By Kuldip Nayar
The Indian Express
03 July, 2003
This was in 1945, two years
before Partition. The demand for Pakistan was gaining ground and affecting
relations between Hindus and Muslims adversely.
I was then studying at Law
College, Lahore. Mohammed Ali Jinnah came to our college to address
a meeting. He said: Some nations have killed millions of each others
people and yet an enemy of today is a friend of tomorrow. That is history.
I recalled those words at
several meetings in Pakistan while leading a team of eight members of
Parliament to that country.
The response was overwhelming.
Some people were so moved that they began to cry. It was as if I had
chanced upon a reservoir of goodwill so far untapped. This was no nostalgia.
This reflected the peoples desire to bury the hatchet. They want
Indo-Pak relations to be cordial. They made no bones about their exasperation
over the yawning distance. They want to seize the opportunity presented
by Prime Minister Vajpayees initiative.
Still, their doubts about
Indias intentions run deep. Many believe that New
Delhi may be up to something and that talk of peace may well be another
ploy to harm Pakistan. We heard in many speeches the allegation
that India has not accepted Partition. Vajpayee is trusted but not the
BJP which he leads. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is criticised
the most for not letting the two countries get closer.
True, Kashmir was mentioned
practically at every gathering. But the significant change which can
be noticed is the realisation that jehadis and militants are not the
answer. A peaceful solution is the battle-cry now.
For the first time, the Jamaat-e-Islami
hosted a reception for an Indian delegation. They said they wanted a
solution through talks. They, like other political leaders, do not want
Kashmir to be put on the back-burner. But they favour a serious dialogue.
We, on our part, should discuss
the issue as long as it takes to resolve it. But I feel Kashmir is a
symptom, not the disease. The disease is mistrust. In fact, suspicion
is the core issue, not Kashmir. Were mistrust to remain, it would take
another form and reappear even if we solved Kashmir.
The Siachen glacier is an
example. A settlement to redeploy forces of the two countries was worked
out more than 15 years ago so that the glacier remained free of troops.
The agreement was initialed by foreign secretaries from both sides.
The untimely disclosure of
details by the Pakistan foreign secretary made New Delhi so angry that
it cancelled the whole thing. It was at best an indiscretion. But then
suspicion took over. Till today settlement remains elusive because New
Delhi suspects Islamabad will re-occupy the place.
In the Shimla agreement,
it is laid down that the two sides will meet to reach a final
settlement on Jammu and Kashmir for establishment of durable peace.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then leading Pakistan, told me in an interview
that the Line of Control is the line of peace. Still there
has been no settlement because the mutual confidence which fosters understanding
Again, the Lahore declaration,
which had set a timeframe for a solution on Kashmir, failed to take
off since the Pakistan army had different plans. While the two leaders,
Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, were shaking hands at the Wagah border, General
Pervez Musharraf was sending troops to Kargil. This was a breach of
faith. The summit at Agra failed because the two sides were mulling
over the right words while committing themselves to nothing tangible.
The basic problem is lack of trust.
How to break the vicious
circle? Most retired bureaucrats and military officials, whose opinions
are taken seriously by both governments, are primarily in the way. They
are probably settling personal scores at the expense of peace in the
subcontinent. At a recent track two meeting in Kathmandu, they went
through the same futile exercise.
This exasperation has led
Indo-Pak peace groups on both sides to sponsor visits of parliamentarians
across the border. They want to create a climate of amity and friendship.
They hope to put pressure on the governments on both sides to face the
fact that people are no more interested in hostilities and want to live
in peace as good neighbours.
The difficulties I encountered
in assembling a group of parliamentarians make me fearful that dominant
sections in government and political parties are not yet serious about
making peace with Pakistan. Probably they are weighing their election
prospects if there is no Pakistan horse to beat.
Before constituting the parliamentary
team I met the prime minister, who was all for it. I thought I would
have no opposition at least from the BJP. I approached Vijay Kumar Malhotra,
the partys spokesperson. He said he would come back to me but
never did. Surely the PM could not have stopped him. BJP President Venkaiah
Naidu, whom I contacted for names of BJP MPs, never returned my call.
Lajpat Rai, a member of Rajya Sabha belonging to the BJP, himself approached
me to be part of the team. But he did not show up. I believe the party
asked him to withdraw.
It is difficult to comprehend
the BJPs approach. Even after avowing support to Vajpayees
initiative, the party seems confused. Whatever its considerations, it
has sent a wrong message across the border. Whenever I would say in
Pakistan that the PM was sincere and honest in repairing relations,
I was asked why his party was not represented.
The Congress too was ambivalent.
It allowed Pawan Bansal, a Lok Sabha member from Chandigarh, to accompany
the team. But the party stopped Renuka Chowdhury and Jagmeet Singh Brar
from going. K.M. Khan, a Rajya Sabha member from Andhra Pradesh, came
straight from Bangladesh without talking to party leaders. I give full
marks to Mulayam Singh Yadavs Samajwadi Party which allowed Shahid
Siddiqui, a Rajya Sabha member, to join the team. Credit goes also to
the National Conference for letting Abdul Rashid accompany the team.
As expected, the CPI(M) officially nominated Lakshman Seth to represent
the party. It was a wonderful team to lead.