A piece of peace won and a bit of cricket lost at Mohali in India last week.
Let’s talk about the latter first because I know little about this game unlike every Pakistani. I enjoy the game but feel on the experts have the right to analyse the performance of our players. But the positive change in the sporting spirit of Pakistanis this time is refreshing. In the past we have always cried and blamed our team not for playing badly but for match fixing. I was afraid this time that people might again resort to through stones on the players’ houses and burn a few buses if we lose the semi-final. They didn’t. Instead by and large their efforts to reach the semi-final were lauded.
Even some of the television ultra-nationalist hosts also spared them, although the hype built by them and the advertisers to the run up to the semi-final was scary.
Now back to my favourite topic Pakistan India peace talks ‘in the times of cricket.’ Why the Indian prime minister took the initiative to break the ice? And what did we get from the Mohali talks?
(Isn’t it interesting that the small innocuous town of Mohali in the Eastern Punjab will find its reference in cricket and diplomacy books thanks to Pakistan in both the cases: In cricket it got the opportunity to host the semi-final only because Pakistan was considered not secure enough by the ICC. In diplomacy because the match gave an opportunity to politically weak India prime minister an opportunity to invite his Pakistani counter-part).
Scanty details of the talks show that both the sides have now resolved that according to a report Prime Minister Manmohan Singh quipped at a very short interaction with the media after the talks: “the ongoing peace efforts and talks between Pakistan and India are uninterruptible and nobody would be allowed to hinder the process.”
Now this aspect is very important in the endeavour to normalise relations between the two estranged neighbours. The non-state actors and the establishment that is fed by the war economy on both sides of the border have always sabotaged the peace process. The political maturity of the leaders on both sides would be tested if they do not let the peace talks derailed by another Mumbai or Samjohta Express attack or by a Kargil. While Mumbai attack by the Jihadi organizations countered all the positive signals given by President Asif Ali Zardari, Kargil sabotaged Nawaz-Vajpayee peace dream.
Both side have now to resolve that anti-peace establishment and their non-state actors would not be allowed to hold over 1.37 billion people of the two countries as hostage. The political leadership should courageously continue the process even if these anti-peace lobbies launch another attack. The people of the two countries can only defeat these forces of hatred by showing them that the peace process will not be stalled by their nefarious anti-people activities. Otherwise we would be playing into the extremists’ trap.
Will the Congress-led coalition be able to take bold actions particularly when Dr. Manmohan Singh government is weak and many of his colleagues are facing corruption charges? This question is raised by many fellow analysts. Yes his government is weak, but I think we are attaching to much importance to corruption charges influence on the crucial political decisions. As a matter of fact a peace dividend, no matter how small it would be, will help the present Indian government in walking towards the coming elections. Even if there is a piecemeal progress, Manmohan government can claim that it has made progress. Don’t forget in spite of corruption his government has strong economic progress to show off in the coming elections. That the coalition is wobbly is nothing strange for all such governments around the world. Another edge Indian government has over Pakistan is that it has the capacity of over-ruling the war-economy bless lobby.
In the case of Pakistan the present government would gain a lot if manages to say bring down troops from the freezing heights of Siachen, solve the Sir Creek dispute, increase trade relations ease the visa regime. And above all convince India not to support the Baloch militant movement. The advantage Pakistan has is that almost all the major parties in favour of giving peace a chance. Only a few fringe Islamic parties are against this but then they can are not represented in the parliament and limited public support. But unfortunately the biggest hurdle in the way of peace with India is the mind-set of the establishment which is not willing to change its 60 years old India threat perception. They are the one who actually make the foreign and national security policy. Any other view is a blasphemy for them. And geopolitical situation is static for them. They have not been able to come out of the early fifties insecurity complex.
As the regional politics is changing one thing should be kept in mind by our anti-India lobby that we are fast running out of our options. As the US and NATO forces will extract themselves from Afghanistan the pressure on Pakistan will increase proportionately. At present their main focus is that we stop aiding the Afghan Taliban covertly, which we do on the pretext of countering the rising influence of India in Afghanistan. But once the West’s involvement in Afghanistan will taper off, Pakistan will be then be pressed to book the Jihadi assets in the liabilities column on the political balance sheet, where they actually belong. We should not be blind to the fact that India is not only a bigger strategic partner of the West vis-à-vis China, it is economic partner of the west too. Which we are not.
What I fear is that it would not be easy for the short-sighted establishment to put the Jihadi genie back in the bottle. While leadership of these organizations may cooperate because of the hold of their respective case officers in the intelligence, the rank and file has been indoctrinated to fight Jihad against India. These young fiery fighters may then dub the establishment and their leaders as renegade and revolt. And that would be a bloody revolt in the heartland of Pakistan. Inevitably to protect their interest the establishment will have to fight against their own non-state militants. Oh! How I wish I am proven wrong. (firstname.lastname@example.org)