India and Pakistan should not allow Hurriyet to mar the talks and peace prospects between two nations.
The cancellation of the talks between National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan does not portend well for regional peace and amity. The leadership on either side has shown lack of statesmanship by cancelling the talks that could have proved a vital link towards greater engagement. Insistence on meeting Hurriyet leaders by Pakistan and similar stridency by India on denying the Hurriyet an opportunity to meet the NSA from Pakistan Sartaj Aziz, have proved to be the undoing of the entire exercise that carried prospects of widening the ties.
Constructive engagement between the two countries holds the key to peace and stability in the South Asian region which is home to nearly one-fourth of the humanity on the globe. To allow the issues of terrorism, Kashmir and meeting of the Hurriyet leaders to sabotage the crucial talks indeed points to deficiency of a visionary approach to the issue. Pakistan’s claim on the Jammu and Kashmir had suffered a major blow ever since it lost its eastern wing in 1971. The two nation theory had come unstuck in the wake of emergence of Bangladesh. Pursuit of Kashmir issue has now only symbolic value in asserting the vision of its genesis. Pakistan would be only deluding itself if it thinks that it represents the aspirations of the entire Muslims of the subcontinent. It did not do so even when India was partitioned on communal lines. Failure in repatriating the nearly three lakh Biharis stranded in ghettoes of Dhaka, Mirpur and Chittagong further bolsters the case for stepping back from its hardline stance on Jammu and Kashmir. Grandiose ambition without commensurate capability only results in empty bravado. Pakistan would do well if it merely considers itself a modern Muslim nation-state and eschews designs of Pan-Islamic leadership, if any. States today earn greater estimation among the comity of nations through their economic worth, academic excellence, creativity and innovation, soft power and HDI, than by mouthing religious rhetoric.
Hurriyet’s meeting or not meeting Sartaj Aziz would not have made much of a difference. Separatists are themselves divided among several groups and have only small pockets of influence in the Valley. Even the fairest and the freest elections (in 1977) had given them only five seats in the J&K Assembly. Of the three regions in the State, viz. Jammu, the Valley and Ladakh, they represent very small segments of people in the Valley alone. Neither permission for a meeting would have lent Pakistan an advantage, nor its denial has paid any dividends to India. It has only damaged the prospects for peace between the two nations.
There are greater benefits in continuing the engagement through talks and building cordial relations between the two major nations of the region. Burdened with major chunks of poverty ridden populace, the two nations cannot afford to commit huge allocation to Defence which is 17% for India and almost 32% in Pakistan. Nuclear deterrence has almost blotted the chances of a full scale war between the two neighbours. Huge Defence budgets merely keep the Western warmongers smiling. Needless to say that such huge allocation has created vested interest across the borders who see benefit in pushing the hawkish line. With sanctions against Iran being lifted, the two nations could pursue the IPI Peace Pipeline which would only enhance the stakes in peace for the two nations. Peace in the subcontinent will provide greater access to the natural resources as well as markets of Central Asia.
It is time the two neighbours shun scoring petty points and rise above frivolities and try to gain bigger benefits of durable peace in the subcontinent.