Peace not war
Prime Minister Khan, by ordering the release and then safely returning captured Indian pilot Wing Cdr Abhinandan to India has helped avoid the ‘tit for tat’ flexing of muscle between India and Pakistan, which could have turned into a full-scale war. Most sections of the Indian media propagated that it was a move Pakistan was compelled to make under American pressure.
Irrespective of what is being reported in India, one must keep in mind that Imran Khan has always believed in regional cooperation – and especially de-escalation between India and Pakistan. He was a keynote speaker at the SDPI’s annual conference in 2015, where he said (the video clip is available on SDPI webpage): “The reason why there should be cooperation between India and Pakistan, two huge countries in the Subcontinent, because it is the only way to reduce poverty in the region”. He went on: “Politicians come to power for one reason as they want to help the poor. The best way to help the poor of our region is through cooperation between the two countries and de-escalation of military tension”.
He has stuck to his words after coming into power. Since coming to power he has been trying to foster cooperation and helping de-escalate military tension between the two nuclear neighbors, be it through the Kartarpur initiative or through his decision to release Wing Cdr Abhinandan.
PM Khan’s words and actions make sense. The year 2019 marks the 72nd anniversary of the colonisers leaving this region, and the birth of great nation-states. Yet, the elapsing decades left this region home to a third of the world’s poor, with more than 100 million going hungry every day, belying what people in the independence movement, our founding statesmen and great leaders, dreamt of.
In the context of increasing inequality, identity politics, social and political conflicts, there is an increasing sense of fragmentation, mistrust and a political tendency to undermine each other rather than support one and another for promoting a common vision of a Subcontinent that is free of poverty, conflicts and mistrust.
In fact, living like decent neighbours is a common dream of many million inhabitants of both India and Pakistan. Peace lovers in the Subcontinent are happy to see a government in Pakistan that is proactive in taking peace gestures.
However, this government, despite its good intentions, would not be able to do much until the core issue in the region is resolved. The events of the last two weeks have yet again reinforced that peace in this region is not possible without addressing the pending issue of Kashmir. The so-called ‘surgical strikes’ by India after the Pulwama attack, and Pakistan’s retaliation to those airstrikes should make it evident for the international community that the ignored and unresolved issue of Kashmir is an active landmine that can explode with any wrong step – leading to a full-scale nuclear war.
One hopes that countries like China, Saudi Arabia, the US, and many others that have stakes both in India and Pakistan would come forward not only to cooldown the temperature raised through recent events in the Subcontinent, but to help both sides (and especially India which is continuously denying any third-party mediation on Kashmir) in finding a permanent solution for Kashmir issue.
In the meantime, Pakistan would have to take all-out efforts to correct the perception that it is allowing militant groups to operate from its soil against any country. The unrest and protests in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) are reflections of local people’s demand on Indian government to stop atrocities and injustice in IHK. The sacrifices of people of IHK get labelled as ‘terrorism’ through the irresponsible actions and claims of representatives of defunct militant organisations, which we ourselves have banned in Pakistan.
Pakistan has already suffered a lot at the hands of those militant organisations. In the spirit of National Action Plan, to avoid our blacklisting in FATF, and to give due legitimacy to the indigenous struggle of Kashmiris in IHK, we must take visible and stern measures against all militant element so that they may not survive on our soils.
Responsible actions by both India and Pakistan would ensure that the 1.5 billion inhabitants of these two countries acheieve freedom – freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom to live with dignity.
Rationale choices by our respective leaderships for a mutual co-existence based on the principle of “live and let live” will help in attaining SDGs; free from the clutches of hunger, poverty and despair.
During the last 72 years, the people of India and Pakistan have suffered a lot not only due to the unfinished partition done by our colonisers, but also due to the immature approaches of our respective leaderships in the past who could not agree to disagree in an amicable manner on how to resolve the Kashmir issue.
We have a new government in Pakistan that believes in peace and by virtue of being in power for the first time does not have any historical baggage as for as the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan are concerned. One hopes that the next government in India, without any electoral pressure, would be in a much better situation to reciprocate Pakistan’s peace gestures. Till that time, let us keep on reminding ourselves that war is not a solution for any problem between two countries.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.