Editorial: Borderline Crossword

Editorial: May
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

When simmering, unresolved wounds across borders and in the neighbourhood become monumental tragedies, often, it reflects on the calibre and vision of the statesmanship on either sides. Often, the statesmen do not really deserve to be called that -— at best they are fixers of a fixated, fixed game, non-committal ringmasters in a convoluted circus, or simply low wave-length politicians who don’t trust even their own rhetoric. A grand problem can often find its way to resolution only through a grand solution. Piecemeal efforts tend to expose more contradictions, rendering the complex affair of peace more hollow and stuffed. Relations between India and Pakistan can seem to eternally rotate anti-clockwise in this circular half-circle of no return. 

That is why the great new paradigm shift in terms of big trade exchanges between the two nations seems superficial even as the intention is seemingly based on a noble principle. Triggered by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s goodwill mission to India, his polite exchanges with an equally polite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the afternoon homage at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah after the sumptuous friendship lunch in the Indian capital, the promise of optimism is only reminiscent of a Robert Frost line: ‘And miles to go before I sleep’ (which Jawaharlal Nehru, famously, kept on his bedside table). While traders and big business lobbies across the borders might discover much joy in this new breakthrough, the peace efforts still stand in the doldrums, with the shadow of a ‘bountiful’ Hafiz Saeed, as well as the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, still looming large. 

For one, we spend gigantic sums on defence, providing a pittance for the starving millions. Besides, with the Pakistani establishment still divided on how to tackle the likes of Saeed, along with Masood Azhar and other extremists, it remains a sore point in Delhi, despite the ‘evidence’ provided by India. And, even while Pakistan promises to fight Islamic extremism in-house (and out-sourced) with an iron hand, its democracy seems to be constantly on the brink, forever shaken and stirred, often by the army, and now, by the judiciary.

The rather bloody ‘transition’ in Afghanistan, with hawks in Pakistan desperate to diminish India’s ‘constructive’ role in that strife-torn nation, has only made the twilight zones of peace talks more tricky and delicate. Inside Pakistan, the most refined, private discourse on democracy can suddenly cut a jarringly bad record the moment the ‘K’ word is uttered — perhaps shared by hardliners in India as well. Indeed, in this uncanny puzzle, there are no quick cryptic clues to the crossword. There are only crossroads with all signs pointing nowhere.

If trade is decisively boosted, and only fat cats benefit from an eased visa regime, how is it going to ease the unrequited longings of ordinary Pakistanis or Indians? Surely, if there are great visionaries involved in redefining the prejudiced destinies of these two nations, whereby people in both countries are so emotionally and culturally bonded, and across track one, track two, track three interactions, then they should immediately redefine the restrictive visa policies. India must get out of the paranoid persecution phobia, and ease all visa restrictions, whereby Pakistani citizens are, first, outrightly denied visas or made to run from pillar to post to get one, or else are compelled to travel trapped in a rat trap of relentless restrictions, unable to visit their loved ones and friends or remembered landmarks. Predictably, there is a copy-cat response from Pakistan. This paranoia, most abjectly displayed by certain mandarins in the Indian regime, makes a mockery of the peace process.

It’s time we look for creative therapy. So let’s start with an out-of-the-box visa regime, shall we?­­­

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MAY 2012