Indo-Pak Relations: Does ‘Means’ Lead To The ‘End’ or Is It The Other Way Around?
By Imran Khan
29 October, 2015
India and Pakistan have been in conflicting relations since 1947 with only occasional episodes of friendliness since then. Both the countries have been unable to resolve their differences and develop a normal or good neighbourly relationship, which could have benefitted people on both sides of the border and more importantly the people of Kashmir. Kashmir remains the most important and core issue between the two countries. Thought many attempts including both combat and negotiations have been tried in the past but the conflicts seems ever increasing without any signs of peaceful solution. Does it mean that the two countries are going to remain in conflict forever? And what is that supposed to mean for Kashmiries? Are Kashmiries going to bear the brunt of the conflicting relation between India and Pakistan for another century or so? Or can both India and Pakistan overcome their historic rivalry and search a peaceful solution of Kashmir and other Issues? These and many other questions do strike the minds of common people in both the countries while looking at India Pakistan conflict and its impact on Kashmir.
With Modi government taking an aggressive stance with regard to Pakistan and the later reciprocating equally, the bitterness in relation between the two countries has increased. The continuous rivalry between the two India and Pakistan has adversely affected the ability of the region as a whole to attain its true potential. Both the countries have different narratives with regard to core conflicts, and both keep defending their stand wherever possible. However an important question remains there that how long the two countries can lock horns with each other and ignore other important issues facing both the countries? Both the countries are nuclear powers and the ever increasing rivalry can have serious consequences for the common people of entire region. Not only is Kashmir a nuclear flash point between India and Pakistan but it is also the source of arms race between the two countries.
With recent aggressive developments between the two countries and in the absence of talks and confidence building measures, a single spark can burn both the countries. More importantly the new trend of intolerance which seems engulfing Indian society and culture and which even seems shaping Indian foreign policy is not encouraging at all for peace. Incidents such as the cancellation of NSA level talks, cancellation of concert of Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali, blackening of the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni in order to stop him from organising a book launch function for former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, cancellation of talks between BCCI President Shashank Manohar and Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shaharyar Khan and head of the PCB's executive committee Najam PCB chief Najam Sethi as a result to Shiv Sena’s protest etc can only add to the acrimony. Such developments also hamper any progress on Kashmir issue.
The fact of the matter is that both the countries cannot afford to live in a state of war for ever and thus have to work out their differences and look for peaceful solutions of issues. However the two countries have a different narrative with regard to negotiations and the way conflicts can be resolved.
India believes that resuming cricketing ties, people to people contact, strengthening trade relations, promoting good relations in art and culture, good will gestures etc can only be done once cross border terrorism against India is stopped. Further India recognises Kashmir as it’s (so called) integral part and ascertains that boarders cannot be redrawn. India also does not consider any scope of third party intervention with regard to Kashmir and other major outstanding issues between the two countries. Though in the past willingness has been shown from Indian side to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan including Kashmir, however quite recently it was held by India that talks between two countries will be confined to terrorism only.
Pakistan on the other hand believes that any talks with India cannot happen with pre conditions. Pakistan further claims that any dialogue without the core issue of Kashmir would be eventually meaningless. Further it believes that acceptance of the disputed nature of Kashmir along with a continuous and meaningful dialogue between the two countries can help in solving the core conflicts between the two countries. Pakistan believes that the resolution of Kashmir dispute should and can be found in the United Nations Resolutions on Kashmir. Pakistan also advocates of third party intervention with regard to Kashmir. Pakistan further believes that the status of “Most Favoured Nation” can only be given to India after the resolution of Kashmir issue. Pakistan however shows its willingness to resume cricketing ties, people to people contact etc. Pakistan also opposes India’s bid to get a permanent seat in UN Security Council before the resolution of Kashmir issue and continues with its commitment to support Kashmir’s freedom struggle.
It needs to be understood by both the countries that they can not wish to resolve conflicts by just defending their narratives and by taking extreme positions. So the two countries have to commit for peaceful coexistence and peaceful solutions of issues and at the same time search for ways to achieve the same. However one question which arises here is that “Does ‘means’ lead to the ‘end goal’ or is it the other way around with regard to Indo-Pak relations?
Limiting the talks to “terrorism” only and a continuous denial of the disputed nature of Kashmir can only be considered as unrealistic. On the other hand focusing on Kashmir only and ignoring other important issues is equally not fair. Resolution of all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan particularly Kashmir issue will promote friendliness, peace, stability and prosperity between both the countries and more importantly will be a breather for the people of Kashmir too who are under the hammer of conflict from a long time. On the other hand closing the doors for peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution will simply benefit nobody.
Both the countries need to take small baby steps for the desired end goal of conflict resolution and peaceful coexistence. Such a process should not be allowed to get hijacked by non-state actors and terrorist incidents. The efforts at building confidence and trust and seeking resolution of disputes can only bear fruit if the process is sustained and remains uninterrupted. However both the countries also need to understand that though confidence building measures are very important and prerequisite for peace and conflict resolution but sooner or later they have to address the core conflicts like Kashmir. So the fact remains that in order to reach the destiny of ‘peace’, ‘peaceful solution of conflicts’ and ‘peaceful coexistence’ both the countries need to take small, positive and consistent steps. “Means” which will lead both the countries to much needed and desired “end”, it is not the other way around.
Imran Khan is a Teacher in Education Department.Previously worked as Psychologist for Action Aid International, Medecins Sans Frontieres and J&K Police Drug De-addiction services.