respected international, Indian and Pakistani persons mediate
By M.B. Naqvi
Following the Wednesday terrorist attack on the Parliament in New Delhi,
India and Pakistan seem set to slide into war - now or a little later.
Their governments can scarcely rise above the futility of angry mutual
accusations and making hostile propaganda attain ever-greater intensity.
Far too much poison has been injected into the public discourse vis-à-vis
the other within each country and between them.
At any rate, the two governments can not be trusted to keep peace between
themselves because their politics --- Pakistan demands serious negotiations
on Kashmir and India feels unable to talk on the subject --- brings them
into conflict at every step. Indian government, with inflamed nationalistic
opinion behind it, has barred all foreign mediation. And yet without some
outside help, the two can neither arrest the powerful undertow towards
all out hostilities nor begin talking in a civilised way to defuse the
They obviously need help, if not of a government, then non-official for
resuming a serious civilised dialogue.
Both sides make a case that is strong enough. Secular framework of Indian
politics and polity not only needs to be preserved but strengthened. On
the other hand, the present insurgency in Kashmir cannot be allowed to
go on; it is killing young men on a large-scale; wealth is not only being
destroyed but its new creation is being preempted; and horrible violations
of human rights are being perpetrated by 'both' sides. A solution of some
sort for the Kashmir problem is unavoidable if a ruinous war is to be
war now has more than one dimension of terror for common people on either
side. It will not be like US' war on Iraq or even Afghanistan.
Here religious passions of well over a billion persons, men and women,
are being steadily roused by hardliners on both sides. Indeed, the governments
in New Delhi and Islamabad are culpable: they keep stoking the fires of
what is religious intolerance through their work-a-day Hindu and Muslim
politics that is based on communal sentiments with much dissembling rhetoric.
They have a bad history of communal hostility of over a century behind
them. Evidence of religious intolerance is everywhere in both countries.
Today's rulers are legatees of those who carried out world's largest ethnic
cleansing and widespread genocide, not to mention trampling of human decencies
and rights underfoot in the days of 1947 partition of British Indian Empire.
Communal riots have been frequent in both countries wherever they could
since. Should a war break out in the present surcharged atmosphere, religious
minorities stand to suffer horribly. Ferocity of the war can set off a
prairie fire of religiously motivated strife --- a prospect that should
not be allowed to materialise.
Then, the two countries are nuclear powers. Should a war erupt, there
will be strong temptation to use nuclear weapons to --- quickly crush
the losing side and by the weaker party to avoid being defeated. A nuclear
exchange on the populous Subcontinent will cause horrible death and destruction.
India no doubt talks of no-first-use but is now said to have evolved a
doctrine that permits a conventional war -- for which India is better
prepared --- and thinks there will not be a nuclear exchange.
There is no reason
to ignore the repeated Pakistani threat of using the atomic weapons first
if it looks like losing the war. Moreover, in a war between two nuclear
powers, no one can possibly wait for the other side to obliterate a city
or two before using one's own nuclear weapon; both may in fact race to
be the first to use it. A nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan
would otherwise be unthinkable because, all said and one, the human material
in the leadership on both sides is aware enough and human enough not to
inflict nuclear destruction even on the 'enemy' country. But the roused
passions on both sides that are strongly tinged with religious hatred
and, in conjunction with the profound mistrust that the mere existence
of nuclear weapons on the 'other' side inevitably generate, can cloud
judgement, especially of the kind of political decision-makers there are.
What is needed therefore is some wise people with high statures to intercede
with both to move back from forward deployments --- from high alerts and
hair-trigger readiness --- and to begin negotiations. Now, it should be
widely known that left to themselves neither the two governmental leaders
--- after the kind of exchanges they have indulged in --- nor their bureaucracies
will find it easy to sustain a meaningful dialogue. Ruling classes in
both countries have boxed themselves in formulations that leaves no meeting
point and which would drive each other away. The intervention from outside
cannot however be too intrusive. It can only initiate the process. The
help for sustaining the inter-state dialogue will have to be by leading
members of the intelligentsia in both countries acting both nationally
as well as jointly for coordinated efforts to find principles and formulations
that the two governments can accept and which would eventually make the
We have thus to find individuals of wisdom as well as high stature who
can be persuaded to undertake this difficult task. Who can such persons
of goodwill be? Well, if a hundred persons were to find five to 10 persons
from around the world, a few names that are repeatedly by most of these
100 can surely be agreed upon. Here is a suggestion. Let there be an international
seminar of prominent persons on the subject. Let it suggest a committee
of five, seven or ten. This would, after studying the problems at issue
exhaustively, make the two governments begin the dialogue at appropriate
levels. They can then retire after popularising their common approach,
But the task of sustaining this official dialogue will then devolve on
prominent intellectuals of India and Pakistan. They have to jointly and
separately find formulations and principles on which hopes can be pinned
that they can be usefully and productively accepted by the two governments,
on the one hand, and popular consensus can be created among the two people,
on the other. Let me set the ball rolling about selections.
For the international committee, one should look for men and women who
have experience of national affairs, have conducted international talks,
possess high integrity as well as stature, not to say wisdom. One can
throw in a few names for a start. How about persuading Bishop Tutu and
Nelson Mandela from South Africa, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl from
Germany, Jimmy Carter and Michael Gorbachev, leaders of international
peace movement and anti-nuclear campaigns and a few Nobel Laureates. Persons
noted for their human rights struggles such as Wali Khan, Justices V.M.
Tarkunde and Sachar to name only two and a few noted Gandhians, with a
few literatures thrown in. Out of such a lot volunteers must be sought
and a few like Mandela and Tutu press-ganged, in a manner of speaking.
The Subcontinent itself is not devoid of persons of goodwill and stature.
Similar national committees and an Indo Pakistani steering committee can
be created not only to help sustain the inter-governmental negotiations
but to arrange brainstorming sessions at suitable intervals of Indian
and Pakistani intelligentsia at nationally and jointly.
Can some such thing
(M.B. Naqvi is
a senior Pakistani journalist and Peace activist - Ch. Ed.)