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Buses & ferries to nowhere

November 11, 2003

If pirated tapes and cassettes are indicators, Lata Mangeshkar has been as much a legend in Pakistan as in India. Yet, have you ever heard of Pakistani people persuading their rulers in civvies or khakis to invite the immortal singer to Lahore or wherever for a public recital? Nevertheless, the Vajpayee government believes that people-to-people contact is our best ladder for peace with Pakistan.

Experts in India exist who back this p-to-p idea to the hilt. Some of them even consider it a masterstroke to have conceived of the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus ride. Imagine, they say, what the people of Pak Occupied Kashmir will see when they come down to the valley: economic development, full democracy and freedom of the press, girls in jeans and women without burkhas.

Similarly, these experts say, the ferry service between Mumbai and Karachi will help expose the Pakistanis in Sindh to the uninhibited liberalism of Indian's most cosmopolitan city and commercial capital of India.

What an impact, these experts say, all this will create on the Pakistanis and how these people will, they say, thereafter get their own rulers to break bread with India.

The point overlooked in such p-to-p concepts is the failure of the Lata legend to arouse the Pak people to persuade even their rare democratic governments to open the doors of drama, dance and music to Indian artists. If even the few properly elected civilian rulers of Pakistan cannot be moved by the educated, elitist classes of Pakistan to soak in the image of India's rich cultural heritage, what hopes do they have of converting the khakis of usurping dictators and the conspirators of its Inter Services Intelligence?

If Pakistan is so keen on sporting ties with us, it is probably because it savours sadistic delight in the knowledge that its cricket and hockey teams will beat ours more often than not; this is vicarious compensation for what it failed to do in three wars plus the Kargil conflict.

The idea of melting the Pakistan people's hearts with our democratic traditions, pluralism, liberalism and activist judiciary will not succeed -- not for a long, long time, not at least until Pakistan the nation breaks down and falls on its knees. It will not succeed as a goal by itself or as a preparatory step to peace with Pakistan.

Their people already know a considerable lot about India. A bus service from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar and a ferry from Karachi to Mumbai are not going to make them wiser about our tolerant attitudes, our belief in dissent as a part of life, about our concern for people's aspirations and our consensual approach to satisfy those aspirations. What exactly did the Samjhauta Express and the bus service to Lahore get us? Counterfeit currency, smuggled RDX, the rape of Kargil and attack on Parliament constitute much of what we really got, apart from homilies on the 'core' issue.

See, as examples, the attitude of their noted English language journalists, Ayaz Amir and Najam Sethi. They hurl barbs often at Musharraf, at Nawaz Sharif and others at the helm of their country. But they hardly ever ask their rulers to draw a leaf from India's book of achievements.

They never fail to ridicule India's stand on this or that, and they never fail to uphold their own country's stand on Jammu and Kashmir and on this or that. These two are writers who are sophisticated, who know India and the world from their travels, from their reading and from the Internet. But nothing of what they know has melted their hearts to back India's stand on this or that or anything else. And these are the writers whose columns are so thoughtlessly (treacherously?) syndicated by our very own, Indian newspapers.

Even in the unlikely event that the ferry between Mumbai and Karachi will soften the stand of an Ayaz Amir towards India, there is absolutely nothing in the Pakistani set-up that will encourage him to rebel against his country's eternal hostility towards India. The master grip of Pakistan's ISI on all the affairs of the state and the khaki's ubiquitous presence in Pakistan will ensure that its antagonism towards India doesn't reduce even a wee bit even if gets the Kashmir valley.

Take the case of the political leaders of Gilgit and Balwaristan in POK. Those leaders' statements appearing on the Internet or in rare press interviews are crystal clear indicators of their plight and their frustrations under the Islamabad regime for years together.

They also know of the stark contrast in which their counterparts live in J&K under India's governance. But they are pitiably powerless in breaking their chains of utter neglect and humiliation. Unlike India, Pakistan's credo has been to rule with the rod and the gun, shutting out dissent in the jail.

Take the case of Pakistan's parliamentarians themselves. For over a year, the opposition in the national assembly has vociferously protested against Musharraf's Legal Framework Order; they have wanted the dictator to either give up his army dress or his presidential crown. But they haven't succeeded. And when, recently, their leader in the assembly, Javed Hamid, was arrested for alleged treason against the State, they couldn't muster the popular strength as would drive the Pakistani people to mutiny. What softening can you then expect from a bus service to Muzaffarabad or a ferry to Karachi?

The point overlooked by those Indians who hope and dream of peace with Pakistan is simple really. Pakistan's DNA is one of duplicity, of arrogance; it is a country that has falsehood running in its genes. Beginning from an uncivilised rape of J&K in October 1947, right through its presidential proclamation that Dawood Ibrahim is neither in its territory or its passport holder, there is very little it has been truthful about to India and to the world at large.

And this lying is repeated over and over with a straight face, as though self-respect is a non-existent word in the Islamic dictionary. American writers have dubbed it the epicentre of terrorism; the UK government recently acknowledged that Pakistan was indulging in cross-border terrorism inside India. But Pakistan faces it all unfazed, as though it just didn't know what shame is all about. It doesn't have even the decency to reciprocate the Most Favoured Nation treatment in trade we gave it years ago. If Pakistan has survived till now nonetheless, it is only because of its geography and because world powers have little or no morality, whatever their long-winded reports on human rights and platitudes on justice.

A convincing proof about peace with Pakistan being a mere Indian dream and no more -- at least until circumstances unknown bring it down to its knees -- is the recent Gallup Outlook opinion poll in Pakistan cited in an article by one Fazal Mehmood in the Daily Excelsior of August 28. The poll revealed that 79 per cent of Pakistanis feel that 'there is no solution to Indo-Pakistan hostility unless the Kashmir issue is resolved to the satisfaction of Pakistan.' It found that 54 per cent of Pakistanis consider India as their enemy, and 47 per cent feel that prime minister Vajpayee's recent peace initiatives are a 'gimmick.'

To the abovre poll findings, add what B Raman, the former RAW officer, disclosed at a seminar in Chennai in January 2001. He said then that 'every government servant in Pakistan, serving or retired, every army officer, every intelligence officer… they all feel that their country's defeat in1971, which created Bangladesh, has to be avenged and India has to be made to pay a much bigger price. And all of them are committed to tearing apart Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India.'

Should India then send Sachin Tendulkar in a bus to Muzaffarnagar to secure peace with Pakistan? Should we also send legend Lata Mangeshkar to Karachi in a ferry? Or should we sign away the Kashmir valley to Pakistan in a mega ceremony on the ramparts of the Red Fort?

It might be more peaceful, really, if we kept on killing Pakistan's infiltrating johadis and shut out that country altogether from our radar. We do that even to some of our relatives and next-door neighbours in our housing society, don't we?

Arvind Lavakare

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