One Step Forward, Two Backwards?

One Step Forward, Two Backwards?

That is how things happen in our part of the world

Dr.Mirza Ashraf Beg


Jun 7 2018

Unfortunately a step forward and two backwards has become the norm in international politics. Whether it’s the Sino-Indian relations, the relations between India and Pakistan, that between US and North Korea, or between US and Iran, we often see positive movement followed soon after by a change in direction. No doubt the world community has gotten used to these sort of gimmicks by those with vested interests, but in gentlemanly terms this sort of behaviour is beyond absurd. In any setting other than politics, anyone doing this would be the laughing stock of the community, considered self centered, untrustworthy and unworthy of a seat at the table. But unlike other scenarios, in international relations, nations cannot afforded to adopt a “blow hot and blow cold” policy because not only are principles involved, but human lives themselves are at stake.

The recent positive change in government of India’s approach to the Kashmir imbroglio for a truce in armed confrontation with the rebels and a ceasefire on the borders with Pakistan has genuinely been appreciated globally, especially by our immediate mighty neighbour the People’s Republic of China. This sane decision was followed by an equally wise offer of a dialogue with all the stakeholders including Pakistan. Saner elements in the bruised state likewise has already welcomed the offer of an olive branch through its recognised leadership.

All things seem positive, but it is here that we enter into the crucial phase of a much asked for and genuinely needed dialogue. Hence everyone who is for a peaceful solution of the internationally accepted Kashmir “problem” needs to give the long simmering issue due thought lest he or she unknowingly and unwittingly spoils the good will and good steps already taken. The same principles need to be adopted by political parties and their office bearers — especially when there is no room for taunting or cajoling. They should know that any such behavior reflects not only on their personality but also on their pseudo love for the nation. The sincere having worked hard for such important steps forward, any loose talk can lead us to a painful and unwanted steps backwards.

Given the seriousness of the issues and the need to be transparent with Kashmiris and the people of both nations, as much as is possible, such dialogue needs to be held in an open setting, preferably in front of a camera. While having the media there is important, at the same time it needs to be ensured that this media consists of legitimate channels with well respected personalities who offer unbiased and productive coverage and commentary. This means that it should never include the irresponsible loudmouths whose intent is not balanced news and perspective, but creating agitation and building animosity as they compete with each other for the day’s title of the donkey with the loudest bray.

Coming back to the hopeful dialogue, here again it should be left to the trusted expert negotiators who have broad guidelines. Everyone involved needs to realize that delicate issues like that of Kashmir needs to be dealt with care, not only because several parties are involved, but also because it has been going on for so long with so much that has transpired in the interim. No doubt there are some vested interests who do not want a resolution, some who do not want to even talk to the other side and others who are in it just to drag things out again only for political gains. But despite all that has happened and everyone who is now in the picture, there exist genuine folks who want genuine results. These are the same folks who see most of conflicts as nothing but a scheme of the powerful to subjugate powerless. Who see issues left unresolved as another version of the tried and true “divide and conquer” policies that has and continues to shed so much blood. These same genuine and considerate folks also see the spread of arms into the hands of the military and the “militants” for what it actually is — a multibillion dollar international money making enterprise where the buyers become both the unwitting perpetrators and victims of their own folly.

History is witness to the fact that there have been negotiations between India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders many a times. The negotiations between General Ayub Khan of Pakistan and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri came to a tragic end due to the sad and sudden demise of the Prime Minister of India in Tashkent. Similarly the negotiations between Ayub Khan -Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and his team in Lahore ended with the sudden death of Pt. Nehru in Delhi while the team had to return to shoulder the coffin of the departed soul to its ‘Shamshan-ghat’ in Delhi. Then there were negotiations between Plebiscite Front leadership and the Indra government in Delhi leading to the ‘Kashmir Accord’ that was left half way for a promised change of nomenclature — reverting the title of Chief Minister to that of Prime Minister and similarly Governor to Sadri-Riyasat as provided in Maharaja Hari Singh’s treaty of accession for foreign policy, defence and currency. And yes, there was one more attempt by Atul Bihari Vajpayee and General Musharaf that led to a tragic blockade in the historical city of Agra and later we blamed the Kargil mishap for the same.

Keeping all these historical events in view, the future negotiators have a lot of stepping stones in front of them to help make their task of finding the road to resolution easier. Let us take this one step forward as the first step of many more forward in the right direction, and not as yet another instance of two steps backwards.
There is no road towards peace; peace is the road — Mahatma Gandhi