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Does peace stand a chance?

Common ancestry and embittered political relations have made India and Pakistan strange bedfellows, writes Pragya Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2004 23:28 IST

Common ancestry and embittered political relations have made India and Pakistan strange bedfellows. Long and arduous years of bickering have culminated in failed talks, angry confrontations and periods of estrangement.

The scars of partition have never really healed, and the bitterness has found new outlets-Kashmir, Kargil, Siachen, Bangladesh, cross border terrorism - to name just a few.

The two countries have fought four wars since 1948, and there has never been a period when they have not been engaged in low intensity conflict. Reels of news space on both sides have been devoted to the desperation at the Line of Control. And the pain of the average kashmiri is nothing short of Dante's hell.

From politics to culture and cricket to business, India and Pakistan loom large in each other's psyche as estranged brothers - both of whom would like to love but end upantagonising the other.

Much to read between the lines

For the last few months, however, there is a new buzz. Both the countries have started speaking the language of peace and reconciliation. There have been too many "false dawns" in the relationship between the two countries for anyone to be overly optimistic about the fate of this particular initiative.

Nevertheless, the very fact that the peace process has been resumed at a time when relations between the two countries had reached a low ebb inspires hope. Moreover, with the US pressing for an end to terrorism in the region, Pakistan knows that it cannot go on abetting cross-border terrorism indefinitely. Finally, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee wants peace with Pakistan to be the crowning achievement of his tenure, and if the Pakistanis are willing to walk half the way, he will be more than willing to oblige.

Over the last 56 years, India and Pakistan have done their best to deny their common heritage and have reveled in focusing on points of difference. Thus when governments go the full circle and initiate peace, it is time to soak in the positive apathy and all that is natural, raw and real between the two contiguous nations.

Humanising the 'other'

It is perhaps time to tap into that human element of strategic international relations. The touching smile of a baby Noor and her grateful and appreciative parents. An emotional Mohammad Shahid Ali, who tries hard to hold his tears upon a reunion with his family three years since crossing the border.

Or the loud and bustling street protests in Karachi over blocking Bollywood movies by Pakistani cable-operators.

Or a gloriously red-lipped Laloo Yadav who assuredly obliges the shutterbugs and TV crews with his takes on the Lahori food is the star of the Indian delegation and is loved by the Pakistanis. A requiem of efforts by gender wallahs, cultural delegations and academics is hard to be ignored.

We try and celebrate this spirit in the run up to the SAARC summit. We try to credit the confidence building measures in areas that are imperative to life and love. The movies, the music, cricket and people. Those that involve the presidents and the prime ministers, the peaceniks, the Islamists and the right-wingers. Those that help us humanise the other.

First Published: Jan 05, 2004 00:00 IST