With tension between India and Pakistan escalating, the self-appointed ambassadors of peace have their hands full. Irrespective of the inappropriateness of marketing peace at a time when India has yet to come to terms with 26/11, peaceniks on both sides are overactive. Last week a Pakistani delegation landed in Amritsar with a banner of friendship; another is invading Delhi to talk peace. Worse still, their Indian counterparts held meetings to ensure that their peace mission was a roaring success, apart from warmly welcoming them on Indian soil.
Each time Indians visit Pakistan or they us, they are visibly gushing with emotion. Both make endless comparisons and list commonalities in food, dress, language, culture and of course history. Politically correct, but untrue because there are distinct differences in the respective cuisines, languages, festivals, customs, rituals and religion. What are common are the scars of Partition and a blood-stained divide: facts which peaceniks pretend do not exist as they exchange garlands and bear hugs, while pining for a no-visa regime. It’s all very well to savour kebabs and hosting lavish dinners. But scratch the surface and there is acrimony: raw wounds that have little chance of healing. Mention Kashmir or terrorism and positions harden. Then it is ‘you versus us’ rather than ‘you and us’.
So even while President Asif Ali Zardari tried to charm Indians at the HT summit by saying that there is a little bit of India in every Pakistani and vice versa, the truth is that there is no love lost between the two. It is rare to find an Indian warming up to a Pakistani. However hard we may try, we cannot wish away the mutual suspicion sealed by history. There is an irreparable divide and attempts to bridge it are both unrealistic and impossible. Marching to the Wagah border to light candles for peace is at best a goodwill gesture with no tangible results. In other words, a waste of time. Consequently when an enraged Pranab Mukherjee, India’s Foreign Minister, sheds diplomacy and cries war, he cannot be faulted.
This being the ground reality, it is time to shed superficial bonhomie and get real, and abandon the song and dance about friendship. We need to be brutally honest and change tack from a focus on peace to co-existence. It is compulsions of geography and not bonds of history that force us to live side by side. Replacing peace with co-existence will also help end the “like- mindedness” theory and reveal common meeting points in place of non-workable alliances. It will end pretensions about camaraderie and help us face reality: however hard, bitter and brutal it may be. Once minds are re-scripted, it will be much easier to tackle the inherent acrimony bordering on aggression.
Erase the friendship logo and there could be a road ahead; abandon the thought of jointly treading the path and solutions could be on the anvil. But break bread together and it is a non- starter because despite the kebabs and candles, terror attacks and a volatile Indo-Pak border are the order of the day.
The only casualty here would be the peaceniks. Not only will they be out of work but will be unwilling to accept that what they have been marketing all these years is an illusion.