"India and Pakistan will play the war game indefinitely"

Published on: June 1, 1999

India and Pakistan will play the war game indefinitely

— Pervez Hoodbhoy 
(Professor of physics at Quaid–e–Azam University, Islamabad)

There are many Kargils to come, I fear. Nuclear weapons have made brinksmanship possible, meaning that one hopes to get as close to war as possible without actually having war. India and Pakistan shall keep playing this game indefinitely until such time as a tragic error or miscalculation rules out further play. Pakistan is totally serious about Kashmir. Call it an obsession if you will, but facts are facts, and all indications are that its support for the militants will increase in times to come. This was the essential content of the speech by the chief of army staff, General Pervez Musharraf, in Karachi on April 10 this year. 

Presently there is much jubilation here in Pakistan about Indian planes and helicopters being downed. Sadly, most people don’t realise how close this pushes us to the brink, and have no idea of how total and final a fall would be. They also do not understand the immense cost which Pakistani civil society has paid for supporting insurgency in Kashmir. 

One should never have had illusions about the Lahore Declaration; it was a mere consequence of international pressure, particularly from the US, for the two prime ministers to look as if they are serious about peace. Even so, it was a good thing and every attempt to reduce enmity and tensions is to be welcomed. The bus service is still doing well, after all. I feel that we must welcome negotiations at all levels even if the results are marginal.

We must, however, also recognise that the basics have not changed, and probably will not change unless something very major happens. If that “something” is less than war, we shall be very fortunate. India and Pakistan are likely to make it past Kargil this time, and to the end of this millenium, with high probability. But unless there is a radical departure from past behaviour, I doubt that we will make it past the next few decades ahead. 

Adopt a dual strategy
— Praful Bidwai 
(A senior journalist and founder member of Movement in India  on Nuclear Disarmament)

The peace movement in both countries should not assume it knows the answer.  Rather, it should adopt a dual strategy: advocate normalisation and progress in all areas,  independently of Kashmir; and call for a  modest beginning at coming to  grips with the Kashmir issue while the general relationship improves.

The first strategy is minimalist and worth pursuing regardless of the second. There is simply no reason why the grotesque conflict at Siachen, which has killed 10,000 and costs Rs. 3 crores a day, should  not be resolved or the Wular, Sir Creek and  trade  issues should remain undecided even though Kashmir is not settled. But this needs a much deeper commitment than was shown at Lahore. “Bus diplomacy” was symbolically welcome, but substantively very thin. The Lahore accords were not even about arms control, only about limited transparency.  India and Pakistan didn’t even agree to slow down  nuclear and missile development or to  stop  testing. Lahore didn’t mark a real breakthrough. We still need one.

As for Kashmir, it is vitally important that a process of discussion begins. But this must be defined and enunciated, first and foremost, by the Kashmiri people themselves.

Fortunately, a beginning seems to have been made. At the Hague Appeal for Peace conference last month, a cross–border dialogue took place among Kashmiris from different political tendencies, from the JKLF and the Hurriyat to Pannun Kashmir. This needs to be built upon.

Durable peace requires Kashmir solution and more
— Zia Mian
(Scientist of Pakistani origin teaching at MIT, USA)

There can be no doubt that both Indians and Pakistanis, must talk about Kashmir, with the Kashmiris, and find a solution. Unless there is a settlement over Kashmir, that the Kashmiris feel reflects their aspirations, any peace between India and Pakistan may not thrive or survive. Until it is erased from the maps and from people’s minds, the Line of Control will always be a place for Lack of Control, especially for demagogues and would be heroes. 
At the same time, it may be un–reasonable to assume that a settlement of the Kashmir issue would in itself create lasting peace. One of the lessons of the end of the Cold War was that even though the Soviet Union is no more, its nuclear weapons remain (about 10,000 are operational), as do those of the United States (about 8,000 are operational). Both are still prepared to fight a thermonuclear war against each other, and in the process obliterate themselves and the rest of us. The Cold War has led to a bitter, resentful, grudging, nuclear armed Cold Peace. At times it is hard to tell the difference between the two. 

Both these aspects must be kept in mind. A durable peace in the region needs a solution to Kashmir, but it requires far more. This requires that we rid ourselves of nuclear weapons. We must overcome nationalism as an ideology, transform the state as a political institution, and bring justice within society. 

In the situation we are now in, with fighting along the Line of Control and nuclear weapons casting their terrible shadow over the region, there has to be movement towards peace no matter what. If nothing else, it can be narrow and focussed on tiny steps forward, for example restraining nuclear weapons development and deployment, loosening the restrictions on people’s travel across the border, increasing trade and so on. But unless Kashmir is addressed there is always the danger that it will be the kind of movement where for every one step forward there shall be two steps backward. 

This is what seems to have happened with the Lahore Declaration. 
There should however not be too many illusions about the Lahore Declaration. It was the same two leaders who talked peace in Lahore who earlier had ordered the nuclear weapons tests. It was expedient, given international opinion, for them to stop fighting (at least for a while) and make up. Once the world moved on to other issues,  the battle was resumed. 
 

Track two has a limited objective
— J.N. Dixit
(Former Indian foreign secretary)

The thing to remember is that track–two diplomacy has been going on, through various initiatives, for the last ten years. What has been most significantly observed about such intiatives is that they have no impact on government policy at all. On either side, in Pakistan or in India, the power structures of the two governments do not take into account either what is discussed at these fora or the recommendations made. So while track–two diplomacy may be broadly useful, the immediate impact is not noticeable.

What happens at a time when we are faced with a situation like we presently are in at Kargil? Even those individuals who are committed to peace and rational thinking on such issues get disappointed and wonder how to carry on because, when a territorial dispute arises, popular resentment and national feelings are aroused. Even the people who are committed to the improvement of relations between the two neighbours are faced with a wider public opinion that becomes antagonistic. 

In Pakistan, newspapers, television and radio report news of the bombing of “our schools and the killing of our children”. In India, the heavy casualties, the violation of the sanctity of an international agreement — the incursion beyond the LOC seven–ten miles into our territory — all in the face of Pakistan claiming not to have made any mistake raises temperatures.

I do believe that for at least one year, even government–level talks are not going to make serious headway. The foreign ministers may meet several times over — so that the world cannot tell us that we are being unreasonable — but the inner impulses on either side will not contribute to coming to any reasonable compromises on either side.

Track one diplomacy gets vitiated by such developments such as the current situation in Kargil. And track two efforts serve a limited objective: they keep alive trends in public opinion and are important at that level but are limited in their impact and reach. Unfortunately, what is a forgone conclusion today is that even if there was earlier some possibility of imminent solutions, these have been irretrievably delayed further. 
 

The situation will defuse soon
— Dr. Mubashir Hasan
 (Former finance minister, Pakistan)

The process started by both the prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee envisaged clearly talking on all issues including Kashmir. Unfortunately this unique intitiative, the first of its kind in fifty years, was first put off, or delayed by the dissolution of the Indian Lok Sabha and has now been stalled by the recent operations in Kargil. I foresee that grim though the situation in Kargil today seems, it will defuse within ten–fifteen days time. 

We must also remember that whenever the two governments come close to resolving issues or making a beginning even, something occurs to put a spoke in the wheel. It could be much–publicised news of USA supplying F16s to Pakistan that makes the Indians angry or it could be the news of a big explosion on Pakistani soil that makes the Pakistanis angry! These are the considered machinations of those international powers who do not want regional peace in South Asia. The Sharif–Vajpayee governments were for the first time in the process of co–relating their nuclear policies. An identical nuclear policy is in the interest of both Pakistan and India. This is not what vested international powers want.
 

Await more stable governments
— Nirmal Mukherjee 
(Former Indian cabinet secretary and governor, Punjab)

I don’t believe that the doings of peace groups are undone. I believe the urge for peace remains unchanged. The current situation in Kargil is illustrative of the games regimes play. My own view is that India is going through a situation of political flux (as our former prime minister, V.P. Singh has been saying) except that I feel that the results of the next election will be another pre–final. Until the voice of the oppressed, the vast majority, gets finally heard. In the midst of this flux, with weak governments at the helm, peace activists cannot do too much. They must hold their fire, conserve their energy, remain in touch, gather as many facts, and as much information about each other, as possible. And await a political climax over the next decade when the moves for peace find receptive listeners in government.
 

Peace pressure must continue
— B.M. Kutty
(Convenor, Pakistan Peace Coalition; also secretary, Sind province committee of Pak–India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy)

It is true that the situation  presently looks very bleak and  frustrating. Something like the recent developments in Kargil appear to undermine by months and years the efforts put in by pro–peace organisations and individuals on both sides. But peace groups cannot afford to give up in either country. The argument for people to people contact, the need for increased interaction, remains as valid today as it was before. So, irrespective of what happens at the government level, we should go on pressing for further contacts.

Also peace groups cannot close their eyes to the fact that Kashmir remains a very sensitive issue between the two countries and a resolution of this issue is essential for durable peace. It has acquired a hydra–headed character that cannot be pushed under the carpet. We, therefore, will have to evolve perspectives for a resolution of the problem and thereafter mount pressure on the government on both sides to act on them. 

To begin with, a few things are very clear. The Kashmir problem cannot be solved militarily — neither by India’s military action nor by Pakistan’s intervention through support to this or that group. Both the governments have to agree that the people of Kashmir also count — no agreement will work unless it enjoys the confidence of the Kashmiri people. 

I personally believe that unless people of Kashmir on both sides are given an absolutely free choice, with no Indian troops present and without any Pakistani involvement, there will be no solution possible.
 

Kashmir’s accession to India is final
— Vishnu Bhagwat
(Former Chief of the Indian Navy)

In my mind, there can be no question of any moves towards lasting peace within the region being at all feasible with Pakistan insisting on intervention in Kashmir. This is true not only in the context of the recent infiltration in Kargil but in the context of Jammu and Kashmir as a whole. For India and for me, the question of Kashmir and its accession are final through the instrument of accession and no Indian government has any right to indulge in any kind of bargaining so far as the question of the status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union is concerned. This is because, in more ways than one, Kashmir is not only the symbol of Indian secularism but the sine qua non of both the secular Indian constitution and the secular India state. It is literally the head of the body that is India. The will of the people of Kashmir was behind the accession of Kashmir to India as opposed to the rulers of not just Kashmir but Hyderabad, Junagadh and Jaipur who wanted independent status, their treaties with the British having lapsed. Under no circumstances can any state of the Indian union, be it Punjab, Kashmir or a government at the centre be encouraged or permitted to take on a non–secular, theocratic garb. 

On all other issues like trade and business, people–to–people links, cultural exchanges these are welcome since we are basically the same people. But I strongly feel that Kashmir cannot be a part of these levels of exchanges. Here I would like to quote the example of Abraham Lincoln who held the American union together at the cost of a civil war knowing full well the implications of such a war. Secession was something that was never entertained as a possibility let alone an eventuality. 

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 1999, Year 6  No. 54, Cover Story 2