by Dr. Arshad M. Khan

If we are told the peacemakers are blessed, it is indeed so. For, war is an appalling waste of human resources, wanton in destruction, and in its modern context kills many times more non-combatants than soldiers. The bombing of cities, if intended to terrify civilians into submission, serves only to intensify hate and strengthen a resolve to fight and respond in kind.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) conducts research into conflict and arms control. A well respected think tank, it offers analysis and consequent recommendations to researchers, policy makers and other interested parties. It also cooperates with other non-governmental organizations including the UN. Next month (Nov 8-11) it will convene the sixth annual Stockholm Security Conference for which the subject is ‘Battlefields of the Future: Trends of Conflict and Warfare in the 21st Century’. An apt theme, as suggestions like destroying Chinese spy satellites are in vogue when China continues to pressure Taiwan through repeated violations of its airspace by military jets.

There are other conflict zones. Consider the sad case of Kashmir. The people were promised an open plebiscite (still not held) by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru after Indian troops marched in — ostensibly at the request of a Hindu raja ruling over a predominantly Muslim population.

Yes, there are elections, but only of candidates acceptable to its overlord and, yes, there is now a sort of armed resistance. If leaders have been silenced, a couple of musicians have found inspiration in the turmoil. There has also been an upsurge of violence there since 2019.

In India’s east several states have active rebel groups. For example, in April 2021, an attack in Chhattisgarh left 30 police officers dead. The conflict started in oil-rich Assam a half-century ago and pits indigenous groups against the Indian government. Political and economic issues particularly neglect of the native people given the oil extracted are the principal reasons.

The United Liberation Front is a major player along with the Adivasi Liberation Army, and some others. All want secession from India and an independent and sovereign Assam. India is unlikely to agree to such a demand and there the situation remains.

In India’s western neighbour, Pakistan, there is an insurgency in Baluchistan. The resentment is similar to Assam for here the gas fields provide energy for the rest of the country and the Balochis themselves feel neglected by the central government.

Peace over the whole Indian subcontinent has an uneven history. SIPRI sets its sights high and like many of its kind churns out scholarly papers and interviews senior government officials. Yet the core problems of human conflict remain: the sharing of resources, the sharing of power and the neglect of politicians who can themselves be corrupt. The last is not a problem people are unaware of on the Indian subcontinent.