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Peace in South Asia: Idealism and Reality

“It is in the basic instinct of a human that he or she wants to live in a peaceful environment. Whether a person belongs to stone-age, mediaeval period or modern and contemporary era, he or she always love to spend his or her life in an atmosphere where there is no threat to life, liberty, freedom, honor and property. Almost all the religions of the world also preach peace and ask their followers to create a peace loving surrounding. Whenever there was a threat to peace in any human society, the people of that society either tried to reestablish peace or they migrated to another peaceful region.

The story of modern day South Asia is no different. Most of the people living in this region are well aware of the fact that health, education and prosperity can only enter to a land, which is peaceful. Thus they always dream of a peaceful region of theirs. A region where every child goes to school, every patient can have an access to a doctor, every individual can get food, cloth and shelter and everybody can raise their living standards.

But unfortunately this dream of many has yet to come true, and South Asia is considered as one of the most troublesome areas of the world. The region is witnessing continuous difficulties over ethnic uprisings, narcotics trafficking and small arms proliferation issues. Mowist Movement in Nepal is creating problem in the country. The problem of Nepalese migrants in Bhutan has resulted in strained relations between the two countries. Insurgents from India seek sanctuary within Bhutan. Chakma tribes have a great affect on both Bangladesh and India. The Tamil problem in Sri Lanka is increasing internal security problems in the country. Bomb blasts, communal, sectarian and ethnic riots, and other terrorist activities are very common in almost all the South Asian countries. Besides it, political unsuitability, poverty, hunger and unsatisfactory state of mind has become part and parcel of South Asian society. The region is perhaps the most deprived region in the world. With one fifth of the worlds population almost half of the people, who are living below poverty level in the world, are living in this part of the globe.

However, the biggest threat to peace in South Asia is due to the ever-increasing tension between India and Pakistan. The two important countries of the region considered each other as their arch- rivals. The two have already fought four wars and are still not enjoying best of the relations. The difference between the two countries is not only on government level but the ill feeling towards the other country can also be seen among the common masses. The attitude of Pakistani and Indian spectators of cricket matches between the two countries can be quoted as an example in this regard. Nuclear tests by both India and Pakistan have further complicated the situation and the region is considered as a nuclear flash point.

Many attempts had been made on bilateral level to bridge up the gulf between Pakistan and India. However, Jinnah-Mountbatten Talks (1947), Nehru-Bogra Talks (1954), Bhutto-Swarn Singh Talks (1962-64), Tashkant Declaration (1966), Simla Agreement (1972) and Lahore Declaration (1998) all failed to produce goods. Many attempts on regional level have also been made to rescue peace in South Asia. The Asian Relations Conference (1947), the second Asian Conference (1949), the Baguio Conference (1950), the Colombo Powers Conferences (1954 and 1956) and the Bandung Conference (1955) were the notable ones. SAARC, which was established in 1985, is still struggling to achieve its goal.

Now the question arises that if the people of South Asia really want peace than why are the events not moving in the proper direction?  The answer to this problem is simple as well as complicated. Actually, different people have a different interpretation of the word ‘peace’. There are few people who believe that if they decide in a meeting or a seminar or a conference that they will enforce peace in a region, they will be able to achieve their goal. But this world is not ‘Utopia’. Peace can not be achieved unless and until all the people, living in a region, can feel secure and have complete confidence in the people living around them. The basic problem with the people of South Asia is that majority of them do want peace but do not have confidence in their counterparts.

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan, was a peace loving person and was interested in having good and friendly relations with the neighboring countries. He stated that Pakistan had no aggressive designs against its neighbors. About Indo-Pakistan relations he was of the view that the two nations should forget their past tensions and start a new era of peace and prosperity. He wanted them to be of use for each other. He thought that the two countries would be needing a number of things from each other and could help each other morally, materially and politically and thus could raise the prestige and status of both the countries. He wanted the two countries to develop cordial relations based on the concept of ‘mutual respect and coexistence’ and I repeat ‘mutual respect and coexistence’.  He considered it beneficial for both Pakistan and India to cooperate with each other for the purpose of playing their part in international affairs. He went to the extent of suggesting that Pakistan and India have defence collaboration both on land and sea against any aggression. He had, infact, pleaded for a common defence policy as early as in April 1947. However, he wanted India to shed the superiority complex and treat Pakistan on an equal footing and also to fully appreciate the realities. He made it clear that peace could only come to the region if the two countries could resolve their own differences.

The great Quaid past away in September 1948, but we have yet not worked according to his desires. However, I believe in the well-known saying that ‘Its better late than never be’. If we start realizing our problems even today, I think we can move towards a better tomorrow. The most important thing, which we have to do is to develop an atmosphere where we stop considering each other as our enemy and start trusting each other. This can only be achieved if we accept the political realities from the core of our heart. We also have to stop interference in each other’s internal affairs and have to realize that the security of one cannot be achieved at the expense of the other. Peace should be achieved through joint efforts. Change of hearts on both sides of the border is the need of the hour.”

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