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September 26, 2018

The search for similarities


September 26, 2018

If there has been one particular week where international diplomacy appears to have been abandoned, it has to be the preceding one.

Not only did British Prime Minister Theresa May experience an unfriendly snub from the EU over her extremely accommodating Brexit deal proposals at Salzburg, but the world also witnessed the US continuing on its international trade tariffs spree against China, followed by retaliation from the latter.

While delegates from the two Koreas discussed their plans for nuclear disarmament, another ray of hope was on the horizon: the prospect of peaceful talks between India and Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in extremely cordial terms highlighting the need to establish a dialogue in order to resolve their countries’ long-standing disputes through peaceful resolution.

In a world where hate-filled rhetoric is gaining popularity, such level of maturity – and that too coming from Pakistan, a country usually portrayed as hostile by the foreign media – was a breath of fresh air. However, what followed confirmed the worst. The world has run out of patience where reconciliation is seen as a sign of weakness and inflated egos are in vogue.

There was a short-lived positive response from the BJP government agreeing to arrange a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting this month in New York. However, the Indian media started running sensational stories condemning their government’s inclination towards peace talks.

All of a sudden Indian TV channels put the mutilation of Narender Kumar, a BSF jawan, along the Line of Control (LOC) under the spotlight, alleging without concrete evidence that Pakistan was involved in the act – a claim that has been rejected by Pakistan. The Indian government, in the run-up to the 2019 elections, bowed down to media pressure and called off its plans to hold talks with Pakistan.

Why did India consider it wise not to establish a dialogue? India claims that Pakistan has time and again been in violation of LoC ceasefires – an allegation that has also been levelled towards India by Pakistan. India has alleged that Pakistan has martyred its soldiers and civilians across the LoC – a claim which has also been made by Pakistan. India claims that Pakistan provides safe havens to elements hostile to the former’s security, which is again an allegation that Pakistan directs towards India, eg Kulbhushan Jadhav’s much-debated illegal presence in Pakistan.

With so many tensions between the estranged neighbours, was it not necessary to establish a forum where both nations could have addressed their grievances against one another possibly with the intervention of a neutral mediator sponsored by the UN?

Following this snub from India, opposition parties in Pakistan, though condemning India’s arrogance, also blamed the PTI for extending the olive branch to our neighbours, claiming that it made us appear weak. The Indian media labelled this act of diplomacy as a form of ‘begging’. That’s what is particularly upsetting. It takes a lot of courage to overcome individual egos and talk about peace. How many more Narender Kumars or Ayans (the eight-year-old Pakistani boy killed by Indian firing in February 2018) will have to die for the warmongers to satisfy their thirst for blood?

If it takes ‘weakness’ to save lives from further destruction, then it’s better to be weak. If it takes ‘begging’ to bridge our differences, then begging should become the new norm for the sake of those innocent lives that are paying the price for this endless war.

When we look at our history, we talk only of our differences that led to Partition. We tend to forget our similarities in wanting to rid ourselves from colonialism and to stand up for our rights. If our forefathers could take a stand for their rights, then why can’t we do that today? It’s time to self-reflect and communicate.

The writer is an advocate of the high court.

Email: [email protected]

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