An Indo-Pak axis?

Need for bold initiative

In life and in games, we, the people of India and of Pakistan are brothers. I received an email communication from my son in the US quoting the ‘Miami Herald’ newspaper. It gave a glowing account of Aisam-UI-Haq Qureshi, the Pakistani, and Rohan Bopanna, the Indian, playing together as a doubles team in the US Open tennis, which inspired me to write this piece.

I salute Bopanna and Qureshi, the two great stars playing tennis with superlative brilliance. They are a marvel and a model of statesmanship for the politicians of India and Pakistan. I appeal to the political tribes of the two countries to play the great game of Indo-Pak friendship in Jammu & Kashmir’s bleeding fields.

Today, they kill each other, not the politicians but the soldiers, day after day adding to the number of cadavers, both with the same red blood aggravating bitterness. The alternative is obvious. We can be strong twins of South East Asia if we play together instead of destroying each other to the profit of the ‘big business’ of the USA who sell weaponry to both the countries. The foreign ministers of the two countries must stop this suicidal game and follow the glorious example of Bopanna and Qureshi, the great young patriots of the two countries.

What we need today is what was mentioned to me by Nijalingappa, the one-time Congress president.

Soon after independence, the Jammu & Kashmir state became the scene of bitter battles between India and Pakistan and assumed communal flare-ups with no prospect of termination of killings. As a statesman, Nijalingappa thought that the only way to end the war and the flood of blood of both brethren of the two nations was to make the line of effective control the formal international line of division with sovereignty on both sides.

He was unwilling to express this view publicly as a politician and desired me to do it. He conveyed it to me through my friend Chief Justice of Karnataka. But not being a politician I did not venture to make a public policy statement of such importance since I belonged to no party.

After a few score of years, the butchery and bloodshed have continued with no end in sight to the carnage. China is supporting Pakistan covertly and the USA is granting large sums of money to Pakistan surely knowing it will be used in the Kashmir war to buy arms. India also expending its scarce resources on buying arms from many foreign big businesses, including the US was a costly experiment.

Today, I firmly believe Nijalingappa's formula is a practical measure that deserves serious consideration and acceptance. Let us end the war lest both sides suffer further vast casualties and innocent Kashmiris become colossal victims of this horrendous fratricidal clashes. Sanity has difficult chance of acceptance when tension is mounting and how dangerous when both sides have nuclear weapons, history will prove astronomically.

Jinnah’s wish

I once again pray to the presidents and the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to remember what Jinnah long ago said in a speech: “We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilisation, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions. In short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all cannons of international law we are a nation.”

On a later occasion he said: “India is not a nation, we are told. We were one people when the great war was going on and an appeal was made to India for blood and money. We were a people when we were asked to be a signatory to the peace treaty in France. But the imperialist Britain made us two people fighting each other.”

“Alas, the time has come for us to be together again in a creative confederacy of historic comity composed of Delhi-Srinagar and Islamabad. Politics in both countries is poison. We have politicians but no statesman and this generates malignancy and forbids unity, fraternity and common humanity from the two instrumentalities namely the executive and the legislature branches.”

“So, I turn my fervent plea to the judiciary. Kindly do fraternal justice to our two people who were once a single population. We must have judges from both countries meet together and discuss common issues on August 14 and 15 every year since we became free together from British imperialism.”

It would be an extraordinary experiment if politics will permit us to have a special bench consisting of the Chief Justices of India and Pakistan and their two senior most brethren. Six judges to hear the nationally important cases with the consent of the parties and the national bars at the supreme court level.

This may seem fantastic. But I have a vague recollection of a long ago visit to Kenya where I was told that four independent east African countries had a common appellate court manned by European judges. Then why not India and Pakistan? We can promote a great cause of the people of both the countries affirming their faith in the judicial institutions of the two countries.

Similarly the Indian and Pakistani bars should hold conferences periodically when issues of common concern will be discussed including the feasibility of an Indo-Pak bench for a few rare cases sitting in Delhi and Islamabad. Why not such a bench to hear cases from Jammu and Kashmir in appeal from J&K high court?

This looks incredible but if the judges and advocates of our two countries campaign for its feasibility we can make it a reality. A change of heart will reverse history and save lives instead of continued slaughter, butchery and terrorism.

(The writer is a former judge of the supreme court of India)

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