By Afzal Rahim
It is one of history’s ironies that a people who share so much, refuse to acknowledge their similarities and focus so avidly on their differences. It is time to restore the equilibrium. Public opinion is far too potent a force to be left in the hands of narrow vested interests. The people of today must find its voice and force the rulers to listen. Peace between India and Pakistan has been stubbornly elusive and yet tantalizingly inevitable. This vast subcontinent senses the bounties a peace dividend can deliver to its people yet it recoils from claiming a share. The natural impulse would be to break out of the straitjacket of stated positions and embrace an ideal that promises sustained prosperity to the region, yet there is hesitation. There is a collective paralysis of the will, induced by the trauma of birth, amplified by false starts, mistrust, periodic outbreaks of violence, suspicion, misplaced jingoism and diplomatic doublespeak. Hypnotized by their own mantra, the two states are reluctant to move towards normalization until certain terms and certain promises are kept. Transforming that rivalry into a mature, productive relationship will be difficult. But the consequences of continued animosity will be much worse.
Those in India who think it’s no use talking to Pakistan when it is sinking should know that waiting for Pakistan to evaporate from the face of the earth may take too long and lose India the chance to help Pakistan at arriving at a bilaterally acceptable solution to disputes which will actually be Pakistan’s ‘self-correction’ in disguise. It is quite possible that Pakistan has lost its ability to set things right at home even if it wants to, in which case it needs to be helped rather than challenged
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