Majority in Pakistan seeks peace with India

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Peace drivers: Pakistan’s exports to India is roughly put around $402.7 million

Despite terrorist violence continuing to prevent India and Pakistan from coming together to settle the issues that have turned them into each other’s enemies, a huge peace constituency exists on both sides of the political divide that thinks differently. A recent survey in Pakistan conducted by the Gilani Research Foundation has revealed that as many as 68 per cent people in that country want New Delhi and Islamabad to get engaged in talks so that tension in the region comes to an end. The people believe this will lead to peace and faster economic growth, improving the quality of life in both countries.

It is a well-known fact that the peace constituency on this side of the border is much bigger than that in Pakistan. People in the border areas have always been in favour of peaceful, cooperative co-existence so that there is increased bilateral trade, transforming the economic condition of the people in both countries. According to a report in Dawn of Karachi, the trade volume between India and Pakistan stood at $2.4 billion till April 2016, which was very low. The situation worsened with terrorist strikes in Pathankot (Punjab) and Uri (Jammu and Kashmir), targeting India’s defence forces. The two neighbours can realise their full potential if Pakistan-based extremist outfits engaged in destructive activities are incapacitated.

Pakistan’s exports to India come to around $402.7 million, which is just 1.6 per cent of its overall exports. The volume can go up considerably as can India’s exports to Pakistan, which, on an average, stood at 3.57 billion during the period from 1991 to 2016, with an all-time high of 24.51 billion in December 2010 and a record low of 03 billion in October, 1994. The performance of both countries on the bilateral trade front was very discouraging during 2016 because of the rise in tension as a result of terrorist attacks, leading to the death of over 35 personnel of the armed forces.

The Pathankot incident occurred soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unscheduled stopover at Lahore while on his way back home from a meeting in Afghanistan to infuse a new life into India-Pakistan relations. But the situation took a turn in a different direction, deteriorating the ties between the two neighbours.

The agenda of trouble-makers (extremists and terrorists) and the desires of those belonging to the peace constituency have no similarities at all. The extremists, who live in their own make-believe world, sustain themselves on their hatred for India and by working on destructive projects. They are used by the Pakistan Army for realising its objective of bleeding India through a thousand cuts on the pretext of solidarity for Kashmiris. They are unable to understand that the situation in Kashmir cannot be altered as per their wishes under any circumstances. Kashmir remains an integral part of India, including the areas under the occupation of Pakistan.

At the international stage, the situation today has changed considerably as terrorists and terrorism are no longer acceptable to the world community on any pretext. In the larger interest of the people of Pakistan and that of their army, Pakistan needs to disentangle itself from the clutches of extremists. It has gained nothing by remaining associated with extremists and their agendas. But it will gain a lot if the government in Islamabad and the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi decide to side with those who constitute the peace constituency.

The whole world will praise Pakistan if it banishes terrorists and extremists and takes measures to expand the constituency of peace. India too can extend all kinds of support to Pakistan if the two countries decide to work on a common agenda of strengthening the peace constituency so that there is dawn of an era of cooperative competition for economic advancement in South Asia.

This is what was envisioned when India took the initiative of promoting people-to-people contacts, with both countries easing visa norms and introducing special bus services between the two sides, linking areas in Indian and Pakistani Punjab and both sides of Kashmir. This was the major achievement of the India-Pakistan composite dialogue process, which showed clear signs of all the contentious issues, including Kashmir, getting resolved. The developments were receiving appreciation not only from the peace constituency on both sides of the India-Pakistan divide but also from all important world capitals.

This was, however, not to the liking of the terrorist masterminds and their patrons in the Pakistan Army. They began to feel uneasy because of the successful march for peace, and quietly prepared a plan to nullify all the gains made in the process of continuing the dialogue process. The Mumbai mayhem of 2008 at the hands of Pakistan-based terrorists caused such a grievous blow to the peace efforts that the situation could not be the same again.

68 per cent people in Pakistan want New Delhi and Islamabad to engage in talks to put an end to tension in the region, a survey suggests

When the Modi government was installed in New Delhi after the BJP’s historic performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a guessing game began about the revival of the peace process. Prime Minister Narendra Modi proved the skeptics wrong when he started working on improving relations with India’s neighbours, including Pakistan, as his top priority. Modi surprised everybody by first inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi in May 2014, and then by making an unannounced stopover at Lahore on December 25, 2015, to meet Sharif at his private palatial house at Raiwind on the outskirts of Lahore. Modi’s gestures showed that he was prepared to go to any extent to normalise India’s relations with Pakistan. As the BJP’s Prime Minister, he had the capacity to take decisions easily provided the Pakistan government responded to his gestures with sincerity.

However, India’s moves were met by a humiliating terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase in the beginning of 2016, turning the hopes of revival of the peacThe agenda of trouble-makers (extremists and terrorists) and the desires of those belonging to the peace constituency have no similarities at all. The extremists, who live in their own make-believe world, sustain themselves on their hatred for India and by working on destructive projects. They are used by the Pakistan Army for realising its objective of bleeding India through a thousand cuts on the pretext of solidarity for Kashmiris. They are unable to understand that the situation in Kashmir cannot be altered as per their wishes under any circumstances. Kashmir remains an integral part of India, including the areas under the occupation of Pakistan.

At the international stage, the situation today has changed considerably as terrorists and terrorism are no longer acceptable to the world community on any pretext. In the larger interest of the people of Pakistan and that of their army, Pakistan needs to disentangle itself from the clutches of extremists. It has gained nothing by remaining associated with extremists and their agendas. But it will gain a lot if the government in Islamabad and the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi decide to side with those who constitute the peace constituency.

The whole world will praise Pakistan if it banishes terrorists and extremists and takes measures to expand the constituency of peace. India too can extend all kinds of support to Pakistan if the two countries decide to work on a common agenda of strengthening the peace constituency so that there is dawn of an era of cooperative competition for economic advancement in South Asia.

This is what was envisioned when India took the initiative of promoting people-to-people contacts, with both countries easing visa norms and introducing special bus services between the two sides, linking areas in Indian and Pakistani Punjab and both sides of Kashmir. This was the major achievement of the India-Pakistan composite dialogue process, which showed clear signs of all the contentious issues, including Kashmir, getting resolved. The developments were receiving appreciation not only from the peace constituency on both sides of the India-Pakistan divide but also from all important world capitals.

This was, however, not to the liking of the terrorist masterminds and their patrons in the Pakistan Army. They began to feel uneasy because of the successful march for peace, and quietly prepared a plan to nullify all the gains made in the process of continuing the dialogue process. The Mumbai mayhem of 2008 at the hands of Pakistan-based terrorists caused such a grievous blow to the peace efforts that the situation could not be the same again.

When the Modi government was installed in New Delhi after the BJP’s historic performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a guessing game began about the revival of the peace process. Prime Minister Narendra Modi proved the skeptics wrong when he started working on improving relations with India’s neighbours, including Pakistan, as his top priority. Modi surprised everybody by first inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi in May 2014, and then by making an unannounced stopover at Lahore on December 25, 2015, to meet Sharif at his private palatial house at Raiwind on the outskirts of Lahore. Modi’s gestures showed that he was prepared to go to any extent to normalise India’s relations with Pakistan. As the BJP’s Prime Minister, he had the capacity to take decisions easily provided the Pakistan government responded to his gestures with sincerity.

However, India’s moves were met by a humiliating terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase in the beginning of 2016, turning the hopes of revival of the peae dialogue into smithereens. Reports suggested that Pakistan-based extremists got support from elements in the Pakistan Army to do what they did. Its hand was discovered in the Mumbai terrorist killings too. Yet the Government of India showed considerable restraint in dealing with Pakistan. New Delhi used only its diplomatic muscle to ensure that the elements involved in the Pathankot incident must be brought to book.

The extremists and their masters in Rawalpindi were the least bothered about all that was going on between the governments on the two sides. They enacted another dance of death, this time at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir. Now enough was enough for India. New Delhi could no longer depend on its diplomatic skills only. It, therefore, resorted to surgical strikes by the Army not only to destroy terrorist training camps inside Pakistan but also to convey a strong message that this is how India can respond in future also if there is no end to such adventurous behaviour as was seen in the past.

Despite all that has happened so far, India cannot be averse to any serious peace overtures. It is for the Government of Pakistan to listen to the call for peace from its own people, who wish to live in peace with India by resolving disputes through negotiations.