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July 15, 2019

Steps to peace


July 15, 2019

In the present set of circumstances, any kind of dialogue between Pakistan and India is to be welcomed. Bilateral dialogue between the two countries has been at a standstill since the Pulwama attack in February this year which killed 40 Indian security personnel and the ensuing tense relations. But small steps forward need to be treated as significant. A two-day Track-II dialogue between Pakistan and India began on Friday in Islamabad. The dialogue deals with finding new trails forward with the next round to be held in September in New Delhi. Six delegates from India are participating in the dialogue, with the theme in Islamabad focusing on youth leading the change.

Certainly, change is needed. Pakistan and India must move towards normalcy and the kind of regional harmony which would benefit the people of both countries. Collectively, India and Pakistan host about 1.5 billion people, making up a massive chunk of the globe’s humanity. These people should not be living in poverty or facing what amounts to constant misery. The only way the two countries can prevent this is by understanding that real security and true national defence lie in building people’s capacity and strengthening their situation by lifting them out of the lives of acute hardship that they lead. Sadly, New Delhi has since 2014, when the Narendra Modi government was first elected to power, shown no signs that it is willing to understand this. After Modi’s re-election in 2019, repeated peace overtures from Pakistan were essentially rejected, sometimes without even the standing diplomatic protocols. This is not a welcome sign. But a way needs to be found to replace it with more optimistic signals for the future.

To achieve this, activism from civil society in both countries can play a part. This however is becoming increasingly difficult in the environment of hatred created after Pulwama and the skirmish between the two nations that followed. However, signs of hope always exist. We have seen them on the sporting fields and in exchanges between people such as the one taking place now. At some point, possibly with the assistance of other nations around the world which currently watch with some trepidation, the two nuclear-armed nations can be persuaded to sit together at the same table and resume the aborted process of talking peace and the long list of issues that remains to be settled between the two countries. These issues include, of course, Kashmir. But there are also many other matters which need to be resolved. The current tensions along the border and the LoC and the continued closure of Pakistan’s airspace due to this do not help matters. New Delhi must recognize there is no choice but to opt for peace and to immediately begin working towards it so that the kind of stability the region so badly needs can be reached.

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