Alive in Antagonism

Cold war was about nukes. America and Soviet Russia were in a race to keep each from bombing the other with a plutorium explosion. Cold War is over but what is not over is nuclear arms race threatening the fate of earth’s biota (humans included). In truth the race is now more complicated as it has acquired an Asian dimension with India and Pakistan continually refusing to talk peace under one plea or another. They lack political will to give peace a chance in the sub-continent but they never get tired to talk of dialogue diplomacy and blame each other for their repeated failures to clinch a negotiated settlement.

Meanwhile, the saffron brigade with their too many hawkish stalwarts, may derive comfort from Modi’s mission to Washington for lobbying India’s entry into nuclear elite club. It cannot be anything but an extension of anti-people war at home. It becomes imperative for human rights activists, civil liberties defenders and anti-nuke crusaders to take a serious look at themselves, at their practical activities for there are danger signals ahead. If Modi succeeds in his wrangling with the nuclear elite club, nuclear energy programme will get a new boost and it is precisely the objective of Modi’s recent nuclear diplomacy.

For one thing it is obnoxious, if not humiliating, to see Modi is bargaining hard to obtain a good character certificate from US President Barack Obama to get membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG)—the all powerful 48-nation bloc that has monopolistic sway over anything nuclear at international level. Before reaching Washington Modi managed to win crucial support from Sweden. The real issue is, however, nuclear business, more precisely nuclear energy business. And the Uncle Sam made it no secret about their plan to oblige India even by antagonising a bit their traditional ally Pakistan and economic rival China. So America’s Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes told the Washington audience at the time of Modi’s visit to USA, that ‘having gone down the path of civil nuclear agreement with India and having invested a significant amount of time in building mutual cooperation with India as it relates to nuclear security’, supporting India’s bid to NSG was justified. When US justifies a controversial issue it is a matter of time that the rest will fellow the suit because American and Western companies are engaged heavily in India’s super ambitious nuclear energy programme. And the civilian Indo-US nuclear deal was all about it. China seems to be the strongest opponent to India’s membership to NSG on the ground that India is not a signatory to NPT—Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But old walls and barriers are crumbling while India is slowly but steadily getting integrated into America’s strategic orbit in South Asia. It’s one reason Pakistan is losing its age-old prime client status in America’s strategic equation. Maybe America’s changed India stance has hardened Pakistan’s stand on dialogue diplomacy. As things are US-Pakistan relations are likely to get further strained, particularly after Pakistan’s failure to procure F-16 fighter planes and American drone attack that killed Taliban chief Mullah Monsour on Pakistani soil. No doubt it was a clear violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and engaging Taliban in Afghan peace process suffered a jolt. But America has been violating Pakistan’s sovereignty for long without being condemned and opposed by the Pakistani rulers. Their murmur in local media doesn’t reach the international community.

The net casualty of Modi’s ‘Ocean to Sky’ diplomacy in India-US ties is stalemate in India-Pakistan peace dialogue. If anything Pakistan is ‘not desperate’ to resume bilateral negotiations. In truth the Peace Dialogue was derailed after the Pathankot incident. Window for dialogue with Pakistan is slowly closing though they always insist on peace diplomacy through consultation and consensus at every global forum. Pakistan wants composite dialogue, implying the settlement of the Kashmir dispute first while India sees no reason to concede any demand beyond maintaining the status quo. There is no possibility for joint efforts to explore an inclusive and win-win approach to India-Pakistan peace process that is for all and by all. Belligerence cannot lead to peace. The military establishment in Pakistan is out and out belligerent and permanent peace is against their vested interests. The world at large does hardly care about peace in India-Pakistan region but what happens in the region impacts the whole world. As there is no possibility of an early settlement of Kashmir imbroglio, to talk of peace and prosperity through dialogue makes little sense.

The hard reality is that Indians and Pakistanis will have to live in a situation of ‘no war, no peace’ for generations even if there is no escalation of conflict along the border. Chaos on both sides of the farce serves nobody’s interest but the rulers in New Delhi and Islamabad cannot think of anything else.

No political party in India has its own perception on foreign policy orientation other than what the government propagates. The same is true of Pakistan’s political parties. Only peace initiatives by people in the streets can make a difference but initiatives cannot grow out of the vacuum. Unless political parties continually motivate people for peace, for prosperity, for mutual cooperation, things cannot change for the better.

Vol. 48, No. 50, Jun 19 - 25, 2016