Resolution of Indo-Pak Conflict : A Gandhian Approach


 Ramjee Singh


            Swami Vivekanand had predicted in 1898 "India will have to play the role of a Friend, Guide and Philosopher to the World".  So also Mahatma Gandhi had visualised India to take up a role towards a world, free from hatred and war.  But unfortunately Indo-Pak conflict even after half a century has developed into the greatest potentiality of nuclear holocaust.  During the last Kargil conflict, the Pakstani army was almost prepared to strike India with nuclear devices if the Indian army dared to cross the borders.  Even now we have reports that Pakistan is strengthening its nuclear capabilities through many clandestine methods.  So also Indian Defence Minister openly vows to annihilate Pakistan, if it dares to attack India. The most unfortunate thing, what to speak of the politicians, even the mind set of the so called intelligentsia and to a great extent of the youth has been undergoing a war-psychosis with anti-India or anti-Pak hatred due to political communalisation, ushering in Jihad or Dharma-Yuddha. A new aggressive political culture is being adopted instead of opening a door for dialogue.  War seems to be the only solution.  Thanks to the continuing cross border terrorist overtures from the fundamentalists from Pakistan and the role played by state sponsored media, the mind of the common people in India has been more anti-Pakistan and consequently more anti-Muslim.  The situation in the sub-continent is of total turmoil and perennial tension.  Domestically the danger of communal riots to win votes in elections cannot be brushed aside as it does pay its dividends.  The clouds of mutual fear and distrust have darkened the horizons both in India and Pakistan.  The political communal militants in both the countries are bent upon destroying the efforts for harmony between the Hindus and Muslims as well as between India and Pakistan.  President Musharaf, inspite of his obvert advocacy for peace, cannot declare Kashmir as a problem non-grata for Pakistan nor no Indian Prime Minister is in a position to surrender Kashmir to Pakistan.  This total incompatibility of claims over Kashmir has been so much hardened that resolution of conflict seems beyond the grasp.


            Under this complete and complicated situation and compulsions, any resolution of conflict seems to be unthinkable and impossible.  But this does not mean that it will be so far ever. We should not think that in this imbroglio there are two parties, that is, India and Pakistan. It is not an isolated world.  Both the countries are under severe strain and considerable pressure from their friends and neighbours and international powers.  They will certainly do what they can to avert a confrontation between India and Pakistan.  Secondly, saner elements in both the countries will try their best to persuade the rulers to avoid war.  Then, there are anti-war forces, and NGOs, who will try their best to stop war.  The cost of war is so much high that it is simply unbearable for both these countries.  As Pakistan has support from U.S.A. and some Muslim countries, so India too has same powerful Islamic countries as friends like P.L.O., Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia which would restrain both the countries.  Even Russia will not encourage India to go to war.   Even China will not openly displease India by openly siding with Pakistan.  This also is known to Pakistan.


     But all these and any more arguments against the possibility of Indo-Pak war may not hold good for establishing a tension-free or conflict-free relations between India and Pakistan.  We have to prepare the background for unity between India and Pakistan.


     The most crucial problem for good relations between the two countries is to improve the Hindu-Muslim communal relations, in India because India constitutes the second largest population of Muslims in the World. Beside, no where in the World there is such a mixed population of Hindus, Muslims and other religious groups than in India. Hence to search for a behavioural dynamics and a balanced social ethics is our greatest problem.  To think that we can substitute the religious cultural model with citizen-nation model is more artificial and unrealistic, because we are deeply religion oriented people.  The second method to dissolve the antagonism between the two communities, the Indian experiment of "democratic pluralism" and decentralisation of powers, under common institutions like the local grass-root democracies called the Panchayati Raj in the educational and other fields.  Thirdly, there should be an effort to prepare both the communities to review the rigid distinctive features of their respective identities and accept changes to bring them into a synthetic frame.  Secular character of the state and education with a guarantee for non-discrimination will be a must for ensuring and generating a common outlook, shared ethical values, common cultural patterns, and secular character of state administration are likely to improve Hindu-Muslim relations. However, care should be taken that pluralist norms should be respected and there should not be any suppression of smaller or minority entities under dominant and the majority, in the name of bringing them into the main stream. Variety should not be suppressed in the name of uniformity.  The lack of trust undermines all efforts towards harmonious community relations. Hence the Hindus should not suffer from self righteousness and Muslims should not be treated as alien or suspects. On the other hand the Muslims should review the features of their identity so as to achieve maximum accommodation and adjustment. There should be an open dialogue between Hindus and Muslims on the controversial problems like common civil code, polygamy, control of population rise, use of urdu, visit to Mecca, etc. with free mind.  Differences of opinion should be respected and a permanent free forum be framed to find out conciliatory positions acceptable to both. Such organisations like the South Asian Fraternity, the Association of Asian People etc. be requested to co-ordinate their activities towards informal contacts, fraternity camps, tours, exchange programmes, sports, cultural festivals in both the countries. Since there is common history and common geography, common art, music and culture, there will be less difficulty in forging a unity of mind and emotions between the people on both sides. We should also encourage inter-communal or inter-country marriages. In short, all sorts of modes be explored to encourage interaction, contact, and living before we can conceive of an amity and rapprochement on the national levels of both the countries. This does not mean that we should not attempt reconciliation at the apex level but unless we work on the ground level, our success above will be limited.


Some Models for Indo-Pak Conflict Resolution

There are ways to approach reconciliation between India and Pakistan:-

1. Dialogue  

     Firstly, we can approach the two governments to start meaningful dialogue, first on the non-official or non-formal level if there is inhibition to go on the formal level. This should be without any condition. Talks on second level diplomatic channels have already been going on. I think that the Ex-Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, and perhaps V.P. Singh can take the initiative in this direction. If not, some impartial respectable foreign personalities like Nelson Mandela, Arch Bishop Tutu, Aung Sui the Dalai Lama or any other, be involved in bringing the two Prime Ministers on the talking table as the Norwegian peace negotiation team have done in the case of Sri Lankan Imbroglio. We can make a more comprehensive list of such personalities including that from the U.N.O. and Nobel Peace laureates or peace personalities.


2.  Proposal for Indo-Pak Conflict Mediation                    We should try to explore the possibility of an impartial mediation or arbitration, before we talk to the Government leaders. We should prepare the background through people's education, through publishing feature articles,  letter to the editors.  etc. by respectable persons and journalists so that we can know the reaction of the people and also avail of their suggestions. I know that mediation is difficult, but in view of heavy public expenditure involved in defence budgets, we can persuade the people to our side.  We have already fought three wars and the last Kargil proved inconclusive.  Now, both India and Pakistan, have acquired nuclear weapons.  Hence any war will be suicidal for both the countries.  True, there are difficulties in choosing impartial mediators, but if we try we can find some people who will be both impartial and just.  The world is not devoid of such people. If we cannot agree to mediation, it means either our case is weak or the whole world is our enemy.  Let India float a few names.  If Pakistan agrees to it, it is alright; if not, let Pakistan come forward with its own proposal.  I am sure that we can find some sensible and impartial persons for this work.  During partition we had agreed to Radcliff award when passions had risen high.  Mediation is neither against our self-respect nor against self-interest, especially whenever bilateral dialogue is not being agreed upon from our side. If we put conditions we can take up them while discussing the thorny problems. Such hardened attitude towards any dialogue puts ourselves on the dock in the eyes of international opinion and we unnecessarily loose other's goodwill.  On the other hand, we should be always ready for dialogue to earn the goodwill of the international community.


3.  People to People Relations

          Prior  to any formal rapprochement on the government level, we should try to establish people to people relationship through larger exchange programme, free visits, friendship camps, inter-country conferences in music, art, literature, development and other problems.  This will normalise our relations and will go a long way in reducing tensions.  We should remember that though politically, we are two countries or two nation states, but we have a long common history, common tradition, common art, music etc. We have almost the same heritage.  Hence, this will be a most welcome and useful proposal towards normalisation of relations between the two relations.  We have almost the same food habits, same dress and same view of life. There might be many more devices to boost up social and cultural contacts between the people.  We can co-ordinate and co-operate with each other in trade and commerce, scientific and literary ventures.  Both countries have strong bias for agriculture and religion in life.  We share almost the same set of moral and spiritual values.  Hence such camps arranged by South Asian Fraternity have been a great success.  True, there are some differences, but there are also many kinds of differences in our own country.  We have extreme diversities.  We have differences in our languages, dress, food habits, etc., but these differences do not come in the way of unity.  It means that there is unity in diversity.  This is our culture.  Hence, we can reconcile with whatever differences we have.


4. Loose Political Models

          With such bitterness, it is difficult to establish a political unification at once.  This is also not desirable.  India is a big country, so is Pakistan.  Bigness comes in our way of efficient administration. Decentralisation of administration is a prudent policy.  There is more scope for corruption, misuse of powers, criminalisation in big political structure. "Small is beautiful", says Schumacher. Centralisation of power has violence ingrained in it. Hence today, decentralisation has become a political creed. In India, we insist on grass-root democracy of the Panchayats. Therefore, we should have craze for unified unit of India and Pakistan. A loose political model of federation or confederation should be attempted where we have both autonomy and security. Ram Manohar Lohia and Jaya Praksh Narayn have advocated such a loose federation between the two countries with maximum powers to the units and minimum to the centre. In Eastern Europe, there is a union of about 20 countries with Common Market, Common Parliament, Common Currency and Common Visa. In this way, identity of each unit is preserved and when they unite together, they acquire greater strength.  If India and Pakistan unite, even loosely, on this pattern, there will be a much less strain on army and economy.  At, political level, we will have greater bargaining power with super powers and a possibility for becoming a permanent member of the Security Council.  We can defend our boarders better and we can gear-up our economy more efficiently.  One World is a far cry at present, but loose federation between India and Pakistan will certainly pave the wave for World Government and World Peace.  The communal tension in both countries will also subside.  Even vexatious problem of Kashmir might be solved.  Vinoba in his most original way has projected a solution for establishing a political triangle, with Afghanistan "A", Burma "B" and Ceylon "C" called A B C as a triangle.  We know that all countries within this geographical triangle have become victims of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and ill health, but their worst malady is internal and fraternal strife leading to occasional wars and foreign exploitation and intervention.  We have a similar political framework, called the SAARC, though it has not been very effective.  But such models in Atomic age are going to have more survival value. Socrates had said "I am neither an Athenian nor a Greek but the citizen of the World".  Our scripture also proclaims that the whole world is one family - Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam. We need a world citizenship and world without frontier.  Nationalism today has become an outdated ideology.  It has generated enough hatred and has resulted in thousands of wars. Even today humanity is in danger due to narrow nationalism. Let India and Pakistan lead the World towards World Government and World Citizenship.