Time to Wage Peace

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THE speeches at UN General Assembly by India and Pakistan premiers is a major annual event that attracts a lot of media and public attention in South Asia. One major point of interest is the lingering India-Pakistan animosity, largely driven by their long-standing fight over Jammu and Kashmir. Since last year’s revocation of Article 370, the speeches have assumed an even bigger news value. More so, in Kashmir, where people eagerly look forward to these speeches to see if there’s anything in store for them.

So, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan delivered their speeches Kashmiris were all ears. This year, the ongoing stand-off in Ladakh between China and India lent a degree of relevance to the Chinese premier Xi Jinping’s address too. But as far as the PM Modi’s speech, there was little that was of interest to Kashmiris. The PM once again sought inclusion of India in the UN’s decision making structures. He stressed reform in the responses, processes and in the very character of the global body saying it was the “need of the hour.” The PM also raised questions on the response of the UN to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly one million people and infected over 32 million worldwide.

On the other hand, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan once again focussed most of his speech on India and Kashmir, and to a lesser extent on Afghanistan. Khan urged world body’s intervention in Kashmir to ensure peace in South Asia. He also talked about Pakistan’s facilitating role in the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue.

Similarly, Jinping’s speech too attracted some notice. Chinese premier made it clear that his country didn’t want either hot or cold war with anyone.

Among the three speeches, the one by PM Modi steered clear of the ongoing tense geopolitical situation in the region: both, Line of Actual Control with China and the Line of Control with Pakistan have been sites of lingering stand-off. The situation has been extraordinary along the LAC where China has staged incursions at several points. India, in response, has bolstered defences on its side of the border. So far several rounds of dialogue -between senior military officials followed by one defence and foreign ministers – haven’t been able to make much of a difference to the ground situation.

Similarly, relations with Pakistan have progressively deteriorated since August 5, 2019 move. The UN speeches of Xi and Khan reflect this situation, even though that of the PM Modi chose to skirt it. But this hardly detracts from the existing geo-political uncertainty in the region. And this will require three powers to meaningfully engage with one another to stabilize the situation. But that is easier said than done. Here’s hoping that the ongoing dialogue with China reaches its logical conclusion. At the same time, there’s also an urgent need for an engagement between India and Pakistan. A dialogue between the two will usher in a far bigger redeeming difference than even the reconciliation between India and China.

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