Chasing peace in South Asia

A problem in one country today does have its positive or negative impact in other countries. 

The world seems to be slowly becoming enveloped in the pall of gloom and doom. The confirmation of the same is all around us if we just take a look around us. Against the background of the globe reeling under the massive. problem of recession and stagflation, the global peace index has also been worsening. And the situation is no different for the countries of South Asia. 

If the behemoth India seems to be grappling with a negative economic scenario along with the problems of terrorism and left wing radicalism, the scenario ipso facto applies for the other countries of South Asia. The newly elected Nawaz Sharif Government is already seized with the increasing terrorist menace in the country led by a resurgent Taliban.

 Myanmar and Maldives are undergoing political transitions, which have serious implications for the future of the two countries. While Bangladesh grapples with the aftereffects of a ‘Shahbag’ movement for assertion of libertarian values, Sri Lanka is still coming to the terms in the aftermath of the alleged excesses caused during the annihilation drive of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), not to speak of the global pressure for a democratic resolution of the Tamil problem in the island state.

 Afghanistan is also somehow reluctantly readying itself for the final departure of the US forces to take the reins of national security all by itself.

Complex interdependence

While all these appear quite different and unrelated problems, the truth remains that they are very much interconnected and intertwined. After all, we live in a globalised world of complex interdependence. A problem in one country today does have its positive or negative impact in other countries. 

With the Pakistan still vowing to bleed a democratic India through thousand cuts and continuing its proxy war against us, the situation looks bleak unless the resurgent democratic forces in the former assert and prevail over a deeply entrenched militarist mindset, there does not seem to be much hope for a new beginning. While India conferred the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status on Pakistan more than a decade back, Pakistan is still to take a call on that. While South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was supposed to be a reality more than a decade back, it is still beholden to the sanguinary rivalry of the two titans with heavy financial losses accruing to every country of the Indian Sub-Continent in terms of tariffs, taxes and duties. The trade, which could occur across the border in an organised manner, now happens through a third country or in an underhand manner (read smuggling) resulting in manifold jacked up prices for the citizens.

While it is more than advisable for the leadership of the two countries to continuously engage each other to resolve the outstanding issues including intractable boundary disputes, the Tulbul barrage project, the Siachen problem, cross border terrorism and such other cognate issues, the big daddies of international politics should also desist from backroom meddling into the longstanding disputes between the two classical rivals.
 Like the fictional cat eating the entire bread of the two fighting monkeys, we should not allow outsiders to sit in judgement over our fate. While there definitely is a need for a positive facilitating role for big players to ensure peace in South Asia, we should also see the writing on the wall in our own enlightened interests otherwise it would be too late.

 In fine, the economic and social prosperity in South Asia is very much beholden to the successful conflict and dispute resolution between India and Pakistan. Other members of the South Asian countries are just awaiting a positive outcome to get onto the prosperity bandwagon but we two have got to come forward to show the way forward. 

We can no longer afford to move forward with our hands and legs tied down by the baggage of history, not to speak of that proverbial millstone and albatross round our neck. We shall require ourselves to tear off and throw away that millstone of distrust and untie ourselves through positive engagements. If England and France can come together after more than a hundred years of internecine and sanguinary conflicts, if US and Russia could come together after a bloody Cold War of more than four decades, if all the regions of the world are benefiting through mutual economic engagements a la APEC, ASIAN, NAFTA,Shanghai Cooperation Organization and European Union, can’t we also come together to make a new beginning for our people. If we don’t learn from history, we shall be doomed to repeat the same at our own cost and history shall not forgive us. Lets see the writing on the wall.

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