WE are more interested in war than peace. I am talking about the Kashmir problem, which is hurting India and Pakistan and South Asia as a whole. It has become the greatest cause of underdevelopment in the region.
People are so caught up in the hate festival that they have no concern about the consequences. The development of the nuclear weapons and potential devastating conflict is a good example of the madness that national hostility can bring about. I am sure peace is possible but I'm not sure people and their leaders want it now
I used to think that the hostility was limited to leaders but my recent travels in both the countries have forced me to change my mind. I think the leaders are prisoners of their people whom they have created over many a years and who want war. Now the Frankenstein of public opinion has reached such a size that it will eat up the leaders if they want peace. You can't ask for peace in Kashmir and politically survive in either country.
You have to face the fact that the people have never lived without hate in these two countries. The North Indian leadership in both the states also revels in macho self-images where war and violence are glorified. Many in Pakistan believe that "the sword of Islam' must conquer the infidel India while in Bharat, the idea is clear that a much less developed economic player like Pakistan should be taught a lesson especially after what they did in Kashmir.
People can't accept the fact that no military solution can happen in Kashmir because both parties have enough strength to fight each other for a few days after which they may well turn to the nuclear option if things go bad. Pride will force both to do so. It may happen before the US turns up to stop both from doing so. Will they accept the following:
- That the present line of control is the permanent border for the future. This means Kashmir will be permanently split and the status quo will be maintained. Forget injustice and other things. None care about the Kashmiris. They care about Delhi and Islamabad. And this is a reality everyone including Kashmiris must accept.
- End hostilities immediately under UN supervision. This basically means that the US will have to supervise the peace process. Pakistan should realize that it can't support cross border militants anymore. That phase of politics is over. It's also an opportunity for Pakistani politicians to settle the problem without too much pressure from the Islamic lobby.
- India should agree to a third party role so that human rights excesses can be addressed and special reconstruction measures taken to make up for the years of violence which the people experienced at the hands of the authorities.
After September 11, indulgence for long-standing wars, which may breed "terrorism", is low. Separation is bad but the only option. Remember Bengal too was partitioned which once was thought unthinkable. People will get used to this idea too.
Peace will at least let the children grow up with the body and mind intact. Now that can't even happen in Kashmir
Published in Bangladesh newspaper DailyStar