At the turn of the century, a Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie created the fictitious character of a boy called Peter Pan, which caught public imagination since this character had a unique quality that he would never grow up! However, had Barrie been alive today, he would have realised that this character, which he so proudly considered to be the creation of his exceptionally imaginative mind, was no mere fantasy of his. Peter Pans in real life abound aplenty on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) in the form of persons holding high positions and wielding considerable authority, who despite being full grown adults, just refuse to grow up!
Take the case of the ongoing standoff between Indian and Pakistani authorities over the LoC trade truck confiscation episode which has brought out the Peter Pan in the authorities on both sides. Smuggling of narcotics across the Indo-Pak border is nothing new and thus, even to a person with average intelligence, the discovery of the concealed drug consignment would not appear to be something very unusual. However, this is not so with the Peter Pans on both sides- the Pak authorities maintain that all their trucks had been thoroughly scanned and such the question of recovery of a large consignment of drugs just doesnt arise, implying that the contraband was planted by the Indians. The Indian authorities on the other hand see in this, a conspiracy by the ISI and other agencies to mislead Kashmiri youth! As both side trade charges, it is probably the wily smugglers responsible for this despicable act who would be the ones having the last laugh!
The Indian and Pakistani authorities have done exactly what Peter Pan would – the Indians are refusing to release the impounded truck allegedly carrying contraband, while the Pakistanis are refusing to let their own trucks return till the seized truck alongwith its driver are released and have closed the entry point. The official statement that, Now the two sides have/ are in possession and control of each-others convoys, aptly sums up the comical situation that has been created by the Peter Pans of both India and Pakistan. So, while those involved in Track II diplomacy continue to feed us with optimistic news regarding the remarkable progress being made in normalising relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, the inability of the two countries to amicably resolve even such a minor issue tells an entirely different story! And with this incident in front of us, is there any requirement to talk any further about the much touted Aman ki Aasha or the positives of the so called confidence building measures?
The more one sees, the more one realises that both India and Pakistan despite their claims of unwavering commitment to peaceful co-existence, dont seem to be really serious on this account. The very fact that some small time smugglers have been able to create tension between the two countries which has escalated with the suspension of the Trans-LoC bus service, clearly illustrates the magnitude of trust deficit that still exists. The separatist leadership fears that Islamabad may enter into a secret agreement on Kashmir with India, but with the prevailing sorry state of affairs, they can be rest assured that till the policy makers on both sides maintain their Peter Pan disposition and refuse to grow up, it can be said with near certainty that the two neighbours are not likely to reach this stage of mutual confidence and understanding for quite some time, to say the least. In any case, the plight of Kashmiris seems to mean little for both India and Pakistan, as there appears to be no desire or sense of urgency on either side for the early resolution of this six and a half decade old problem.
With the international community abdicating its moral responsibility by declaring the Kashmir problem a bilateral issue, just to suit its convenience, it is our interests that New Delhi and Islamabad stop squabbling like little children and get down to serious negotiations. Though Tack II diplomacy has its own advantages as it facilitates negotiations and reaching consensus on delicate matters without the pressure of extraneous or peripheral considerations, its success is solely dependent upon the ability of the negotiators to forge domestic consensus on emotionally sensitive issues. Unfortunately, neither side possesses this ability today and thus, the prospects of achieving any major breakthrough soon are dim.
Yet, since even the longest journey must start with the first step, it may be prudent for us not to despair but wait and watch. While hoping that the two countries will grow out of their Peter Pan Syndrome may appear to be just wishful thinking today, who knows, someday the two may finally realise the futility of the confrontationist policies they are presently following and the irreparable damage it is causing to their respective nations development and progress. We need to face the reality that since Kashmir is under the occupation of both India and Pakistan, a mutually agreeable solution to this vexed problem would require substantive concessions being made by both sides and this would certainly happen overnight.
On our part, what we can do is to create conditions which will atleast get the two onto the negotiating table and this is only possible if we ourselves dont become Peter Pans by creating situations which give New Delhi an excuse to put off the talks by putting pre-conditions or making demands such as insisting on the inclusion of Kashmiris in the negotiations, even before the commencement of the Indo-Pak dialogue. Though we have patiently waited for very long, there is no reason for us to now be in a tearing hurry, as this may prove to be counterproductive. Let the two atleast begin talking and once the talks go beyond the customary realm of discussing peripheral issues and reach the stage of meaningful deliberations, the demand for inclusion of the Kashmiri delegation could always be made. But then, do we have the patience?
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