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July 27, 2013

‘Eliminating internal conflicts imperative for Indo-Pak peace’

July 27, 2013


All external problems stem from internal factors that are just allowed to lie dormant and not tackled promptly, said Dr Riaz Sheikh, the head of Szabist’s social sciences department, quoting Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Tse-tung.
Sheikh delivered a lecture under the aegis of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy at the HRCP office on Friday. The lecture was titled “Pak-India Relations and Prospects of Peace in the Region”.
“We all have to acknowledge that the friction-riddled Indo-Pak ties are an issue that cannot escape our attention,” he said. “We have to catch the bull by its horns to resolve all outstanding issues for the welfare and prosperity of people on both sides of the border.”
In the present-day world, especially after World War II, Pakistan and India were the only two countries having so much hostility over various issues, Sheikh said.
Quoting the example of Slovenia and Croatia, two countries which emerged from the break-up of Yugoslavia, he said there was a dispute between the two over a 26-kilometre coastal strip but both said they would not allow any hostilities over the issue and settle the matter through negotiations. Consequently the matter was settled and the people of the two countries were spared another devastating war and bloodshed, he added.
Another example, Sheikh cited, was of the Italian port city of Tristia, which the erstwhile Yugoslavia claimed ownership of. Finally after negotiations between the two countries, it was mutually decided that the city belonged to Italy – no bloodshed, no war.
“Kargil totally changed the face of Indo-Pak ties,” he observed. The two countries were beginning to head for progress by initiating confidence building measures but the move was wrecked by the Kargil conflict, which totally changed the political complexion of the region.
“Right after partition, we should have tried to tackle

internally divisive factors like feudalism and colonial structures,” he said. Feudalism, he said, seemed to be growing stronger with every passing day and was polarising the society between the haves and the have-nots.
“A nation divided within can never be strong and will face external problems,” he said. “We didn’t bother to dismantle anti-people colonial structures and the police in our country today are as brutal towards the masses as they were in the colonial era and love to humiliate the common folk just for the heck of it.”
Sheikh said this had brought about a gaping chasm between the rulers and the ruled, something that strikes at the roots of a country’s existence. He also quoted the examples of imperial Japan and feudal Russia, saying that while the former had just got embroiled in a military confrontation and a humiliating defeat, the latter got busy with dismantling feudal structures and working full steam to improve the lot of their feudalism-affected masses with the result that while Russia in the form of Soviet Union emerged as a superpower, Japan was defeated and occupied.
He was of the view that there was no enmity between the people of India and Pakistan and both were very cordial towards each other.
He thought the hatred was sustained and fuelled by vested interest groups on both sides.
Having just returned from a conference in Chennai, India, he said that the people in the South in particular were very magnanimous and liberal and harboured no hatred or acrimony for the people of Pakistan.
Sheikh was hopeful about the future of Indo-Pak ties and cited the induction of a democratic government in Pakistan which, he thought, was happy augury.
“While today the volume of trade between the two countries is small, it can be increased,” he said.
A medicine costing Rs15 in India would cost well over Rs120 in Pakistan as it would have to be imported from the West and with the constant erosion in the value of the rupee, its cost would rise almost daily. “So, as far as the people of Pakistan go, would not it be a far more viable proposition to import that drug from India?”
Sheikh spoke of “medical tourism” between the two countries and said that while cardiac surgery in the US cost $50,000, it cost $16,000 in Thailand and in India only $4,000. “This is one area which could really prove beneficial to the people of Pakistan,” he said.
Harmonious relations between the two countries, he said, could lead to the import of cheap electricity and machinery from India which would benefit none other than the people of Pakistan..
He was of the view that normalisation of trade with India would go a long way in healing our fiscal imbalances through export earnings rather than the IMF loan disbursement spread out over three years and riddled with conditions which would cripple Pakistan, coupled with the devaluation and the constant slide of the Pakistani rupee.




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