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BOUND BY BLOOD

The political situation in Pakistan seems to have gone haywire. It is clear that the ‘democratic’ process has been severely damaged in that sovereign nation state. The façade of ‘elected leaders’ with electoral majorities has now been removed. This dangerous truth affects the entire region and not just India and Afghanistan. It represents a new political uprising, which many seem unwilling to recognize as such or even address. Most discourses harp on the relationship among the army, the ISI and the democratically elected governments. However, there are allied, often hugely disturbing, issues that these frightening internal realities throw up again and again. They continue to operate within the confines of failed formulae.

The Pakistan embassy in India continues to engage with different players in Kashmir, particularly the separatists, because of their official position on Kashmir. Pakistan believes that Kashmir is not a part of India. Therefore, it will continue to engage with groups that are striving for ‘independence’. Pakistan supports the ‘cause’ because it bolsters Islamabad’s official position. In turn, it helps perpetuate the conflict with India.

The resolution of a deep-rooted conflict such as this requires a process. This can start only when leaders on both sides of the border shed their baggage and start anew. This requires profound statesmanship on the part of two leaders who can persuade their people to accept the challenge of ushering in a peaceful and productive future.

New voice

Diplomatic dialogue and discussion need an urgent reinvention. Minds need to be kept open to conceive new ideas and mechanisms. The failed baggages and idioms of the last six decades need an overhaul. There is a whole new generation that has no recollection, let alone real life experience, of an undivided subcontinent. In the post-Independence generation, grandmothers from the Punjab, to take just one example, told stories of Lahore and Karachi, Abbottabad and Murree. They talked of friends and family, travel and business, homes and farmlands. These stories sustained the links that were laced with longing and sadness. But there was considerable emotional confusion as well. Any unfolding situation there or along the border triggered responses that further tore the damaged fabric of ‘sameness’. Today, the India-Pakistan relationship has deteriorated considerably.

Don’t we, on both sides, need negotiators who are in their forties and fifties, those born as citizens of two independent nation states, rather than men and women who were once citizens of an India that they saw being ruthlessly partitioned by a retreating colonial power? Isn’t there a need for a dialogue that accepts that there are other dangerous realities lurking on the sidelines, waiting to enter the arena, that need to be resolved urgently? The unwarranted provocations that belittle both countries keep them static at low levels of growth and development. The common enemy is poverty. It needs to be defeated to bring about progress and enlightenment.

The conflict between the two nations is not very different from one that sees two brothers fighting over their share of ancestral property, particularly when the will of the departed is ambiguous. Do we need an arbiter to correct a faulty division? Would the army’s domination of the political class in Pakistan give way to a democracy that recognizes the will of the people? Will Pakistan restore modernity and democracy? Or will it continue to wage the wars within?

The truth has to be brought on the table first. It should then be calibrated with care so that politics can empower both India and Pakistan to become brothers in arms.