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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 51 New Delhi December 12, 2015

Is the Ice Melting?

Sunday 13 December 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

Suddenly there was summer. A chance 160-second meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif has melted the ice, which seemed frozen beyond change. The about-turn indicates that the differences have been exaggerated. The ego, which is probably the real reason, needs to be tackled.

India was stuck on the stand that it would not talk anything else except terrorism as was the crux of the joint statement issued after their meeting at Ufa, Russia. Pakistan saw no purpose in talking if the “core issue of Kashmir” was not on the top of the agenda. That had led to the discontinuation of talks apart from Pakistan’s insistence on meeting the Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir. On similar grounds, the talks had broken after Agra. The then Union Minister, Sushma Swaraj, had voiced protest.

Apparently, these stances had acquired a crust which had to be broken as the two countries stood distant. Once their Prime Ministers met, the confrontational attitude disappeared, paving the way for a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Those who underline the need for a structured dialogue do not seem to realise that such innumerable reasons are adumbrated when there is no will to talk. Once the desire crops up for constructive talks, everything else recedes into the background. The Prime Ministers shed their ego and behave like normal human beings. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went on say that there would be further developments. That means the earlier stand not to talk until certain conditions were met has undergone a change.

I have followed the events in the subcontinent for more than four decades. My reading is that distrust remains the main reason for the absence of rapprochement. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, felt that the distrust was a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. The disease was the anti-India feeling.

Pakistan can say the same thing. Still there is no going away from the fact that until there is trust between the two countries, no talks can fructify. That is the reason why so many agreements have remained only on paper.

Whether it was an agreement at Tashkent or at Shimla, the pious words of friendship never came true. Both did not trust one another. Even today, the story is no different. We are practically at the same stage where we were at the time of partition during which period a separate homeland for the Muslims in the shape of Pakistan was established.

In fact, the distrust has got institutionalized in the shape of India and Pakistan. The distrust between the two communities, the Hindus and the Muslims, has not lessened in any way. As a result, we often hear stories of atrocities committed against the minorities in both the countries.

No doubt, there will be talks between the two countries, although India may be reluctant to begin those because the latent enmity will come to the fore. Both sides will have to close the old chapters of hostility and begin afresh.

However, it looks difficult. Yet, if Pakistan were to follow Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s words after the creation of Pakistan, things could become easy. He said that you were either Pakistanis or Indians and that you ceased to be Muslims or Hindus, not in the religious sense but otherwise.

Pakistan is far from Jinnah’s wishes. It has become a purely Islamic state, with religious elements having their say. Hindus are less than two per cent, many of whom have migrated to India while others have succumbed to getting converted themselves to lead their life. When the Babri Masjid was demolished, many Hindu temples and gurdwaras in Pakistan were des-troyed too.

Against this background the dispute over Kashmir is understandable. Former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah is correct when he says that Kashmir under Pakistan would remain part of Pakistan and the territory under India with New Delhi. Yet, the other part of his speech that both India and Pakistan should vacate Kashmir is neither practical nor realistic.

 Good or bad, the ceasefire converted into the Line of Control has become a line, which is recognised as the international border. Any unilateral attempt to redraw the line has resulted in hostilities as has been the experience in the past. This is unfair to the Kashmiris who remain divided. But they are not agitating for the integration of the two portions, however strong they may be feeling. The ceasefire line seems to keep them satisfied.

Lt. Gen. Kulwant Singh, who had led the operation at that time, was once asked the reason for his stopping at a point he did when the war was practically favouring India. He said that he was asked not to advance further by the government. Nehru, then heading it, explained that he did not want the forces to take that part of Kashmir which was Punjabi-speaking.

Farooq Abdullah should know that the Kashmiri-speaking territory is with India. Beyond the Valley, the Punjabi-speaking Muslims live and they do not harbour any sentiment for the Kashmiriyat. True, the entire Kashmir should be under Srinagar. But the events, which have unfolded after the State’s accession to India, have divided the State unrestrictedly.

Undoing the arrangement now will cost both India and Pakistan dear. They have had experiences of two wars. It may not be fair to the Kashmiris but they have to live with it realising the state of affairs between India and Pakistan. Another war between the two would be a nuclear one and that cannot be contemplated because it would destroy all above the Vindhyas.

There is no go other than a meeting between India and Pakistan to sort out all their problems sitting across the table. Only normalcy can bring prosperity to the region. The example of Europe is before us. They fought among themselves for hundreds of years and today there is an economic union which is helping even the sick Greece to recover. India and Pakistan should see the example and learn from it.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com