The latest round of India-Pakistan talks represents a major opportunity to both countries to put in place a new bilateral architecture.
The India-Pakistan discord and the repeated armed conflicts between the two countries have stemmed chiefly from the accession to India of the state of Kashmir. The strife has caused a heavy drain of human and financial resources over the years, including in Jammu and Kashmir itself. We must halt the disaster and end the recurring loss of life and property that has been occurring. False prestige should not stop an exploration of all possible solutions to find a dignified resolution. Every available proposal should be discussed in a spirit of honour. And, meanwhile, there should be no begging for arms by either country. Both are nuclear-capable and may be tempted to use the weapons in a crisis. There is possibly enough nuclear weapon capability to destroy all of Asia that the two countries have.
Statesmen from both sides have repeatedly spoken out on the potential havoc involved and projected a vision for peace. Superficial solutions or talks will not work. Both countries will have to go to the root of the problem and seek an understanding.
Religion is the cause of the dispute. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic and India is secular. Both were one before the two-nation theory gained acceptance. The British Parliament recognised India and Pakistan as separate sovereign nations. Kashmir was at that time a separate entity. There is no sign of peace now; in fact, every available sign points to aggravating discord over a land of enchanting beauty.
If Asia is to enjoy real peace, this dispute has to be resolved. If Asia has no comity, world peace itself is at stake. Neither the U.N. Security Council nor any statesman with vision has taken positive measures to end this bleeding battle. Curiously, the leaders of both countries do not want other states to intervene and negotiate a settlement on fair terms.
Luckily, a historic moment has arrived. The Prime Ministers of both countries agreed to hold bilateral talks without reservations, with the objective of restoring cordial relations. Exploring the possibilities of a peaceful settlement is a task that could spell a supreme patriotic service.
It is imperative that the war of words over J&K should stop and a happy and just resolution achieved. An ad hoc and tentative package for discussion among the peoples of both sides and nations is overdue: without it, peace will remain a dream and a solution an illusion.
Kashmir was under a Hindu maharaja who ruled a large number of Muslim subjects and a micro-minority of Pandits. Jurisprudentially, therefore, J&K belongs to the Indian Republic. The maharaja decided to join India. Sheikh Abdullah, the head of the National Conference, endorsed the accession. But Pakistan, a cultural victim of communal bigotry and obdurate obscurantism (India is not far behind, either) invaded a part of J&K claiming it to be a Muslim-dominated state and saying that it should go to Pakistan.
Is world jurisprudence communal? If the present “line of actual control” gets international recognition and there are socialist secular democratic governments on either side of it, there can be peace and a permanent end to war between the two countries. The violent territories bleeding daily, leading to armed conflict and carnage, cannot be sustained. Humanity the world over will treat peace in J&K as a secular wonder. From a brave new Bharat and a peaceful Pakistan, a new socio-political secular philosophy will emerge to mark a modern and dynamic era of majestic concord. A civilised and humane world order will then be the epic accomplishment of the 21st century.
Can we have race or colour dividing the world, making the globe white or yellow or dark-brown? And now religion is taking on the role of ensuring the collapse of humanism in the name of god fighting another god, making mankind a casualty. J&K is symbolic of all these divisive forces.
To be a member of a secular confederation should not cause any infraction of sovereignty. It will merely be an expression of willingness to be humane in the process of forming a collective consent to act together, not against one another. A confederation will represent a public political accord, a liberal organisation to bury discord or hostility but agreeing to be allied in foreign relations, never to have a mutual armed conflict. It will mark the beginning of a friendly formation of two or more sovereign states to shed hostilities and be willing to act as comrades.
From a historical perspective, India and Pakistan have so much in common. In geographical terms both were one. In material matters the two have religious bonds. India has more Muslims than Pakistan, and shrines for them to worship. There are common economic interests. The respective economies can go forward as a single integral whole, complementing each other.
My solemn proposal is to begin with a resolution that all Indians and Pakistanis believe in the worship of all versions of god in deep devotion. Let all noble negotiations be founded on a spiritual basis, not on mundane arms-dealing on a communal bedrock, but Advaita-Islamic divine inspiration. This is a unique opportunity. Our peoples are allies.
Let the conscience of the Buddha's renunciation and compassion be the basis of a settlement. Emperor Asoka put an end to war and pleaded for religious fellowship as a greater asset than victory. Renounce, unite not split. Two sovereign nations, but a dynamic togetherness.
The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan should become the leaders of an Indo-Pakistan Friendship Society. It will make for a glorious start. All political parties should be invited to become its members. The two, like all great statesmen, should practise Asoka's creed.
The two countries should realise the extent of human loss that will come about if the confrontation continued. The Taliban, that wicked terrorist force of fanaticism, although altogether un-Islamic, has become a source of terrorism in both countries. Islam and Advaita win by faith, not guns. Islam is peace, humanism, not terrorism or bigotry.
Our resources are common. Rivers and the territorial nexus make us one. Our languages have much in common. Our culture and economy will prosper, given unity. Varanasi has its mosques. There are temples, churches and mosques standing in friendly proximity in Kerala. In Hyder Ali's part of Mysore State there is a great mosque and a great temple in a sanctified neighbourhood.
Why, then, should we not live united? Islam stands for world brotherhood, and Advaita with the same semantic profundity stands for one creation. It follows that we fight in the name of Allah and Siva and blaspheme both. Gods are one but their priests with basic obscurantism battle for more power and followers. This is sacrilege and betrayal. Sri Narayana Guru, the great revolutionary of Kerala, was a global humanist. One of his credos was to ignore religious and caste distinctions. And he had as disciples Muslims and Hindus of all castes. He installed a few temples. The festivals were open equally to Muslims, Christians and others.
Whenever a Muslim in Pakistan dies of a bullet injury I breathe in pain. We are brothers, and every Hindu is his brother's keeper, be he Muslim or Christian. There is no reason we should not have a large and powerful movement for human rights and peace among Pakistanis and Indians.
Indo-Pakistan cultural friendship and political amity has to become a people's movement. Jinnah, the first President of Pakistan, was secular, every cell of his: he was western in outlook and allergic to the religious life. He was driven to the Muslim League by the Congress' tactless politics. Later, of course, he had political reasons for the way he went. His first message to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was indeed beautiful and secular.
Let Indo-Pakistan comradeship be a popular passion to fight the cult of hate. Either you continue to be poor colonies of the White House or be together as powerful Asian allies.
If need be, set up a common Indo-Pakistan Supreme Court. It will be a great idea to have once in two or three years a three-month-long sitting of an India-Pakistan Parliament. Let there be also a Common Defence Force.
We will enjoy a grand Indo-Pakistan Federation. It will be a superlative political experiment: never to kill, only to salvage. It will represent a new sublime world order. Humanity will bless this century if such a federation is created.
The bilateral dream sequence is endless. A new oath, a new capital, a new Indo-Pakistan wonder with universal impact abjuring the nuclear menace. A new oath for judges and officers should state that they would uphold Indo-Pakistan friendship. In cricket, football and hockey there will be only be an Indo-Pakistan team, not separate teams. No visas, only fraternity between the two countries. In the field of education, common examinations are possible. Common hospitals, why not? J&K could then be a part of Indo-Pakistan territory. All from both countries will be free to enter and exit sans visa. Let there be one Federation.