliatory methods to win over people it did not leave any impact behind. What confrontation did not achieve for Mehmud Ghazni, conciliation though cloaked in sporadic and shrewd confrontation did for Alauddin Khilji who himself married a Hindu lady and so did his son and this new found tactic of conciliation constricted in the reach and degree streamed through most of the rulers since till Aurangzeb for whom bigotry-spawned confrontation was the only Dharma. In one way he could easily be called a Taliban in Mughal garb. Nadir Shah, for the cruelty he displayed in massacring Indians could be the next.
The art of sly and Machiavellian conciliation and blunt confrontation was taken to new heights by British. Till now it was confrontation that had given way to conciliation to further the political ambitions of invaders. British turned it upside down and set their first foot on Indian soil in the garb of diplomacy. It seemed nothing but an innocent proposal when Sir Thomas, an ambassador of James 1 of England, presented himself at Jehangir's court in 1615 and sought permission to set up factories in Surat. Despite Noorjehan being a little fishy about the proposal Sir Thomas went home having accomplished the job. That was the beginning in so cordial a manner of a relationship what was to become some 150 years after, the only reason that would begin the process of dethroning Jehangir's descendents, first virtually later literally. This cycle of conciliation and confrontation got repeated again when circa 1780 through 1830 there was a short wave of intermingling and interracial marriages with even some British officers taking to Mughal way of living and proselytizing. This partly conciliatory phase had begun to decline by 1830 but it was mutiny that not only did put an end to this but also send British to a brutal confrontational path that resulted in genocide, hangings, executions and wiping away of entire top rank of Mughal elite. This was to start a confrontation that culminated in the biggest ever exodus, stained with the blood of the macabre confrontation, recorded history has ever seen.
The illusion that had Hitler in its tight grip about Germans being the superior Aryan race amongst all and Jews being the cause of every evil had the ills of pure confrontation say the avarice of absolute power as its seed that blossomed into a fruit the sourness of which led to the alkalinity of the whole world. It was a blatant and naked desire to bring the world under the umbrella of Germany of course through confrontation that left Berlin in medieval state and the whole world in a military strife. If Hitler had won the Second World War the confrontational fangs would have dined on the spirit of conciliation for a considerable amount of time if not for even a century.
Can Gandhi's non cooperation movement against British rule in India be called a movement swaddled with confrontation? Of course it was the confrontation that formed the crux of the movement. But it was a confrontation of brainstormed adamancy and obduracy refusing to accept what was unjust not seeking to inflict wounds on the body of unjust. This is where revolutionaries and pacifists came to drift apart. One believed in the use of force i.e. direct confrontation to scar or end their way into the unjust foreign rule while another wanted unjust foreign rule to identify and recognize the ultimate truth and kowtow before it. So does that make us say that revolutionaries were utterly wrong in shedding blood, others and their own?
No, not every confrontation smacks of only the visible belligerence that emanates out of it. There is no dearth of instances in the history and mythology when confrontation had been met with countervailing confrontation with mixed results.
Both sacred epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are replete of incidents when it was violence not just parleys that decided the stand offs and further course of the situation. Whereas Lord Rama himself led an army of pious simians to inflict a defeat on erudite but on the wrong side of the divide Ravana it was Lord Krishna who gave the sermon that formulated the sacred Bhagwad-Gita to Arjuna to blow the cobwebs reigning Arjuna's mind and soul away at seeing his own kinsmen before him in the battle ground. Both cases use the path of physical confrontation to serve sacred purposes though only after having made sure that all paths of conciliation were closed water tight. This boils us down to bitter but verily fact that confrontation had never been wholly ominous and utterly bad choice to opt for if the factor of confrontation when pitted against the guilt factor of a normal human being capable of having substantial control over his senses capitulates.
As things stand today, the terror organizations are mushrooming across the world though predominantly in south west Asia. In the wake of this fact, the question of confrontation and conciliation has once again swiveled its neck and demands a debate if not absolute answer. The world can't afford to get inured to the dead bodies and scattered limbs and will have to take the terror head on. But how: militarily, diplomatically or using both? When America had had to swallow this bitter pill for the first time on September 11, 2001, rattled, it decided to look at the world from a Manichean point of view. The id'e fixe that governed the response of the then President George W. Bush sought to divide the world in to two, with US and against US. Bush returned vehement confrontation in return for rancorous confrontation. Soon Taliban was driven out of Kabul and US backed Hamid Karzai led democratic government took over. No matter what we say of Bush's policies it must be credited to his pugilist disposition that not even a single American did lose his life to the menace of foreign terrorism on its soil since 2001. Having said that the sight of a martinettish America carving a bellicose image for itself also raises many hackles. What could have been the battle against terrorists turned into battle between Islam and Christianity. Given the dismal literacy rates and poverty figures in most Muslim nations, terrorists did not let any opportunity to exploit America's dictums to their advantages slip by their fingers. America, the beacon of hope for the generations in developing countries became a gooseberry in the eyes of not only human right activists but even common people, more specifically in Muslim countries. Still worse was yet to come.
In 2003 Bush took a decision that was to become his Achilles' heel. It was the invasion of Iraq on the flimsy pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction which were never to be found. The then US secretary of state Colin Powell went public announcing his embarrassment over the controversial decision. Not only did situation in Iraq get worsen it also made Bush hugely unpopular in his own country. And it won't be an exaggeration if I say that current president Barack Obama, of many waves blowing in his favor rode this anti Iraq invasion wave with 'lan. Economic meltdown towards the end of Bush's presidency proved only to be the coup de grace. George Bush went into the annals of American history with lowest popularity ratings and a signature sheet marked with a foreign pair of shoes. But this too slant and acerbic farewell though not wholly unjustified had a tinge of miscalculation given the fact no President at least in the recent history had had to confront such acicular dilemmas.
Today India stands as the only the second country after Iraq to have lost maximum number of its citizens to terror related incidents. Likewise Indian response too vacillates between being confrontational and conciliatory. The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai only upped the ante and send India to an almost confrontational mode which later settled down in the mould of passive confrontation that it still wears. We can take respite in the fact that this confrontation did not snowball into a war but it was only because of restrain that India gave account of. But how far this display of restrain will help India in deterring further such attacks on its soil by foreign terrorists remains to be seen. Though the process to bring perpetrators of Mumbai carnage is still on only time will tell what kind of denouement will this process see. The bolshie attitude of Pakistan in admitting truth only shadows the possibilities of letting conciliation have its chance. Seeing that Pakistan is now walking into the folds of Taliban and its President Asif Ali Zardari fears that Pakistan might be taken over by Taliban it becomes incumbent upon the world powers to stop looking at the menace of terrorism from a single narrow point of view. We can only hope for Mr. Zardari to go wrong.
Now there is another angle to the concept of conciliation which Pakistan showed to the world in sewing a peace deal between Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Mohammedi (TNSM), an organization fighting to introduce the Islamic system of justice and NWFP government in the Swat valley in the name of buying peace. Most liberals believe that this deal threatens to buttress the menace of terrorism than other way round. Here we have either cowardice or complicity or total capitulation fenced behind the measure to bring peace. Associating such a deal to the spirit of conciliation will be an insult to the wisdom of greater way of achieving ends. Once 40th President of United States of America Ronald Reagan has said, ' We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slave-masters.'
Very recently President Obama, in a conversation with New York Times aboard the presidential aircraft Air Force One has given hint for US to be in a conciliatory mode wiz a wiz the war on terror. I suspect that former President Bill Clinton's apprehensions about Afghanistan having the potential to become a new Vietnam must have weighed heavily on Obama's mind. According to Obama US is going nowhere in Afghanistan and the strategy needs an overhauling. One aspect of this overhauling revolves around cleaving Taliban into two i.e. separating the outliers or those with a nationalistic cause at heart from those whose vision doesn't extend beyond religion and dogmas. Then it is not the only absolute use of military power but a combination of military to ramp up later and diplomatic tactics to bring the former to table that will pave the way for a successful culmination. Obama's new strategy to deal with Afghanistan has not sprouted out of any frustration or an urge to chart out a different path from that of his predecessor's. This strategy with bouts of conciliation saw some success in Iraq under the able leadership of the best man Obama has. General Petraeus too is of the view that killing one's way out of insurgency is almost impossible. So now, is the conciliation only the best way forward?
If we take into account what drives the Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan to insanities, we face a black wall of utter passivism leaving not much bailiwick for the possibility of any hole. The piffle drives like shutting down girl's schools, lashing or even killing people in full view of public for outlandish reasons, blowing up of Sufi shrines, banning music, espousing absurd practices in the name of religion like making sporting beard for men mandatory have often enjoyed support of every single group that forms Taliban. So how Obama and his General will distinguish hardcore extremists from moderate or even semi moderate extremists is something that remains a conundrum. Willy-nilly even some groups come to negotiation table for how long would that work deeming Taliban is bound neither by treaties nor by ethics is again a difficult question to answer. No doubt President Obama has his heart and mouth in their places but whether his conciliatory visage in the face of a grave civil problem would embolden the Taliban or pay dividends is something lurked in the womb of the future. But the magic of conciliation is too sacred and powerful to leave us without hopes.
World has a long history of sending the virtues of conciliation into the kraal of confrontation often towards the end of the possible solution of a conflict and other way round. Shimla agreement in 1971 between India and Pakistan was an official conciliatory ending to a confrontational beginning though Pakistan had to part ways with its eastern part. But it did not let the spirit of conciliation blossom. Conversely the conciliation colors of Lahore agreement in 1999 between these very two nations led to confrontational denouement in the form of Kargil war.
The spirit of true conciliation has often been trampled by the selfish and narrow provincial human beings over the course of the history. Confrontation may be a necessity at times but it is the conciliation that remains a prudent and moral choice since time immemorial. Gandhi ji, the grandest embodiment of determination did see the virtues of conciliation as a way to further sharpen and bolster his great determination of which the desire to see his country free was only one constituent. He died to the bullets of confrontation but it is the conciliation propounded by him that shepherds the course of our nation. Confrontation alone is not only insane but also helpless and weak. It is the conciliation which is powerful enough to have the positive spirit of confrontation, taking the things head on and a pious equanimity as the kernel to its kernel as well as shell.