India - Pakistan “aman ki asha or nirasha”
Mumbai Press Club delegation met Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain (November 27, 2013) and perhaps in good faith stressed on much needed change of the mindset to expedite trade between the two countries. Keeping in view the deteriorating situation at Ceasefire Line and the narratives of politicians, the cherished trade cannot better relations unless a resolve to settle political issues stems from honesty, goodwill and sincerity. Kashmir being the core issue needs a settlement and an attempt to sideline this burning issue can anytime conflagrate into an uncontrolled inferno.
The settlement of all outstanding issues will guarantee peace and wellbeing of nearly one and a quarter billion people which in turn will allow the sub-continent to become an economic force to play a constructive role on international level. The painted rosy picture has certain lacunae and the dream can become a reality if the stumbling blocks are removed.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif´s endeavour to improve relations is a welcome step but India needs to show some reciprocity and willingness to reply positively the gestures made by Pakistan. Pakistan, in principle, has agreed to accord India the Most Favoured Nation Status (MFNS) and has shown seriousness in promoting trade between two nations. The government of Nawaz Sharif is very eager to remove Visa restrictions so that people can freely travel and interact to enhance cultural and business activities. The people to people contact will, as believed, allow removal of doubts, misgivings and misconceptions eventually paving the way for settlement of the thorny political issue.
The import of items like tomatoes, potatoes, betel leaves and nuts has already become a reality and looks like at the moment it is a one sided affair. The items traded, as a policy; need to be highlighted through media to apprise people of two way traffic maintaining the balance of trade in order to satisfy people´s ego that trade is bilaterally conducted. The ingrained mistrust in the hearts of general public can be removed by publicly announcing figures and items traded on daily, weekly or monthly basis.
In comparison, people of Pakistan are dismayed to see the tarnished image of much talked about "aman ki asha" as certain allegations are levelled against the promoters of this concept; like a recent delegation of 8 Indians disguised as Judges and singers visiting Pakistan turned out to be a farce and the concerned delegation, as reported in the media, is going through some investigations by Pakistan´s security agencies for indulging in some suspected espionage activities.
Import of Indian films and screening these illegally in Pakistan flouting regularity authorities´permissions has done tremendous damage to the indigenous film industry, loss of income in billions and unprecedented damage to local film-producing companies. A sizeable majority of Pakistan apprehend a planned cultural invasion that, as believed, has already damaged the very fabric of Pakistan’s tradition and cultural heritage to a large extent.
The venom spitting rhetoric used by India on daily basis is not helping any overtures towards achieving "aman" which Samaritans believe to be imperative and indispensable for future good lasting relations. The allegations of terror attacks in Mumbai and the parliament in Delhi have had huge holes as undersecretary in India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, Satish Verma, accused his own government of orchestrating attacks on Indian parliament, as well as 2008 Mumbai terror incident. Indian media is hard pressing for a "coherent plan of action, like say US did after 9/11". Indian media further maintains that the trial of “terror” suspects in Pakistani courts is a ´mockery of justice´.
India, through its media, is sending out feelers that it intends constructing a wall between two Kashmirs even higher than dismantled Berlin wall. The message does not auger well at a time when Pakistan is ignoring all hyperbolic tangents from Indian political circles, media and its armed forces at the highest level. India talks about settling Kashmir bilaterally when a third party intervention is suggested on international level and takes a somersault when Kashmir is put on the agenda of suggested bilateral talks. It is frustrating for Kashmir to see that Pakistan gives in and compromises on the terms favouring India politically and economically without getting much in return. The argument that the status-quo suitable to a particular party could be a solution is merely a wishful thinking fraught with dangerous consequences.
People of Kashmir have confidence in astute and sagacious leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the display of courage and statesmanship portrayed at United Nations pleading Kashmir case infused new blood into this human issue seemingly put in the cold storage. Peace initiative is the inborn wish of saner elements and a dialogue to achieve peace is considered the only way out but it is a matter of getting down to the nitty-gritty with sincerity of purpose. One cannot have the cake and eat it as well.
K. Alan Kronstadt, specialist in South Asian Affairs at Congressional Research Service comments on Kashmir: "Although India suffers from several militant regional separatist movements; the Kashmir issue has proven the most lethal and intractable. Conflict over Kashmiri sovereignty has brought global attention to a potential “flashpoint” for war between nuclear-armed powers. The problem is rooted in competing claims to the state, which has been divided since 1948 by a military Line of Control separating "India’s" Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state and Pakistan-controlled Azad [Free] Kashmir..... New Delhi insists that the dispute should not be ´internationalized´ through involvement by third-party mediators and India is widely believed to be content with the territorial status quo. The longstanding U.S. position on Kashmir is that the issue must be resolved through negotiations between India and Pakistan while taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
In order to allow "Aman ki asha" (Hope of Peace) to succeed, Kashmir question needs to be addressed and solved without any further delay as Kashmir bled enough for the last sixty six years.