Kashmir Peace Disconnects Between India and Pakistan

South Asia Tribune, June 18, 2005
The Big Kashmir Peace Disconnects Between India and Pakistan
By Ammara Durrani

LOS ANGELES, June 18: The hapless bunch of Kashmiri leaders who visited Pakistan two weeks ago publicly stated they would now have to look at "other options" for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, given the UN's failure to do so.

This puts the writing across the wall: For all their denouncement of the status quo of their disputed valley, Kashmiris realize they have no choice now but to negotiate with the Governments of India and Pakistan within the political parameters set and controlled by these two countries.

This could well be the epitaph of a nationalist dream succumbing to the machinations of two beleaguered countries ostensibly struggling for peace. Who really benefits from this peace, however, is a different question--one we have been asking since this 'process' first began.

In the spring of 2003, the then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the first step in creating a historical legacy the ailing 81-year-old leader was desperate to leave behind. Addressing a public rally of some 20,000 in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar where no Indian Prime Minister had spoken to its people in the last 15 years, Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship to arch rival Pakistan. "I believe the gun is no solution to problems," he had said that day.

Across the heavily soldiered Line of Control (LoC) that knifes through the disputed valley between their two countries, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf was only too eager to grasp Vajpayee's hand. Musharraf was also in search of a legacy and legitimacy.

In January 2004 in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, the two leaders finally shook hands and unfolded their vision for a 'historic' peace. But there was something hypocritical about these two leaders talking brotherhood.

Who could forget that only four years earlier the same Musharraf had led a military adventure in Kargil, Kashmir, shattering a fledgling peace agreement and bringing the two countries to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe?

And who could ignore the fact that in India Vajpayee led a right-wing Hindu fascist government that only two years ago had stood silently watching its cohorts perpetrate the worst human rights violations against Muslim minorities during communal riots in the state of Gujarat?

Why, these men were the leaders of those very hard-boiled and hard-nosed hawkish establishments in Islamabad and New Delhi that had invested in perpetuating this conflict for the last half century! So why were the hate-mongers chanting the peace mantra now, we had wondered.

We figured that the war in Iraq and globalization were producing some home truths, and these military and ideological pundits wanted to be the first ones to grasp those truths for their politico-economic survival. Good, if the hawks were returning home to roost, we said.

If it were not for one serious concern, however, we would have actually believed the newfound pacifist-reformist mantra of the hawks and accepted them as our 'saviors'.

Our concern was that thanks to the global ascendancy of right-wingers, the South Asian hawks had now made it their privilege to hijack the political agenda of peace and economic co-operation as their own, leaving the local left-wing doves with egg on their faces. What would the Musharraf-Vajpayee peace legacy mean for the future of democracy in Pakistan and that of secularism in India, we wondered? Would these merely become casualties of the 'peace' of hawks?

A year after the historic handshake, we revisit our concern, and for all the funny reasons. We see Musharraf trying to impress the world with his peace ventures on the one hand, struggling to rein in homegrown jihadis on the other, and escaping attempts on his life in between.

Vajpayee's historic handshake could not win him the last general election in India. He is now helplessly witnessing a bellicose BJP caught between laying claim to his peace legacy on the one hand, and on the other, forcing its party president LK Advani to resign for his 'treachery' of praising the Pakistanis too much during his landmark visit earlier this month to the enemy country.

The latest we hear is that Vajpayee Ji is angry with Manmohan Singh for making the peace process too "Kashmir-centric"!

We wonder if preaching war and hatred was easier for these hawks-turned-doves before they decided to manipulate noble ideals for their selfish political gains.

In their quest for peace, the political establishments of Pakistan and India are faced with daunting problems. Their reluctance to publicly say what they have privately understood about Kashmir is most telling of how much they fear those very cadres of arms and ideology they helped create. Had they ever really believed in what they now say, we could have been saved a lot of blood, tears and now total confusion.

What could be more ironic than the fact that while Musharraf and his wife pose in front of the Taj Mahal for the world media during their frequent peace jaunts to Delhi, his intelligence boys hound and harass ordinary Pakistanis visiting India or hosting Indians?

Who can make sense of the BJP's anti-Pakistan vitriolic on the one hand and its claim to the peace legacy on the other? Who will make Musharraf's own administration follow his peace dream and stop bothering its own people? Who will liberate Indian Muslims from the fear of BJP's poison of communal hatred and its negation of the very existence of Pakistan, if peace really is its legacy?

These are big disconnects apparent to all in Pakistan and India who are bombarded with the peace rhetoric emanating from their respective capitals day in and out, but for whom peace on the ground is a different story.

In their half-a-century of existence, Pakistan and India are now teaching the world some lessons in war and peace. Their hawks first armed their countries to the teeth, while keeping their populations clothed in poverty and fed with hatred. They used war to make political careers. When a bigger and meaner war came, they thought better of making the most of its 'opportunity'.
They should know better now: that peace cannot be imposed--especially by those who have harmed it the most. It should have been cultivated from bottom up. They can sell their legacy to world leaders like themselves, but they have the toughest time selling it to their homemade tin soldiers and ideologues.

The writer is Assistant Editor of Pakistan's Daily "The News" currently in US on Daniel Pearl Fellowship with the Los Angeles Times

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