from the Old to the New"
By Suresh Jaura
On Aug. 27, India's Prime Minister
Atal Behari Vajpayee sprung another surprise by saying that despite
the stalemate at his July summit with Pakistan, he would be ready
and willing to meet President Pervez Musharraf next month on the
sidelines of the U. N. General Assembly session in New York.
Whatever the output of the planned meeting, it is worthwhile
recalling that, fifty-four years ago the end of the
British Rule was followed by the division of the then British
into Pakistan and India as two sovereign nations.
There followed the
greatest migration in human history of 12 million people and a blood
bath in which up to one million people were said to have died. For
today's 24-hour instant TV media, it would have been a series of
Breaking News stories that would bring the carnage to every home
around the world and evoke revulsion.
Those living in North
India, who witnessed the events in 1947, have vivid memories of what
followed the creation of Pakistan and India, and their lives were
scarred for good. Those born around that period have heard from
their parents or grandparents about what happened during the time.
For those born after late 1960s, there is some connection with the
sufferings that their parents and grandparents went through. But for
those born in 1975 or later, 1947 has no meaning except as date in
Over the last 50 years,
things have changed all over the world. The foes of the Second World
War have become friends and allies, the countries in Europe have
joined to form the European Union, and America, Canada, Mexico are
working on a United States of North America.
between India and Pakistan are still dogged by hatred, suspicion and
misunderstanding. Politicians on both sides have tried, and failed,
over the years to bridge the gulf that - despite their many cultural
affinities - divides them.
India and Pakistan have
fought three wars, including the one in 1971, that led to the
creation of Bangladesh. There has been a build-up of conventional
arms and nuclear weapons, thus diverting the much needed resources
which can be better utilised to uplift the standard of living of the
1.2 billion people of these two neighbours in South Asia.
rights and wrongs of the positions that India and Pakistan hold over
what happened in 1947 and after, there have been occasional whiffs
of fresh breeze: joining SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional
Cooperation) in 1985, Simla Accord, Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan,
and the recent visit of Pervez Musharaff to India.
"You can change friends,
but you can't change neighbours," Vajpayee declared at a civic
reception in Lahore, Pakistan after a historic bus ride across the
border in 1999, "So why not live as good neighbours?"
expressed similar feelings, while visiting the cremation site of
Mahatma Gandhi, he said the great soul had "devoted his life to
non-violence and peace", ideals that are very "relevant to
We must realise that
there are at least two parties, both with elements of right and
wrong, and there is "need for flexibility and pragmatism that
permits compromise and accommodation". There is no denying the fact
that the two neighbours have no option but to sit down and sort out
their differences which by no means are easy to reconcile.
As a first step, some
issues can be resolved, and these include control of cross-border
narcotic traffic, ease of commerce, nuclear protocol, and permitting
citizens to travel freely between the two countries.
Kashmir has been at the
centre of bitter relations between India and Pakistan. As Vinod
Mehta, of Outlook, a weekly published from New Delhi, India, said, "Everybody
knows that Kashmir is the main issue between India and Pakistan". No
lasting peace is possible without tackling Kashmir. The public
senses it too.
As Ramesh Thakur,
vice-rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo, writes, "The
reality of increasing internationalization and globalization
collides against the persistence of competitive nationalisms. In
Kashmir, the secular nationalism of India competes with the
religious nationalism of Pakistan and the ethnic nationalism of
Their positions on
Kashmir remain far apart. Pakistan, citing a 1948 U.N. resolution,
calls for a plebiscite to be held in Kashmir on its future. India
disagrees, citing subsequent events and agreements, including the
Simla Accord and a deal in Lahore in 1999 to settle disputes by
negotiations. Pervez Musharraf, while in Delhi, conceded that "there
is no military solution" to Kashmir.
It is important to keep
the lines of communication open. Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan and
earlier a possible meeting between him and Pervez Musharraf in New
York at United Nations may help the process.
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung
once wrote during the Cold War that it would take only the slightest
change in the stability of the minds of the world leaders with
access to the "nuclear button" to plunge the world into chaos and
In connection with India
and Pakistan, it can be said that it would take only a big change in
the minds and hearts of the two leaders to come to an agreement to
solve the 54-year old rivalry and to shift the balance towards peace
and progress in South Asia. For the sake of a future of peaceful
co-existence, there is need to "jettison their historical baggage of
The leaders may be
hesitant to take the obvious decision to make peace for fear of
electoral consequences or loss of power for their daring. It is that
daring that separates the statesmen from politicians.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the
then Prime Minister of India, said in his speech on the eve of
India's Independence: "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny,
and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or
in full measure, but very substantially."
To paraphrase him: let
India and Pakistan awake and work to live peacefully. "A moment
comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the
old to the new," he said. Let us seize that moment and dedicate
ourselves to peace and stability.
Early in the New
Millennium, that is the least that those at the helm of affairs in
both India and Pakistan owe to their people, who have lived together
for centuries under British Rule and prior to that, and have no
choice geographically too.
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