My Report Debate II: With Pakistan, Impossible Is Nothing
(Vaibhav Shah’s essay is among the Top 10 of the My Report Debate II. Participants were asked the question: How to fix the India-Pakistan relationship – Jaadu ki jhappi or surgical strike?)
The phrase "Great Political Tamasha" best describes India's relations with Pakistan. Both countries have faced multiple wars, failed Agreements, creation of the world's highest battlefield, back-channel diplomacy, composite dialogues and CBMs, bus rides going nowhere, even a crash landing to attend a wedding – uninvited. From serving biryani, gifting shawls, to surgical strikes.
Each incumbent prime minister in India first aspires to be a statesman, talking about peace and favouring dialogue to resolve issues with Pakistan.
But then reality strikes through sponsored terrorism, talks take a back seat and depending on political compulsions, there is either a lull, or stealth, or surgical strikes.
Come elections, the chest-thumping of teaching Pakistan begins, termination of international treaties is advocated, ban on Pakistan artists follows (which quietly disappears after few months!).
It is the Indian political class that benefits from keeping Pakistan-related issues unresolved. The situation is hopeless across the border. Ever wondered why Indian economic policies haven’t changed since 1991 irrespective of the political party in power, but for Pakistan, each government starts with clean slate and almost ends up back to square one? This needs to stop.
Pakistan is no Palestine and India is not Israel. The following actions are proposed:
1. Create a think tank to discuss Pakistan – an autonomous institution which will have PM as a Chair, members from Cabinet Committee on Security, the leader of Opposition, and equal number of leaders as CCS from across parties who have in the past handled Pakistan issues. It could include service chiefs, leading academicians, business leaders, retired Supreme Court Chief Justices, officials from intelligence agencies and ex High Commissioners and foreign service officials.
This think tank will be mandated to draft and periodically review a Pakistan Policy that will be binding upon current and successive governments:
- People-to-people contact, trade ties, sporting events, artists, cultural exchanges etc, should never be banned.
- There is nothing to talk with Pakistan because they will not settle for anything less than Kashmir and we cannot give it. No talks at any level.
- Give stern reply to any act of terrorism with full military and technological might (pre-emptive if required). We should not tolerate terrorism.
- Ban any mention of Pakistan-related actions/policies in election speeches and rallies. National Security is paramount.
- Pakistani people are not our enemies. Kashmir is number 1 issue between India and Pakistan. If we can resolve that, we are done, but how?
(2) As it stood before Partition, we must take the big gamble of creating a united J&K without losing any strategic positions to counter China and give its control back to people of J&K with equal linkages to India and Pakistan, to make sure autonomous J&K does not become new Afghanistan. If this is successful, we can think of uniting India and Pakistan again. If West & East Germany can be unified, why not us?
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