Peace is the Only Option

 “Let our leaders remember that their job as politicians is to find  political solutions to intractable problems.”

An Indian and a Pakistani woman, Kalpana Sharma and Ayesha Khan, plead for peace.

  It is strange to welcome the New Year with the imminence of war staring us in the face. As planes drone over Karachi and newspapers in Mumbai throw out images of Indian soldiers standing ready at the border, we are compelled to make this argument for   peace. As journalists from India and Pakistan, we collaborated on a project on peace when both our countries went nuclear in 1998 and simultaneously spouted the rhetoric of war. Today, our arguments for peace and dialogue hold an even more urgent relevance. Hence our need to repeat them jointly.

With the global community of nations' appetite newly whetted for the waging of war, preferably for war with vague moral purposes fought with murderous accuracy and vengeance, our very own India and Pakistan are now on the brink of jumping into the fray again.

The mood of madness began with the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. As the United States like a bewildered dumb giant rubbed its bruised head and wondered why it inspired such hatred, there was even then little hope that the giant would exercise restraint and choose the remedy of politics over the remedy of violence. It has now applied its brutal salve to Afghanistan, installed the Northern Alliance, despite its dodgy human rights record, into power and refused to count or acknowledge the number of ``the enemy's'' dead. India is pleased with the new regime in Afghanistan, for its enemy's enemy is its friend and Pakistan's new impotence in the affairs of its western neighbour suit it well. Now that the U.S. and Israel have exercised their self-assumed right to wage war against Afghanistan and Palestine based on charges of terrorism, India sees its turn next.

But this mad logic will not lead to a solution of the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, and a war will not bring to an end covert violence sponsored by intelligence agencies within each other's countries. There will be no true winners in such a war, only yet another brutal ``solution'' imposed by one enemy on another and yet another refusal to count each other's dead.

We have just a few days left to recall some words of sanity that  have been raised since the world decided to go to war against ``terror.'' Michael Lerner, a Rabbi in the United States, wrote just days after the September 11 attack that it was a world based on violence, inequity and injustice that produced the killers, and that the United States needed to recognise its own role in perpetrating the roots of such violence. ``We may need a global day of atonement and repentance dedicated to finding a way to turn the direction of our society at every level, a return to the notion that every human life is sacred, such that violence becomes only a distant memory.'' He described a world that has lost the capacity to recognise the sacred in its people, the essential humanity of everyone.

In the past decades, South Asia has been victim of ruthless acts of violence, sponsored by intelligence agencies, foreign governments, its own governments, and even some of its own extremist political parties. In all cases, innocent people die, the sacred and humane within us get buried in the earth or burnt at the pyres. Can the leaders of India and Pakistan dare to take their people out of this darkness and refuse to violate their humanity yet again?

Peter Mahoney, a veteran of America's dirty war in Vietnam, wrote cautionary words after September 11 that our leaders would do well to heed. Vietnam, he stated, had taught him an essential lesson: ``Soldiers are required to do their jobs because politicians fail to do theirs. Make no mistake, the war on terrorism is the desperate act of politicians who failed miserably in the leadership responsibilities to those who elected them, and who, by the very act of starting the war, have failed us even again.''

Indians, even those who may harbour bitter hatred for Pakistan and resent its belligerent Muslim identity and the very fact of its creation, and are deeply angered by its obsession with Kashmir and support for the militancy in that State, should ask themselves today whether they elected the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies for the purpose of leading their country into war or into an age of peace and prosperity.

And Pakistanis, particularly its disgraced political cadres, must  also consider whether the lack of clear foreign policy objectives in its leaders and their obsession with matching India's might as well as their reliance on the sinister ISI for achieving domestic and regional objectives have brought them anything better than chronic insecurity and the tattered dreams of a true democracy. Indeed, it is the failure of our politicians on both sides of the border that will lead us into a new war.

Let us not succumb to the distorted and sanitised view of war as projected in the western media through its coverage of the war in Afghanistan. As we face our new potential war, let us be honest about the essentials. Innocent people will die by the thousands. Maybe our children will die. Can anyone countenance the death by violence of their children, or even those of their enemy? Our over-burdened exchequers will be further depleted in pursuit of these violent objectives, and even less money will be spent on the people. Hence our so-called leaders, on both sides, need war  propaganda to banish from our imagination any thought of the humanity or the sacred in us all that should be nurtured, not destroyed.

South Asia must not go the way of the West, a region that has led  the world in a culture of violence, global inequality, and a series of unjust wars in the last 50 years where only the mighty stand a chance to get out alive. The humanity has been taken out  of the human, particularly the one who lives in the developing world. We need not follow suit like good post-colonial subjects. Let our leaders remember that their job as politicians is to find political solutions to intractable problems. Our role as citizens is to insist on preserving the humanity in us all, and protecting the future for our children.

The authors are professional journalists. The above is extracted from a longer article which can be read at this website