by Najma Sadeque,
Published in the Times of India – Oct 20, 2001
It’s hard to imagine india and pakistan sitting down now and thrashing out the kashmir issue. they have sat across the table earlier to little avail, and will sit down again, perhaps umpteen times, in future too. but these are just motions of attempting to find a peaceful solution. the chances of coming to an understanding are as remote as ever. demands: can the demands pakistan should make of india be different from those it has made earlier? the demands any smaller or weaker country makes of its bigger neighbour depends on relative bargaining strength at that point in time. over time, the stand on any issue gets increasingly hardened. and mercenaries, victims of uneven development and sponges for religious or ideological indoctrination, make it difficult or impossible for official negotiators to make reasonable compromises. when a government finally feels it desirable to concede a small step, the fear of loss of face leads them to turn their backs on good sense. foreign intervention and arm-twisting make it next to impossible. on the other hand, a government conscious and confident of great strength finds no reason to make concessions. concessions : pakistan at this moment is hardly in a position to negotiate with strength, especially after the september 11 attacks on the wtc. the muslim world may appear as one now, but each of these countries has a distinct political culture and direction of its own. the way out is to consistently include representatives from civil society. many peace initiatives have been taken by them in both india and pakistan. the need for civil society arises from their ability to say things that governments cannot. as long as civil society is not made a part of the negotiations, militarists and ideologues will ensure little progress is made.