Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jang ki Asha, Aman ki Koshish

I am not opposed to the idea of peace talks between India and Pakistan but I like to be a realist. This year’s first day began with flamboyant ads in the Times of India in tie-up with Pakistan’s Jang Group with hopeful statements that there could be a day when Love, Pakistan and India could all figure in one line…Surprising! It surely was for me and many others who aren’t very positive about a possible reconciliation between the hostile neighbours.

The foreign secretaries of both sides are meeting on February 25, amid Pakistan’s alleged links in the recent Pune blast at the German Bakery that killed more than a dozen people, including some foreigners. This meeting holds special significance as it’s the first time since the Mumbai carnage that leaders from India and Pakistan will carry on the peace process, stalled in wake of the November 2008 terror attacks.

India’s focus will be cross border terrorism, rising infiltrations and the status of 26/11 proceedings. The abduction and beheading of two Sikh youths in Pakistan’s tribal areas, just a few days ago, is also likely to figure in the talks. The National Investigation Agency’s (NIA’s) report on increased Pakistani military establishments near the LoC would give further impetus to India’s case against the neighbour. Though, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has condemned the attacks on Sikh minorities and kidnapping of a Hindu man, Robin Singh, mere words will not do. The Pakistani leadership has to assure India that it will take actionable steps to dismantle all terrorist infrastructure from its soil and that none of its ministers, army men or investigative agency are patronizing with the Taliban or any other non-actor.

Pakistan, as reported by some media reports, is indulging in river politics over the supply of water under the Indus Waters Treaty signed in September 1960, and may try its best to divert India’s attention from ‘terrorism’. The Kashmir issue so far has been Pakistan’s major concern during talks with India. Indian government has said it will approach the meeting with an ‘open mind’ but limited expectations.

However low the expectations may be, it’s important to talk. And talks should be followed with actions… real actions… because actions speak louder than words. Taliban never talk, they act. The Pune blast on February 13 came exactly a day after Pakistan officially accepted India’s offer to talk on 25th. Their motive was clear. The Taliban wants to derail any peace initiative between the two countries.

But what the Pakistani leadership has in mind is full of ambiguities. On one hand, Pakistan appreciates India’s offer of talks, on the other hand its military violates the ceasefire agreement and launches rockets in border villages. One day there are Television footages of 26/11 accused Hafiz Saeed participating in a political rally, the other day the Pakistani President condemns the attacks on Pakistani Sikhs vowing to protect all minorities in the country.

According to an official statement, India agreed to continue the peace talks after it was convinced that Pakistan had taken some steps to address terrorist groups mushrooming on its soil. It was only in 2009, that Pakistani Army launched an offensive against Taliban in North Waziristan, under pressure from its old ally, the US. Since then, the bloodbath hasn’t stopped. A series of bomb blasts have killed thousands in the neighbourhood. But the violence is creeping through the borders and reaching the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir. Three army men, including a captain, have been killed in a gun battle with militants in Sopore, Srinagar on Tuesday. A civilian too was hit by a stray bullet. This was a grim reminder of the militant attack in Lal Chowk early this year, surfacing the wounds of J&K afresh, which was coming back to normalcy after no such incidence was reported for almost a year.

India should not budge at any cost from its stand on terror with Pakistan and make sure it comes out with satisfying results from the meeting. Pakistan too should move a step further and take action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, now that it has officially confirmed that the 26/11 siege was designed at the Pakistani soil, according to its dossier handed over to India. The latest reports on FBI sharing information with India on mastermind David Headley could also be a breakthrough in the investigations so far.

Even as India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao gears up to meet her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir on Thursday, teams from India and Pakistan will face each other in the Hockey World Cup to be held in the capital beginning February 28.

If both sides meet with an open mind and an open heart, there could be some Aman ki Asha (Hope for peace) among the two nations.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cricket blurring Line of Control for politicians?

India is a democratic country and everyone here has the right to say whatever he or she may feel on any topic or incident. This is what we were told in school and probably that’s what Shah Rukh Khan must have had in mind when he expressed his views on the non-inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in the third season of Indian Premiere League (IPL) . What he said found some support and more criticism in political circles.

What I inferred from the incident is that SRK's ‘free and fair’ opinion on the IPL episode gave a newmudda (issue) to the s(ti)inking Maharashtra politics. Even as some of the leaders of Hindu rightist Shiv Sena said it was not Shah Rukh Khan but the ruling Congress that was making the statements using its association with SRK, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) used it as an opportunity to attack Amitabh Bachchan for his association with Pakistani artists.

Shiv Saniks held protests infront of Mannat (The Baadshah’s abode in Mumbai) and vandalized posters of his film ‘My Name is Khan.’ Despite assurances by the Maharashtra police and ruling government to the film’s producer Karan Johar, some of the multiplexes had to shut down as the demonstrations started.

A mere statement by one of the most loved actors of this country made him a ‘traitor’ in the eyes of some political goons? And the handicap state government could not provide enough security? What public good does this serve? Can the film, which does not belong to an individual alone, be dragged into a dirty game of such low politics?

It makes me wonder what actually had Shah Rukh said and why didn’t it find any favour with the Shiv Sena and the likes of Bajrang Dal, Vishva Hindu Parishad. ''They are the champions, they are wonderful but somewhere down the line there is an issue and we can't deny it," Khan had told a TV new channel. "We are known to invite everyone. We should have. If there were any issues, they should have been put on board earlier. Everything can happen respectfully. Everyday we blame Pakistan, everyday Pakistan blames us. It is an issue.”

So how many of you feel that he made a mistake? Should he have known that besides being an artist who earns his bread in Shiv Sena's home turf, he's as vulnerable as any other man who speaks his heart, which may not be always liked by the roaring (mourning) tigers of Mumbai.

But as some media reports suggested, My Name Is Khan opened to full houses across the country. This only shows that any educated and sensible being on this earth would follow blindly whatever hard winged parties like these want them to do. These parties are just out for some cheap publicity at the cost of some film actors. The bigger the star, the bigger is the chance to make some news headlines.

What happened to Jodha Akbar, Lajja, Fanna, and the list goes on.... Why is the Election Commission not taking any action against such political parties? Why are these brain dead maggots left open to spill hatred on the streets of this country? These are the same parties who have earlier burned churches, vandalised properties, killed innocent men.

It's time now to stop making statements and do something about it. SRK tweeting a 'regret' after these paper tigers have had their say is not a solution. At least cinema, art and literature should be spared of this horror, generated by a handful of political goondas carrying Trishuls and weapons as if they alone can save this country from evils. Such weak attitude in tackling these mafias in the garb of political parties is only aggravating the problem.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What’s with the neighbour?

That Shahid Afridi’s poster on my room’s door is no more there… He was my cricket hero in school days. Friends and family, everyone who knew me, asked with sheer displeasure why I supported the staunch rival in every match... except of course the ones with India…As a child, I could hardly understand this furore over such a trivial issue.

During every Indo-Pak match, I had to convince them that I did love Sachin, Dravid and Dada but Shahid Afridi a little more than them… that’s all. They would tell me how different we are from ‘them’. I could spot the difference between Afridi’s silky locks and Sachin’s curly tresses, but the distinct nationalities they carried were not something I was big enough to handle. Watching them together on the field was the only possible thing I could do then. But as I grew older...I began to feel the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Besides what I read in history books, there was more to this deep divide between the two neighbours…this rivalry… this hostility, which extends beyond the cricket field…even after more than 62 years of partition.

Since 1947, the time India was partitioned, Pakistan has fought three major wars with us, the last being the Kargil War in 1999.

Despite the bitter history of wars we share, the Indian leadership has repeatedly offered olive branches to the neighbour, though it has never given the desired fruits.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said one cannot choose one’s neighbour and that every state should try to make friends with his neighbours…I agree with Dr Singh but as we say “Love can be one-sided but friendship cannot be...”

From launching rockets on the border villages in Punjab to the recurring incidents of infiltration, our neighbour has always, without fail, broken our trust.

More than a 100 times, 129 to be precise, the neighbour has breached the land ceasefire agreement and infiltrated the Indian air space almost 50 times in last four years, according to a newspaper report.

In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, our relations with Pakistan have gone even more sore. The deadliest attack on India’s financial hub on November 26, 2008, triggered a possible war between the two countries. Speculations were high that India this time would retaliate with a ‘real’ war, but thankfully, this did not turn into reality. Another War, I believe, would not solve the problem of security here.

International or Global Terrorism is the biggest headache for every country today. And this so-called ‘War on Terror’ initiated by Uncle Sam is incomplete till the time there is coordination and cooperation between neighbours.

But how can we expect cooperation from a country who has used Terrorism as part of its ‘Foreign Policy’ for decades.

Pakistan’s former President General Pervez Musharraf revealed in an interview this year that the American aid during his tenure was used to strengthen defence against India. This doesn’t come as a surprise to any Indian, I can bet. There are numerous incidents that make us doubt our neighbour’s seriousness in its efforts towards a healthy and strong relationship with us.

Despite assurances of cooperation in the investigations in the biggest terror attack India suffered, the neighbour’s attitude has been absolutely disappointing.

Pakistan, torn with internal strifes and a series of suicide bombs and terrorist attacks almost every second day, is bearing the fruits of its own deeds. The Frankenstein it had fed with the American money has come out of the closet and killing its own master.

But it’s a matter of concern for India too. What if the Talibans succeed in their misdeeds? What do they really want? Aren’t the attacks on schools, Universities, posh market places, state banks, suffice to understand their motive?

Every common man knows that the terrorists do not want economic prosperity, democracy, equality, education, anything that dilutes their misdemeanours.

Terror doesn’t spare any religion, any community, anyone. Even my journalist friends in Pakistan have become a target for the militant’s vengeance now. The latest attack on Pakistan’s Press club indicates that the Terrorists want to mute every voice that’s raised against them. Talibans have killed hundreds of thousands innocent men and women, children and policemen alike, in the last three months alone.

Is this the kind of price, Pakistan is willing to pay to keep the terrorists alive and kicking in its own state? How many more innocent lives is it willing to keep at stake all out of its insecurity with India?

Pakistan is a democratic failure. What else can be expected after four military takeovers in four decades? The Army has always been strong there and the news of two serving Pakistani Army officers being involved in India’s biggest terror attack shatters all hopes of renewed trust with the neighbour.

No one wants a War, but in situations like these, forget friendship even diplomatic relations are in jeopardy.

Terror has no face, no loyality. The Terrorists which are still operating from the neighbouring soil will continue to target India. But in doing so, they can go to the extent of killing anyone and everyone that comes their way.

Ever since the Pakistani Army launched offensive against the Talibans in the areas bordering Afghanistan, it has witnessed a bloodbath killing their own men. At a time when Pakistan is going through its worst phase, the PM’s statement that India wants peace and stability for its neighbour holds great importance.

Pakistan promises to take its bilateral relations with India to a new high but has always backstabbed us with a Kargil or a Khandhar or a cold blooded 26/11. It’s like one step forward and four steps backwards…

But swearing by the Optimism and Idealism Nehru and Gandhi preached, it still isn’t too late for Pakistan.

I will not conclude by saying that we can be the best of friends or something of that sort. But I can surely say that for the betterment of both and for the sake of humankind, Pakistan should realize that it’s sitting on pile of explosives which will kill them first and later target us.

“Not Friends, but Friendly,” can be a Realistic approach at renewing the sour relations between the two countries. What if we have not been the best of friends, we can in the least try to be GOOD NEIGHBOURS.