Grow up please!

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“India cannot have talks with Pakistan unless it stops cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.” This is a line that India has repeated without miss for the past many years. Past week too in the wake of agreement to put through Kartarpur Corridor, India spurned Pakistan’s latest offer for talks with the same line — “terror and talks do not go together.”

Now this is absolutely ridiculous. Ever-since the Foreign-Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan were unilaterally called off by India few years back, the relations between the two countries have taken a hit and have nose-dived. And going by the tensions two countries have seen since, particularly at the Line of Control and international border in Jammu and Kashmir, the need for the two belligerent neighbours to talk has only increased. In such a situation saying that “we won’t talk” defies every reasonable logic. On its part India may have its set of misgivings against Pakistan, but the same could be sorted out through talks. There is no other way but to talk if the two countries really want to resolve their differences not only for the overall good of their respective populations but also for the peace in South Asia.

There are, as the anthropological evidence suggests, more than fifteen thousand ethnic groups on the planet. However, it is for the first time since the origin of human species that virtually all of humanity’s tribes are in touch with one another. And nowhere is the web of interdependence more obvious than in the daily economic life. Every day hundreds of millions of people from opposite parts of the planet cooperate, directly or indirectly, with one another in the global marketplace. While global trading networks have existed for centuries, today’s ties operate on a far greater scale. Such is the enormity and essence of this global interdependence today that human beings cannot survive anymore without drawing on the worldwide web of economic links.

While the networks of interdependence are on an ever-expanding spree, everyday besides the economics even the political and social networks too keep on spreading out encompassing more and more people, and triggering changes in social, political and economic patterns and hierarchies. The pyramidal institutions that had a centralized authority with all power accumulated in it, are steadily giving way to horizontal networks held together through communication and decentralized initiative of countless individuals and organizations. Humanity, in the words of American anthropologist William Ury, is weaving a “boundaryless web” — something that Marshall McLuhan had predicted over half-a-century ago.

Indeed it is the fallout of this growing interdependence that world has seen emergence of various forms of political associations that cut across the physical and geographical as well as ideological boundaries. Europe, a collection of warring states at the start of the twentieth century, saw itself confederated into European Union at the century’s end.  NAFTA in North America, Mercosur in South America, ASEAN in Southeast Asia represent other regional efforts to integrate.

SAARC in South Asia too is a similar initiative, however, unfortunately Indo-Pak hostilities have held the future of this regional grouping hostage. Unlike other groups, SAARC countries, India and Pakistan in particular, are far from being integrated. They are yet to evolve ways and means to negotiate through the trust deficit plaguing their relationships. There are issues about boundaries in land and in sea, there are problems of water sharing and to cap it all there is the dispute over Kashmir. In the absence of sincerity of purpose to resolve these issues, entire region remains ever-volatile, always a potential flashpoint of a catastrophic war, leave aside being economically and politically an integrated association.

And indeed the childish vanity and narcissism has been at open display each time the SAARC Summit is round the corner because India has some issues with Pakistan. What is really intriguing is that they are not ready to talk when they should actually have been talking to iron out their differences. When will these two countries grow up?


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