Alas - Far Away from Peace

Far away from peace
By Dr Tariq Rahman, Dawn, December 2, 2008

IN March 2007 I visited Mumbai to attend a conference being held at the University of Mumbai. It was a short visit but I loved the city with its clean promenades along the beach. Across the waters was the Arabian peninsula and upwards was the port of Karachi.

As I stood by the sea I wished for the day when India and Pakistan would reach that level of peace and understanding that visas — assuming they were still required — would be stamped on the border without any hassle.

Little did I know then that in late November the next year Mumbai would see mayhem and insanity of the kind that no South Asian city has witnessed. Madness has possessed all religious communities during communal riots but this was a deliberate guerrilla action targeting innocent citizens, tourists and visitors. It was cold-blooded murder; that is why it was so appalling. It was an act of terror like 9/11.

On Sept 13, 2001 I wrote an article advising the US not to lash out at Afghanistan like a wounded bear. But of course the mighty American government did not deign to listen to my voice — why should it? I have neither fame nor power of any kind and, in any case, the mighty prefer war to peace. They think peaceful solutions will make them appear weak. They have intelligence but not wisdom.

Yet I offer the same advice to India. First, the knee-jerk reaction to blame Pakistan — the state of Pakistan — must stop. It is counterproductive since it prevents the Pakistani government from trying to help India. All the top leaders in government are trying to help India but as the Indian media becomes increasingly strident in its tone these leaders will dare not go against public opinion. They will be made to retreat and be on the defensive and this is only in the interests of the terrorists. After all their aim is to destabilise South Asia and this will be achieved if tensions spiral.

There are several theories as to where the attackers came from. The most popular in the Indian media is that they came from Pakistan. If this is true then they must have either been sent by the state or they were non-state actors acting on their own. The first option is to be ruled out as the Pakistani government stands to gain from peace not war as the top-ranking government figures have declared again and again. If anything this event has actually harmed Pakistan’s interests like settling the dispute regarding the sharing of river water, etc.

This leaves the option that they were non-state actors based in Pakistan. Considering that Pakistani cities have been under almost daily attack since the last one year and more, why should it be incredible for some Indian analysts to believe that the enemies of both Pakistan and India have shifted their attention from one country to another?

But if indeed these are non-state actors from Pakistan who keep attacking our cities too they are not immediately under Pakistan’s control. Of course they should not have been allowed to proliferate at all.

The blunder of Pakistan in joining America’s proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s is the fault of Pakistani decision-makers of that period as it is of American decision-makers. Now both have the albatross of Al Qaeda and the Taliban around their necks. Pakistan should never have used these religious fighters in Kashmir as it is alleged. That too is a whirlwind we are reaping. But then if India had solved the Kashmir issue before all the hardened militants had been sucked into the imbroglio we might have had a less dangerous South Asia. And this brings me to the other theory about why Mumbai was attacked.

The other theory is that it is a home-grown Indian insurgency. In that case is it the work of extremist Hindu groups or radicalised individuals — like the attack on the Samjhauta Express apparently by a serving Indian army officer? Or that of Kashmiri militants? Or militants from Jharkand and Nagaland? Or even the ‘Indian Taliban’ or jihadis? Or possibly even fanatics from Hyderabad?

The kind of investigation which will give us the right answers will take a cool mind, persistence and effort. Once the results come through the Indian government can follow two strategies. It should arrest and punish the offenders. But much more importantly it should change its policies. America should have done the same after 9/11 in order to placate Muslims all over the world. After all the injustices of Israel’s onward expansion, the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the insult to the Quran in Guantanamo Bay were not the best way to please Muslims. They created more determined anti-America fanatics than anything else could have.

In the same way if the Indian government took its own Sachar Committee report seriously it would open the doors of growth to Indian Muslims. It would spend money on Muslim education, job creation and business opportunities as that would be an investment in the future well-being of India. It would also solve the Kashmir and other disputes in such a way as to ensure that the grounds for grievances are removed. It would also make an effort to cleanse the army and all the services of Hindu extremists and attempt to make school texts and other discourses pro-peace. And, by the way, Pakistan would need to do the same as we still have anti-India material in our curricula and hate-filled individuals on our TV screens who make a mockery of all sincere efforts to live in peace in this endangered subcontinent.

I do not think India or Pakistan would pay any more heed to my advice than the United States did. But then, hope only dies with death.

Also See:
Dealing with the militants - Dawn

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