Giving peace no chance


As India and Pakistan celebrated their 66th Independence Day, on Thursday and Wednesday respectively, one wonders whether the two neighbours will ever...

As India and Pakistan celebrated their 66th Independence Day, on Thursday and Wednesday respectively, one wonders whether the two neighbours will ever come to terms with peace. Doubts arose when the Pakistan government, under the new dispensation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, unanimously passed a resolution in the National Assembly – as well as in the provincial Punjab House – accusing India of “unprovoked aggression” at the Line of Control and reiterated that country’s resolve to “liberate” Kashmir. The Pakistan resolution, which came a week after the gruesome killings of five Indian soldiers on August 6, was both shocking and preposterous.

For, India had shown the world ample proof that Pak regulars were involved in the slayings; and, Delhi’s repeated reminders to Islamabad to rein in its border military units had fallen on deaf ears. On the contrary, the Pakistan lawmakers had taken upon themselves the task of reopening the wounds that Dr Sharif had us believe he was bandaging to resume the stalled peace dialogue. Clearly, no attempt had been made by the Sharif government to probe the unabated truce violations by its armed forces and the cross-border raids. On the other hand, it tried to turn the tables on us which no government worth its salt would tolerate.

Rightly, and more appropriately, therefore, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha adopted a unanimous resolution on the eve of Independence Day rejecting all Pak charges, including that of its J&K claim. While President Pranab Mukherjee echoed the government’s and people’s feelings in his Independence Day message to the nation saying “our patience has limits,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said better ties would be possible only “if Pakistan ensures its soil is not used for anti-India activities.” Our Parliament resolution may be seen as a tit-for-tat response to Pak Assembly’s. But the point to be noted is if that country’s audacity is not challenged and if it is allowed to go scot free, as our government often does to prove its good neighbourliness, Pakistan will continue to paint itself as the victim at the hands of India.

Though strong messages, such as the Parliament resolution, have little effect on Pakistan in mending its ways, what is clear now is there is no change in Pak policy towards India. What the powerful Army and equally influential ISI have been dictating to the government of the day for decades is still going on, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to have been caught in the cobweb of military designs as far as his foreign policy is concerned.

Otherwise, there is no rational explanation for Sharif burying the promises he had made during his poll campaign, one of which was to strive for resolution of all contentious issues with India. In fact, he had made Indo-Pak relations one of his poll planks to come to power. Now, the situation is back to square one. It looks increasingly doubtful whether Manmohan Singh would meet his Pakistan counterpart during next month’s UN General Assembly session in New York, and even if they meet how they could cut the ice that is getting frozen by the day. With Pakistan adopting a hostile attitude, it is difficult to see how India can extend a hand of friendship and resume peace talks. Pak officials always talk of trust deficit and confidence building measures to improve ties with India. They have to first build them up before kick-starting a new dialogue.

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