Wanted: A Berlin Wall for India and Pakistan

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 23, 2010 06:36 hrs

If you've been following the latest Indo-Pak talks, then you'll realize that there's nothing really ''latest'' about them. Such talks between the two countries have always been a mere formality.

Why do they take place anyway? Because America pushes to a point? Because the foreign ministries of both countries need something to do? Because the international community has to be shown that we all are actually peace-loving countries? No-one really knows.

Foreign Minister SM Krishna tells the world that it is finally time for Pakistan to act. Really! Why now? What's so special about now? The Kashmir conflict is more than 60 years old. Kashmir militancy has been raging for two odd decades. It's been more than 10 years since Kargil. And it's been about 20 months since 26/11, on which he was talking specifically.

Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he wouldn't be going to India for a leisure trip. Why the criticism? Was he off the mark? Remember the Agra Summit of 2001?

President General Pervez Musharraf visited the Mahatma Gandhi memorial, got nostalgic at his ancestral house in Delhi's Daryaganj, did a photo op in front of the Taj Mahal and cancelled his trip to Ajmer. What diplomatic breakthrough was achieved when the talks actually took place? Zilch! Wasn't that merely a leisure trip?

Home Secretary GK Pillai talked of ISI's involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks. Why the fuss? Open secrets can be discussed by everyone on the earth except government officials?

Also, as far as Indian and Pak officials and leaders trading insults go, it hasn't made a difference either way.

Six major conflicts and a million skirmishes

India and Pakistan clash on the border. India and Pakistan clash diplomatically. India and Pakistan freeze talks. India and Pakistan resume talks. India and Pakistan talks break down. Excuse me. Are we talking of 1948? Or the 1960s? Or the 1970s? Or the 1990s?

People think that India and Pakistan have fought just a couple of major wars. The truth is far from that. They have clashed dangerously at least six times. It just depends on how you classify the conflict.

Let's see. There was the 1948 Kashmir war, the April 1965 Rann of Kutch conflict, the August 1965 Indo-Pak war, the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the 1984 Siachen conflict and the 1999 Kargil war! That's quite a lot! In all these cases, forces took the fighting into enemy territory.

Seventeen years is the longest that the two haven't eye to eye. That's not counting the times when they have almost come close to war.

What about the Kashmir militancy, the endless border firing and the umpteen 26/11 type attacks? We have been at each others throats non-stop for close to 63 years.

Isolation the only solution…

Let's face it. The leadership of both India and Pakistan has no vision and ideas right now whatsoever. In the past, Jawaharlal Nehru was seen as an international diplomatic genius. He laid the seeds of the Kashmir conflict. Indira Gandhi had the power and actually led a war that split Pakistan into two pieces. It didn't make any difference.

Pakistan has tried everything in the book (and outside it) including going nuclear. It hasn't made any difference.

The only solution left is to break all diplomatic and trade ties. No rail and bus links either. Such things have always diverted attention from the real issues instead of bringing about a solution.

Sadly and co-incidentally, such initiatives are invariably followed by an attack or conflict.

All the countries of the world face terrorist threats. India needs a comprehensive plan of action against that, Pak or no Pak. Just pointing fingers across the border will not help.

Kashmir has been mismanaged, Pak or no Pak. That's another thing we have to sort out internally first.

The US is a potential long-term partner, Pak or no Pak. There's IT, outsourcing, nuclear energy, etc: Don't get bogged down by Kashmir.

China is behaving suspiciously like it was before the 1962 war. That's a pressing priority, Pak or no Pak.

The reality of the old Indo-Pak has morphed itself into the new Indo-China as distinct from Af-Pak. That should be reflected in our new foreign policy vision.

Better to have a wall between India and Pakistan, which the people of both countries will bring down when the time is right. Anyone remember the Berlin Wall that separated West and East Germany? Experts thought it never could be brought down, but eventually the people did it themselves anyway.

In the meantime, it's better for the foreign ministries to spend much more time over ties with other countries.

There are almost 200 of them.

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.

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