A Chinese sourced Pakistani ballistic missile

It has never been easy to look dispassionately at the sub-continental equation and to separate the grain from the chaff, as it were! When the last marathon Indian elections had run their course and the stage was set for a spot of wheeling-dealing to knock together a workable government to run the world’s biggest democracy, the only surprise had been the margin of BJP’s victory. A bigger surprise, in due course, was that the new government opted to carry out its pre-election rhetoric to the letter.

One need not touch on the domestic agenda of the Indian government. It is the impact of the change-over in India on the situation in South Asia in general and on Pakistan-India relations in particular that should be of particular interest. As things stand, this part of the world remains in a state of sixes and sevens. There has been much talk of the ephemeral ‘peace’ among the liberal peaceniks, yet no one has shown willingness to grasp the nettle. Let us not forget that peace comes at a price.

All right thinking people in the region will — or at least should — agree that peace between neighbouring states is a circumstance well worth striving for. The quest for peace between Pakistan and India is wholly unexceptionable. Having stated this for the record, one must move on to an essential caveat: love for peace — though a good thing per se — should, under no circumstances, put a state in such a tight corner as to expect it to jettison its sacred principles and/or its national interest in the process.

Peace in order to be enduring needs to be honourable, equitable and fair. Merely reaching out for an elusive peace without weighing the consequences is like trying to race a cart with square wheels. A fair settlement of issues is the stepping stone to peace, rather than the other way around.

What, then, are the essential ingredients of the ephemeral entity known as ‘peace’? The first would be ‘mutual trust and confidence’. There can be no hope for peace if one side is bent upon scoring debating points at the expense of the other. Another ingredient could be the prior tackling and elimination betimes of the root causes of tension. Unless the disease itself is identified and cured, mere suppression of superficial symptoms is neither here nor there. An ‘interim peace’ may well turn out to be worse than no peace at all.

It is imperative at the same time to maintain the sequence of events in proper order. In the particular case of Pakistan-India relations, it would perhaps have been more politic to tackle the root causes of tension first before going for the so-called Confidence Building Measures. What one has witnessed in the, now on-now off, composite dialogue process is basically akin to a surgeon opting for cosmetic surgery on a patient without waiting for the festering sores to heal first.

Peaceniks and in particular the Track II stalwarts, it would appear, have never quite appreciated what the exercise entails. Peace simply cannot be brought in piecemeal. Either it comes as a package or it does not come at all. Each side should be required to put its shoulder to the wheel in order to make the process credible and credit-worthy. The time to play out a charade merely to gain time is long past. In the changed world order, the stakes are just too high to be trifled with.

The result of the last Indian elections undoubtedly had a bearing on the shape of things to come. But one must steer clear of the doomsday scenarios since sketched out by some analysts. Government formation and functioning in any country has a momentum all its own. It is time now for the new government in this blessed land to come out with a balanced narrative of its own. Just making positive noises by either side would not suffice. The name of the game is to be circumspect, positive and credible. One lives and learns. There is little to be gained by jumping the gun!

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and ex-Asstt. Secretary General of OIC