?.. by Raza Muhammad Khan

KASHMIR is indeed a core contentious issue that can be blamed for instability and conflict in the South Asian region. However, it may be fallacious to believe that this is the only factor responsible for the present relations between Pakistan and India. If the current fascist Indian rulers could put a price tag on peace with Pakistan, here is a list of a dozen demands that we will have to contend with, with no bargaining allowed: That we forego our legitimate claims on Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and hand over Azad Kashmir and GB to India; that for the cherished RSS dream of an Akhand Bharat to come true, we must witness a redux of our dismemberment like the loss of our eastern half in 1971; that we let India retain Siachen which India occupied in 1984; that we continue to suffer the losses caused by their asymmetric and hybrid wars; that we abandon the CPEC or else accept its sabotage, terrorizing innocent Pakistanis and Chinese diplomats; that we let India turn our lands barren by stealing our water and scuttling the Indus Water Treaty; that we permit her to keep the entire Sir Creek in Sindh; that we acquiesce to a regime in Afghanistan that is hostile to Pakistan so that India could use it for its proxies against us; that we accept the misuse of the Iranian port of Chahbahar by them, so they can further destabilize Balochistan; that we punish Kashmiri leaders for terrorism on the basis of fabricated Indian accusations; that we forget the Samjhota Express bombing which killed 58 Pakistanis in India in 2007; and finally that we ignore the incessant Indian attempts to scamper SAARC. Now we are certainly a peace-loving nation, but can we ever pay such a price of peace? Will doing so be not dishonourable? Shall we surrender even without a fight?

The UN was intended to resolve international disputes but its ineffectiveness is apparent in the Subcontinent. So what are our options in the obtaining milieu? As the Modi Government has repeatedly rejected our desire for dialogue to resolve our disagreements, it is undignified to keep imploring India to talk to us. Asking for talks, just for the sake of talking is also useless. Continuation of this policy can be summed up in one word: appeasement. Those who favor giving concessions to the Indian warmongers, in order to avoid conflict or to promote trade, must not forget the lessons learnt from such a policy by the Anglo-French combine, just before WW2, in the face of Nazi aggression. They must also remember that any political desire to achieve ?peace at any price? will not be supported by the people. While our economy may seem weak as compared to India, the post 71 War events have proved that we have the capacity to preserve our territorial integrity, despite all constraints.

Contrarily, like what the US is facing in Afghanistan, the colossal cost of retaining the Held Kashmir by India, with close to a million military, paramilitary and other LEAs will slowly but surely become economically unsustainable for her. After 9/11, Pakistan has managed its security fairly well, which is a proof of our national will and resilience to respond to multiple internal and external threats. Our defenses against external aggression are now almost impregnable. This should give us confidence and we should not be petrified by empty threats. Impressions of conflict ?weariness or pessimism are also unwarranted and detrimental to national morale. Besides, this could encourage the Hindutva hegemonists to enhance the price of peace with us. So far, Pakistan has withstood the dual Modi-Trump diatribe, though with great sacrifices. But then, is any sacrifice bigger than the preservation of our sovereignty, dignity and honour?

While we must continue to establish cordial relations with our neighbours, any display of desperation for dialogue to resolve contentious issues will be construed as weakness. Such diplomacy has historically proved to be counterproductive, besides being politically untenable in Pakistan. Some might say that no price is too great for peace. This might be true in some cases, but we must remember that nothing can be farther from the truth, when this statement is considered in the case of the Indian mindset, that refuses to accept the reality of Pakistan. Thus, if our adversaries decide to test our limits, our response should be firm, measured and reciprocal. If war is not an option between nuclear armed states, diplomacy must play a dominant role in diffusing tensions. By the same logic, greater space is now available to our leaders and diplomats to assert themselves to protect our interests. Pakistan must share evidence of the Indian state sponsored terrorism, against the CPEC and the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi with all members of the Chinese BRI, for a collective response to prevent and chastise India for threatening and jeopardizing our vital economic interests.

We must learn to survive and thrive on our own, by adopting a policy of no confrontation and no capitulation, ensuring internal harmony and focusing on the success of the CPEC. While the Saffron brigade in India continues to brutalise their minorities for political expediency, we must continue to respect the rights of our minorities, as this is the right thing to do. Besides, this will certainly strengthen our national security. Since SAARC is now almost dysfunctional and might remain so in the near future, Pakistan must shift its focus of economic cooperation with other regional organizations like the ECO, ASEAN, SCO and the OIC countries and finally; until the elections in India in May 2019, formation of a new government and its policies, we may ignore India and let her suffer from its rigid, arrogant and contemptuous stance. Meanwhile, we could also boldly show some attitude to India, as proposed in this treatise.

? The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University, Islamabad.

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