SANSAD News-release, December 31, 2013
The Hope of Peace
In this season when people across the earth are wishing each other peace and wellbeing our thoughts go out to all who are facing the organized violence of states and non-state agents. Millions of people in many countries in the world are seeking escape from the bullets, bombs, drone attacks, and other violence that have devastated their lives and drives them every day from their homes into refugee camps or sets them wandering in search of asylum in an increasingly inhospitable world. We echo their cry for peace.
As members of the South Asian diaspora we feel most intimately the aspiration for peace among the people in our homelands. We share their hope that peace will come to their lands and free their effort and enterprise and enable them to flourish.
India and Pakistan being the largest and most powerful of the nations in South Asia, peace between them is of critical importance for the subcontinent, as the hostilities generated at their birth from colonialism have been chiefly responsible for the suffering of the people in the region. Militarism, chauvinism, communalism, and religious extremism have flourished at the expense of the freedom and wellbeing of the people. Attempts at resolving differences and creating conditions of free exchange have always been sabotaged by the vested interests of the elite of both countries. Hope has blossomed only to be trampled into cynicism and despair.
2013 has seen more than 200 violations of the 10-year old ceasefire across the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan, making it by far the worst year in this regard. Some of these incidents have involved sensational claims, fueling war-mongering by opportunist-chauvinist media and national-chauvinist political parties in India. Yet in Pakistan there has been a historical transition from one democratically elected government to another, and the incoming Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has made strong statements in favor of peace and friendship with India. Mr. Sharif’s meeting with the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh in New York in September set afoot a process toward the resumption of dialogue between the two countries, suspended since the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008.
On December 27 inaugurating the new Foreign Ministry Office in Islamabad Nawaz Sharif declared that Pakistan had been following its foreign policy objectives of resuming dialogue with India, improving relations with Afghanistan, strengthening strategic partnership with China and re-building ties with the US. He affirmed the desire of Pakistan to live peacefully and maintain friendly relations with its neighbors, following a policy of building a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood focused on trade and developing a consensus-based approach to counter terrorism. A few days before this, Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab and brother of Nawaz Sharif had communicated a similar message to Manmohan Singh in Delhi, making a strong plea for dialogue and the development of trade and commerce along with the resolution of strategic issues.
An important result of Nawaz Sharif’s initiative for peace has been the meeting of the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan in Wagah in Pakistan on December 24, the first time such a meeting had taken place since 1998. At this meeting the DGMO reiterated their commitment to ensure the ceasefire and maintain peace and tranquillity at the LOC and to improve communications, including their hotline contact.
At a less formal level, former officials of Indian and Pakistani intelligence (RAW and ISI) met in Canada at the Ottawa Dialogue organized by Ottawa University in October and produced joint papers calling for greater contact between agencies to prevent regional crisis and promote new thinking on the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. A joint paper by CD Sahay of India and Wajahat Latif of Pakistan maintains that more can be achieved through such contact than through diplomatic channels in preventing panic reactions and unintended mobilizations and forestalling such incidents as that of Mumbai in November 2008. There has been a dialogue process between the intelligence agencies since 1997 and it needs to be developed further.
These are events at the closing of 2013 that give us hope for peace in South Asia. We warmly greet these signs and hope that 2014 will bring a strengthening of the process. We shall always hope for peace and praise those who work for it.
But remembering that South Asia is more than Pakistan and India, that there are many griefs of peace outside the horrors of war, and that there is no peace and no potential for flourishing without justice, we extend our hearts to all victims of nationalist, ethnic, communalist, caste, gender, heterosexist, and class violence, including Tamils in Sri Lanka, garment workers in Bangladesh, Rohingyas in Myanmar, in camps, and in transit, and all who are displaced by climate change and the depredations of socially unbound capital. We extend our solidarity to the people of Afghanistan who face the challenge of reconstruction after the exit of the invading forces and to the people of Nepal who have long languished under the inability of political parties to set the people’s interest above their own and await the coming of a constitution that will set them on the path of a prosperous future. We commit ourselves to working hand in hand with all who seek peace and justice.
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD); 2779 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC; www.sansad.org