By Kunal Anand:
The last few months have been a shameful chapter in the Indo-Pak relations since 1947. We have fought four wars to gain land and in the process lost brave men, innocent women and children. We have wielded guns in the highest battleground in the world and the sad part is that some of us think this is a world record to be proud of! All those chest thumping Indians and Pakistanis baying for each other’s blood-“Spare us the clarion calls unless it’s your head in the line of fire. ”
There are conflicting reports as to what led to the recent skirmishes at the LoC. Allegations, denials and conspiracy theories are flying thick in the air. The gory details of how Pakistani soldiers killed our jawans on our side of the border makes us seethe with both anger and despair.
We have all the time in the world to debate which side started all this. We can afford to do that. For now, let’s spare a thought for the families of Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh.
Do you think Arnab Goswami’s debate and our rants make any difference to those families? The soldiers who died were from poor families fighting a war for the better-offs like you and me. Most of them must have been the sole breadwinners of their families. A few lakh of compensation isn’t going to pay for their kids’ education and their parents’ medicines for their entire life. For all our moral uprightness, the hard truth is-THEY DIED FOR YOU AND ME.
Last year, I got the contact details of some of the Kargil war martyrs’ families. A group of us decided to call them and express our solidarity with them. The mother of one of the martyrs’ broke down when I said that no matter what I do in my life and what I become, my mother can never be as proud of me as she should be of her brave son. She sobbed, thanked me and said that it meant a lot as the government had completely forgotten about them. That’s what we do. We let them fight our battles and sooner or later, forget them.
Coming back to the “Kill ‘em all” brigade, how many of you serve in the army? How many of you have a brother or son at the border? Except a few, the rest of you are having a ‘tough’ life travelling in crowded buses or ‘braving’ the winter in air-conditioned offices. Most of us never think of joining the armed forces as it’s a high risk, low returns job. So why do we expect our soldiers to fight our wars every time we get pissed at each other? When you say that India must be shown its place or teaching Pakistan a lesson once and for all is the only solution, you are confusing between a war between two nuclear powered nations and a fight between neighborhood children in the cricket field.
After every terrorist attack or border skirmish, we suspend talks, bus and train services. When that doesn’t suffice, our government drops the BOMB- Suspend cricketing ties! A few months later, its business as usual. The rulers and the people keep swaying between Aman ki Asha and Aman ka Tamasha. Music, cricket and a few dozen people travelling by buses to meet their loved ones on the other side of the border is fine. But this cannot and never will bring peace between the two countries as the one party that’s crucial for any long lasting peace has not been directly involved in the dialogues. The Pakistani military has been the biggest stakeholder in anything that concerns Pakistan. It controls Pakistani borders, a large part of its economy and most of the times, the government too. Pakistan has been under direct military rule for almost three decades since independence and the Kargil war was one of the many examples that showed that they do not find it necessary to keep the civilian government in loop while taking decisions like waging a war etc. Pakistan isn’t my country, and so, how it conducts its internal government is none of my business. But when it comes to improving the relation between India and Pakistan, keeping the Pakistani military establishment out of the equation is like ignoring the elephant in the room.
We can talk about the technicalities about how Pakistani government is the only legitimate authority to engage in any peace initiative. We can engage in counter arguments about how even the Indian Prime Minister doesn’t have any real authority to take a decision on his own. Or, we can understand that with every passing day, more and more coffins are reaching their homes while the two countries teeter at the brink of a full blown conflict that is sure to claim thousands of lives.
An honest meeting between the Indian and Pakistani government accompanied by Gen. Ashfaq Qayani is essential if we want to witness tangible peace. The Pakistani army recently admitted that terrorism is the biggest challenge they face today. It’s an honest admission that should serve as a lesson. With horrific blasts like the ones this Friday that claimed lives of over 125 Pakistanis, Pakistan could do better by utilizing its over-stretched armed forces to secure safety of its citizens. That is possible if India and Pakistan can convince each other that they won’t indulge in any misadventure even if the military presence at the LoC is reduced drastically, thus freeing our troops to engage in other nation building activities. When a nation spends seven folds more on the army than on primary education, its people deserve to feel safe at least in their cities.
With some matured deliberations, maybe, both the armies can step down a little. The first step should be bringing to justice the officers who were responsible for any ceasefire violation and intrusion. As an Indian, I wouldn’t be saddened, in fact I might rejoice if those who killed our soldiers are made to suffer the same fate. But if four wars couldn’t put a lid on killing of innocent Indians and Pakistanis, I have my doubts whether a fifth would achieve that.
In the words of Bob Dylan –
“…How many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they are forever banned?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?”