Call An All Party Meeting : Peaceful Neighbourly Relations A Must For India’s Development

kamal-morarkaThe border hostilities between India and Pakistan appear to have calmed down. Actually, as I have said before, when Armies are face to face, spontaneous firing takes place and what we call ceasefire violations are settled through negotiations between the military commanders on either side. There is a very set procedure for that and there is no problem. However, what was happening for the last 3 months were directed attacks to increase the tension of the border, because on the diplomatic front the talks were called off because of Pakistan’s meeting with the Hurriyat leaders and in the UN their effort to rake up the Kashmir issue did not materialise, with the Prime Minister very wisely skirting the issue. And President Obama met our Prime Minister and he did not meet Nawaz Sharif. All this led to Pakistan getting a little ruffled and therefore they wanted to increase the pressure on the border.
It is a good thing that things have cooled down. But, on a long term basis, India’s and Pakistan’s border are well demarcated. Ceasefire lines and LOC are also demarcated. There is no question of conflict. So it is possible and indeed desirable that both sides should understand what the status quo is and maintain it without wasting money on either side because that does not help either India or Pakistan. The Government’s diplomatic initiatives can again be taken up though the Prime Minister has made clear in the UN that we are prepared for negotiations but the conditions should be correct. There should be no threat of terrorism and gunfire because that does not augur well for discussions.
On the Chinese side, the situation is different. The actual border is not demarcated. What we call the Mcmahon Line, China does not accept because it was signed between India and Tibet at that time. Also the line, as they say, is drawn by a thick pen on a line on a map of a small scale, which means there is a lot of scope of interpreting it either way. A serious boundary commission should sit on both sides to demarcate an exact border. Of course, we need parliamentary clearance and everything. But, in the long term, if you want peace with China, the border needs to be demarcated to the satisfaction of both the parties.
As Prime Minister Nehru used to say, talks must always go on but he drew a line between talks and negotiation. So merely talking will not help. What we need is negotiation, and negotiation cannot be held unless there is give and take. If we go on saying that Parliament has said that get China to vacate the territory then there is no scope of negotiations. Because then, we are assuming that whatever line is there is final. But the Chinese stand has been consistent since 1959 that a boundary line needs to be demarcated. If India has to develop economically and as we are planning, that big investment should come, something must be done to contain hostilities on the border. Because it is bleeding the country both ways, physically, manpower wise, economically, money, ammunition and arms.
What is the world view of all this, I do not know. But the Prime Minister can well call an all party meeting and take the pulse of the other political parties about what they want. Opposition parties are used to criticising what the Government may do. But this is a matter on which some sort of national consensus should develop and it is not only the Congress party, other parties must also have their say. I am sure other parties do not have any interest in continued hostilities with Pakistan or with China. Of course according to me, China is an easier issue to resolve if we have an open mind on demarcation on the border. With Pakistan, it is a psychological issue. Kashmir is a problem with them. Of course Manmohan Singh had very nearly come to a solution, before that even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and that is without redrawing the map, find a via media where Kashmiris on both sides have free access and there can be various other means to safeguard the interest of India and Pakistan.
Work must start on all this. If India has to develop, you cannot divert your interest always on hostilities otherwise nothing much will come out. But at the moment, it is a happy augury that the border is quiet and I hope at least this remains. Of course, winter is coming so that is another issue — Pakistan won’t do much after November. So, actually the risk is only for one month. After that, 3-4 months of peace are guaranteed. But we should use that period to have a long term plan and structural framework in which India and Pakistan can have good, neighbourly and peaceful relation.

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