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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 36, August 28, 2010

For a New Frontier

Thursday 2 September 2010, by C.N. Chitta Ranjan


Fifteen years have gone by and yet the Kashmir dispute has defied settlement. And today it has got entangled in a mass of other issues, ranging from defence against the Chinese menace to the securing of Western aid.

The six rounds of ministerial level talks may have heard many a sophisticated proposal, pertaining to maps and alignments. They may have been accompanied by hectic back-stair—sometimes even frontporch—lobbyings by interested outsiders, but there was something severely missing in all these confabulations. The relationship between two neighbouring countries can never be improved by means of constitutional niceties nor by mere Third-Party Good Offices. The spirit that can make the good offices work must come from the two neighbours themselves, without which no amount of balancing of claims against counter-claims can bring about a lasting settlement.

Indo-Pak relations have been embitted over years and the unsettled issue of Kashmir has perpetuated this bitterness. Those who say that the surrender of the Valley itself will be a good riddance as it will end the antipathy across the frontier, are mistaken, since that will be hailed on the Pakistani side in their present mood as the triumph of communal intransigence on the part of the worst die-hards in their camp.

Equally untenable as a means of settlement has been the stand of those who have popularised the clap-trap slogan that Pakistan must vacat aggression. Apart from strengthening the adamancy of the Hindu communalists on this side of the frontier, this hot-air diplomacy forgets that no nation today can be made to agree to a settlement by the strategy of the bully. And the demand for vacation of aggression can be regarded by the most peace-loving Pakisani as only the clamour of a bully. Tit-for-tat diplomacy may help one to play up to the gallery but it is hardly good meat for wise statesmanship.

Statesmanship was once shown from the Indian side when a few years ago, the Prime Minister made the bold gesture suggesting that the Cease Fire Line itself might be turned into the permanent frontier. This amounted to the foregoing of claims on the other side of the frontier. But it was based on the realistic approach that a status quo spread over years should not be disturbed so that there might be the least upset in any final settlement.

This offer was, however, lost in the dismal armosphere of acrimony that has prevailed in the relations between the two countries. This experience has proved that even bold and statesmanlike gestures cannot fetch the desired results unless they come in the wake of an overpowering spirit of mutual goodwill. It is this aspect of the Indo-Pak relationship that demands immediate attention from men and women of goodwill in both countries. It will be an abdication of our conscience if we just say, as many of us do, that since Pakistan was born out of hatred for India, there could be no room for a welling up of mutual goodwill between the two neighbours.

There are many avenues of social contact—trade, education and culture—where the two peoples constantly meet. Can we in all honesty say that we have exhausted the furthest possibilities of closest contact in these spheres to cement kinship and dispel suspicion? Goodwill missions are not enough for they too are hidebound by stuffy protocol and seldom do they exude real goodwill.
What is urgently wanted is a bold all-out campaign for revitalising our withering links with our brothers and sisters in Pakistan. This cannot and must not be confined to politicians alone. It has to be at all levels and among all sections. Only such a bold campaign can create the necessary climate in which unsolved disputes like Kashmir can be settled.

No longer must we wait pathetically for others to come and put our houses in order. The time has come for striking out towards a new frontier of friendship. Pakistanis are not just our neighbours, they are the flesh of our flesh, as we and they are born out of the sacred soil of a common motherland.

(Editorial in Mainstream, May 18, 1963)

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