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Need of the Hour: Statesmanship!

March 01, 2019 10:35 IST

'A good opportunity has thus been provided for both countries to back away from the brink without loss of dignity.'
'There is every reason why they should strain every nerve, and grab every chance, shedding all thought of belligerence and showing who's the boss, to establish, maintain and preserve all it takes to lift themselves by their bootstraps,' says B S Raghavan, the distinguished civil servant.

Imran Khan with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in New Delhi, December 2015. Photograph: @MEAIndia/Twitter

IMAGE: Imran Khan with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in New Delhi, December 2015. Photograph: @MEAIndia/Twitter

There is some light at the end of the tunnel in respect of the events of the past few days on both sides of the India-Pakistan border.

Beginning with the attack on the Central Reserve Police Force convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway at Pulwama on February 14, action and reaction progressively escalated until both countries stood teetering on the very edge of the precipice of war.

However, as United States President Donald J Trump said on February 28 at Hanoi at the end of his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, there has been some 'reasonably attractive... reasonably decent' news, indicating that tensions are coming to an end.

The reason for this is not far to seek.

While both India and Pakistan came under mounting international pressure to desist from any further escalation, Pakistan's position was becoming increasingly untenable.

The owning up of responsibility for the Pulwama massacre by Jaish-e-Mohammad, already proclaimed as a terrorist group by the UN, left Pakistan with no means of escape from accountability as the outfit was patently based in Pakistan having been given a safe haven there to operate.

Ever since Donald J Trump took over as president, the US had been a trenchant critic of Pakistan in this respect, bringing it under measures of increasing severity.

 

Following the Pulwama outrage, with the US in the lead, various countries which are industrially advanced and weighty players on the international stage, in statements unusually stringent in tone and content, left Pakistan in no doubt about holding it to account for its unwillingness or inability to live up to its pledges to take noticeable action against terrorist organisations operating from its soil.

More perturbing than this for Pakistan, its hitherto staunch ally China too seemed to show signs of wavering in its support.

As soon as India made its air strike on Jaish-e-Mohammad's training camp at Balakote, as per what has been put out by the Chinese foreign ministry, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made an 'urgent' phone call to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

In response, according to an unmistakably sombre and stern statement issued by the Chinese foreign ministry, Qureshi was told 'that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected' and that 'China is unwilling to see acts that violate the norms of international relations'.

However that be, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi should be given his due for not letting things go out of control at his end and helping tempers cool by disclosing that he was repeatedly trying to reach out to India's Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, by phone, as part of the effort to defuse tension.

Judged from the comments from the international community and world media, his offer to release the Indian Air Force pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, has also gone down well. It is significant that Prime Minister Imran Khan has called it an expression of his 'desire for peace' and as 'a first step to open negotiations'.

A good opportunity has thus been provided for both countries to back away from the brink without loss of dignity.

There is every reason why they should strain every nerve, and grab every chance, shedding all thought of belligerence and showing who's the boss, to establish, maintain and preserve all it takes to lift themselves by their bootstraps.

If there are two countries in the world which can least afford a war or a conflict, with all its cost and consequences, they are, without the least doubt, India and Pakistan.

Starting their political journey at the same time as Japan and China, and in comparison with even countries much smaller in size and population, such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, they are still struggling to make their mark, whether in terms of economic clout or technological prowess, on the world stage.

They are yet to discharge their duty by their peoples, which is to guarantee minimum human standards of life, and what Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi had been showcasing as 'ease of living'.

It is imperative for both the ruling class and the civil society of India and Pakistan to realise that in their case, peace is inevitably, indisputably and irretrievably intertwined with progress.

Even a day's diversion of resources from development to even notional acts of brinkmanship such as surgical strikes, will, in their case, mean snatching from thousands of their poor, malnourished people food and livelihood that would have kept them going for months.

In the situation in which both countries are, any war between them is nothing short of what was once appropriately termed as MAD (mutually assured destruction).

If at all there were two leaders made for a rapprochement between India and Pakistan, without their motives being misunderstood, they are Narendra Damodardas Modi and Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi.

After a very long time, almost for the first time since they came into existence, both countries have leaders with breadth of vision and imagination, and with a sophisticated understanding of world affairs.

At the same time, they also unquestionably have the credentials of leaders totally and uncompromisingly committed to making their respective countries great and taking them to hitherto unscaled heights.

Only Narendra Damodardas Modi, from India's side, and Imran Khan, from Pakistan's, are endowed with the upbringing and imagination to bring to an end the 70-year long history of suspicion, rancour and bitterness and to set their countries on the path to peace and goodwill.

In that sense, they the right leaders at the right time in the right place.

All right-thinking persons wishing for the prosperity and the fulfilment of the maximum potential of the two countries of the sub-continent as an integral part of the process of ushering in a new world order have the bounden duty of giving both leaders the support and the will necessary to bring about this devoutly wished for consummation.

B S Raghavan held leadership positions in the state and central governments, including charge of the Political and Security Policy Planning Division at the Union ministry of home affairs.

B S Raghavan
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